Priest Lake, Idaho, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Priest Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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Looking for Priest Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Priest Lake

Lake Locations: USA - US West Region - Idaho - Northern Idaho -

Located in the most northern portion of Idaho’s Panhandle, Priest Lake is within 30 miles of the Canadian Border. Priest Lake was naturally created at the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago. Priest Lake environs were used by the Kalispel and Kootenai Indian tribes as one of their food gathering areas with fish, game and plant life plentiful early in its history. The name of the lake evolved from ‘Kaniiksu’, believed to mean Black Robe, a reference to Jesuit priests who established camp in the mid-1800s at Kalispell Bay. It was heavily used for transporting lumber in the late 1800s with many small flumes and splash dams built. The Gold Rush brought miners and families to the area and a Hollywood movie production facility was begun by Nell Shipman on Mosquito Bay, lasting only a short time due to the tough winters. While lumber production is still an industry today, Priest Lake is primarily used for vacation homes and recreational tourism. It is sometimes called “Idaho’s Crown Jewel” because of its very diverse outdoor recreational offerings for both summer and winter including water sports, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, fishing, wildlife viewing, swimming, cross country skiing and game hunting. Coolin is the largest town, located at the southern end of Priest Lake.

In 1950, the first Priest Lake Outlet Dam was built. Later it was replaced by a concrete gravity dam with construction completed in 1978. The dam is used for hydroelectric power generation and recreation control of Priest Lake. Priest Lake Dam is owned and operated by the Idaho Department of Water Resources. Priest Lake is fed by the Priest River, through a smaller Upper Priest Lake. Its outlet joins the Pend Oreille River, the path for logging transportation and mill locations.

Priest Lake provides a wealth of wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities. A proliferation of camp grounds and resorts surround the lake including Priest Lake State Park. Over 400 developed sites are located on the lake, over 60 of which are on islands providing gorgeous locations for the boater/camper. Most of the sites are managed by the State Park or the USFS Priest Lake Ranger District which also manages numerous less developed dispersed campsites to the west and north of Priest Lake. Large private resorts on the lake include Blue Diamond Marina, Elkins Resort and Priest Lake Marina. Some have boat-launching ramps and provide fuel, food and supplies.

The major sport fishing in Priest Lake is Mackinaw (lake trout) with trophy size fish catches not uncommon. Winter ice fishing is a favorite pastime, when some of the trophy fish rise closer to the surface. Water sports abound with wakeboarding, water skiing, sailing, power boating, and kayaking heading the list. Marina waits are short and Priest Lake’s size makes for very pleasant, unencumbered activity.

Wildlife viewing is enhanced by the significant variety of bird and other animal species. These include black and grizzly bear, caribou, raccoon, bobcat, mountain lion, and many smaller ‘critters’. Some bird species to watch for include Bald Eagles, osprey, herons, and the many hummingbirds making the area their summer home. There are no poisonous snakes in the Priest Lake area. For the geocachers among us, there are many caches located in the area – some are on islands and there is even one underwater. Haul out that GPS receiver!

Priest Lake is truly an outdoor enthusiasts Eden, in a beautiful scenic setting. If you are in the Idaho Panhandle, you must try some of its offerings.

Things to Do at Priest Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish Species Found at Priest Lake

  • Lake Trout
  • Trout

Find Places to Stay at Priest Lake

If you’re considering a Priest Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Priest Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Priest Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Priest Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Idaho Dept of Water Resources

Surface Area: 26,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 70 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,439 feet

Maximum Depth: 369 feet

Water Volume: 143,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1978

Lake Area-Population: 600

Drainage Area: 572 sq. miles

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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