Water Sports and Sandy Beaches
Priest Lake is often termed Idaho's "Crown Jewel" lake because of its exceptionally clean, clear and deep water. As the sun's rays warm the water after the snow season, the lake begins its annual transformation into the premier water sports playground in the region.
Priest Lake has 23,000 surface acres and nearly 80 miles of shoreline to meet the needs of even the most demanding water sports activities. Be you a power boater with skier or wake boarder in tow, paddle boater, personal watercraft zealot, kayaker, canoeist or sailboat enthusiast, Priest Lake has ample area to easily accommodate all boating activities without conflict. You simply won't find crowded launch ramps, congested boat traffic or long waits to obtain marina services at Priest Lake.
More than a dozen boat launches are located around the lake. Most resorts and marinas have gas available as well as boat rentals and other boating services. The northernmost marina with gas available is at Elkins Resort on the west side. Kayak, canoe and pontoon boat rentals are also available through recreation rental services. There are experienced guide services listed under Guide Services in our Business Directory..
Long Sandy Beaches
On the east side of the Lake, both Indian Creek and Lionhead Units of Priest Lake State Park have excellent day-use areas on large sandy beaches with designated swimming areas. At both sites, day-use visitors also have access to grills, picnic tables, rest rooms, etc. During the summer season, Indian Creek Unit offers a wide variety of organized activities that are available to both campers and day-use visitors. Public boat docking facilities are also available in the vicinity of the launch ramps at both park units.
There are also beaches along Huckleberry Bay and Canoe Point that have public easements. The best access to these beaches is via boat, as private property often precludes access from the landward side. All are primitive, without facilities. A small public beach is also located just north of Bishop's Marina in Coolin.
On the west side of the Lake, the USFS Priest Lake Ranger District maintains day use/picnic facilities at Luby Bay Campground and at Reeder Bay Campground (Ledgewood Picnic Area). Both have beach access and the normal array of picnic tables, fire pits, etc. There is a charge to use the Luby Bay Picnic Area, but no charge at Ledgewood. The District also maintains day use areas on Kalispell and Bartoo Islands, and the designated camping areas on those islands are also available for day use provided there is no conflict with campers. Likewise, the four designated campgrounds on Upper Priest Lake are also available for day use if not fully occupied by campers.
There are also numerous public land beaches on the west shoreline, primarily towards the northern end of the Lake. The beaches are accessible only via boat or short excursions off main hiking trails. These beaches are seldom crowded and often provide a 'private beach' for day use visitors. Eight Mile Island also has a day use beach area. All of these uncontrolled beaches are PACK-IT-IN, PACK-IT-OUT areas.
None of the resorts on the lake have public, day-use swimming/picnic areas.
North of the main lake, boaters can travel the two-mile Thorofare that links Priest Lake to Upper Priest Lake. The 1,300-acre Upper Lake is nestled in a magnificent pristine setting with mountains surrounding the entire lake. Sightseeing, camping, picnicking on a sandy beach, and simply enjoying the beauty of Mother Nature's wonderland are some of the popular Upper Lake activities. All water sport activities that involve towing (skiing, wake boarding, tubing etc) are prohibited on the Upper Lake and on the Thorofare. Additionally, all watercraft are required to traverse the Thorofare at "no wake" speed. These restrictions make the Thorofare and Upper Priest Lake an ideal playground for canoeing and kayaking.