North Idaho has a lot going for it, especially since it is home to my favorite town of Sandpoint , Idaho! Some of things that make it great come down to being right next to Schweitzer, and of course our amazing lake that stands out as one of the best lakes in America.

So what lake is Sandpoint , Idaho on? Sandpoint, Idaho borders Lake Pend Oreille! This is a glacial lake that is incredibly deep and sprawls across a good portion of the landscape in North Idaho. You will find many other towns, homes, and places to stay alongside this large lake, all getting to enjoy the scenery it offers.

Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint
One of the best views of Lake Pend Oreille is from our awesome Schweitzer ski resort [Photo Courtesy: Schweitzer]

1. How was Lake Pend Oreille created?

A common misconception that many, many people wonder (generally before they come to visit, and see how massive the lake is) think that our Lake Pend Oreille is actually man-made. However that is just not the case. Lake Pend Oreille was in fact created by glaciers that moved slowly through our area, carving out our mountain sides and digging out our lake for us to enjoy.

2. How deep is Lake Pend Oreille?

Lake Pend Oreille is the 5th deepest lake at 1,152 feet deep at its deepest point! The only lakes in our country to be deeper are Lake Superior (1,333 feet), Lake Chelan (1,486 feet), Lake Tahoe (1645 feet), and Crater Lake (1,949 feet).

Our lake is so deep, that we are one of the few lakes in the world that offers a testing ground for scale submarines.

3. How big is Lake Pend Oreille?

Our lake is not only deep, but it is also expansive! At 142 square miles it gives plenty of shoreline for communities, homes, and forests alike. It is also home to many different private and public islands that offer a ton of fun throughout the year.

142 square miles of water surface area makes this the 38th largest lake in the United States! However it is the largest lake in Idaho with Lake Coeur d’Alene (which is home to the Coeur d’Alene Resort) at a distant 2nd with 49.81 square miles.

4. What towns are on Lake Pend Oreille?

The largest town on the lake, and the seat of Bonner County is Sandpoint , Idaho!

You will also find Bayview, which is home to the unique and rare floating homes.

Hope, Idaho will be found alongside the North East side of the lake, and offers some amazing views of different islands, and the Monarch Mountains.

Sagle and Dover both are alongside the point where the Lake becomes the River at the North West side of the lake, and offer easy access to Sandpoint (via the Long Bridge if in Sagle).

5. Does Lake Pend Oreille freeze?

From my experience Lake Pend Oreille never completely freezes over! That said, it definitely does freeze over in certain areas like along the shoreline or around the Long Bridge where the lake is not quite so wide.

There are plenty of people during the winter that utilize our lake for winter activities like ice fishing, and ice skating! Of course if this lake isn’t frozen over, they can always drive down Highway 95 a little ways to Lake Cocollala, which is generally frozen over most of the colder parts of winter.

6. Can you swim in Lake Pend Oreille?

During the late spring, summer and early fall, Lake Pend Oreille is an awesome place to go swimming! There are many different great areas that offer a variety of experiences. The City Beach is a great place if you want a sandy beach to swim on. Meanwhile driving out to Sunnyside can get you a bit more of a rocky beach that you can claim for your own for a bit!

Alternatively, places like Garfield Bay and Green Bay are hidden treasures that don’t have many people visiting and you can enjoy a bit of time away from the crowds.

Regardless, Lake Pend Oreille is a swimmers paradise!

Of course, if you are one of those people that like the cold, you should think about joining in on the polar bear swim that takes place dur

7. Why do they lower Lake Pend Oreille?

If you have lived in our area for at least a year, you likely have noticed that the lake drops down in level during the winter, and goes back up in the warmer months. So why is that?

Essentially, the lake is higher up in the summer to help with recreation and with the fish life in the lake! This higher level allows the fish to thrive when they need it most.

However during the winter months, the lake is lowered down to assist with hydroelectric power that needs to be assisted during the colder months of the year.

8. What river feeds Lake Pend Oreille?

This lake being so large, also has to be fed by a larger river as well! The Clark Fork river is the largest of the rivers to feed into Lake Pend Oreille, and is what gives it the majority of its water. Of course there are plenty of smaller rivers, streams and such that feed into it, however none of them are quite at the magnitude of the Clark Fork.

The Clark Fork starts its life in Montana, more specifically Butte and finds its way along Montana into the Lake Pend Oreille. From there, the water leaves Lake Pend Oreille via the Pend Oreille River, until it empties into the Columbia.

9. What does Lake Pend Oreille mean?

Did you know that the French actually were in this area for quite a while? During this time they named some of the lakes in our area, and those names stuck.

Lake Pend Oreille looked like an ear to them, and that produced that name! Pend Oreille directly translated just means “Hanging ear”.

Now, it may look like an ear, but the lake is much more exciting than that! If you are so interested, Coeur d’Alene is directly translated to “Heart of An Awl”.

10. How is Lake Pend Oreille pronounced?

A lot of people struggle with the way that Lake Pend Oreille is pronounced! However one of the local towns made it considerably easier to say by spelling the name phonetically as “Ponderay”.


Lake Pend Oreille is one of the most defining characteristics in our area, and I hope this article helped answer some questions that you had about the lake, and maybe even shared some information you had never really thought about either!

If you are new to the area, have been here your whole life or a transplant, I hope that Lake Pend Orielle brings you a lot of enjoyment throughout the whole year!