Heading Out on the Lake


Launch: Farragut State Park

Nearby campsites: At Farragut State Park

Comments: A $25 annual Idaho State Park permit allows day use and use of the excellent boat ramp. There is a $5/day parking fee for the truck and trailer at the boat ramp. Around the corner, on the water, is Buttonhook Bay where state parks maintains free docks. There is well-protected anchorage in the Bay.



-----"The hardest part of cruising this lake is pronouncing its name," say the locals. Early French fur traders encountered an Indian tribe that wore pendants suspended from their ear lobes, and so named them (and the lake) Pend d'Oreille.

Pronounciation Guide

-----Almost as confusing as the pronunciation is the spelling. One can find a half dozen spellings without even half looking. No matter how you say its name, or spell it, this is one beautiful lake.


-----Lake Pend d'Oreille is forty-three miles long and averages about 6 miles in width. It has a shoreline of over a hundred miles. But, the outstanding topographic feature of the lake is its depth - 1,150 feet. Why, it's so deep that the US Navy tests submarines (and surface vessels) in the lake. The Navy's Model Engineering and Support Facility for the Acoustic Research Department tests scale models for stealth technology.-The facility is largely manned by civilian contractors.


U.S. Navy Facilities

-----During World War II, Farragut Naval Base was a training camp; the second largest naval training center in the world. Tens of thousands of U.S. sailors received their 'basic' training in Northern Idaho!


-----If you were hanging around the northern Idaho, a billion or so years ago, you could have strolled over to Siberia without getting your feet wet. Since that long ago time, the mega continent rifted and the Siberian rocks moved there merry way off to the Northwest to their present location. An ocean basin bounded Idaho after that rifting event.

-----A batholith is pretty exciting to a geologist -- 'batho' - deep; 'lith' - rock. The Idaho Batholith is a huge mass of granite intruded into the 'country' rock of northern Idaho. This granite mass was intruded as a gooey, plastic mass of molten rock that elbowed its way into the pre-exisiting rock of North America. Its source was probably from a piece of the sea floor that was began sliding under the western margin of the Americas (continental) plate along the boundary created by the departure of Siberia. By the time the slab was below Idaho, it was melting and being re-digested into the upper mantle and lower crust. Traveling on, or within the descending sea floor plate, was siliceous rock that might have been debris washed off the continental margin. This silica-rich molten material was lighter density (and lighter color, when it cools) than the surrounding basaltic sea floor -- on melting, the light stuff pushed upwards into the overlying hard crust forming the batholith.


Light-colored Tan Granite of the Idaho Batholith. Western Shore of the Lake

-----The story continues ... About 70 million years ago (some argue it was 50 million years ago, but we'll give or take twenty million years until the dating issue is settled), as the giant mass of the batholith forced its way upward into the crust, the overlying hard rock slid down the flank of the intruding batholith.

-----That overlying rock was mostly hardened limestones that had been deposited in a Paleozoic ('Paleo' - old; 'zoo' - life) sea. Back then, some hundreds of million years ago, Idaho was straddling the equator and the sea that covered the ancient continent was full of lime-secreting life. Huge layers of limestone were deposited.


Gray Bedded Paleozoic Limestones; Limestone Quarry

-----Sliding eastward, down the flank of the rising batholith, some of the limestone near the bottom of the sliding pile was crushed and ground up into a fragmented mess we call mylonite.

Mylonite - Crushed Limestone

-----The mylonitized zone, lying along the contact of the granite and limestone, was eroded deeply by rivers and streams creating a deep topographic trough called the Purcell Trench.

-----During the past 10,000 years great changes occurred in this region. A massive tongue of ice slid southerly down the north-south trending Purcell Trench, gouging the trough deeper. The huge tongue of ice blocked the westward flow of glacial meltwater from the continental ice sheet to the north and east. The 2,000-foot high ice dam of the Purcell created a huge lake that extended two hundred miles to the east -- glacial Lake Missoula. The water of this lake was thousands of feet higher than the water of present-day Lake Pend d'Oreille. Only the tops of the mountain peaks rose above its waters.

-----Ice makes a poor dam -- it floats! When the lake became so deep that its waters were overtopping the ice dam the dam began to lift off the bottom and float. In an instant, the dam failed and burst. The water of this huge lake (larger than Lakes Erie and Ontario combined) roared at speeds in excess of 64 mph down the Pend d'Oreille River drainage with a flow that exceeded ten times the flow of all the rivers in the world combined. The flood (named jökulhlaups, by geologists for similar, but much smaller scale floods in Iceland today) spilled out over a large area of northern Idaho, western Washington State (carving the Channeled Scablands) and poured down the Columbia River Gorge. Floodwater created Dry Falls, the largest waterfall in North America, although as its name implies, water no longer flows over the falls. Compared to Niagara Falls, Dry Falls is about 3 times as wide and 2 and a half times as high.

-----The jökulhlaups shook the ground with massive earthquakes and carved deep gorges and molded mountains. Over fifty cubic miles of rock was excavated, mountains of gravel over 30 stories high were deposited, giant ripple marks three stories high litter the landscape from the Rockies to the Willamette Valley.

-----The damming of the river took place dozens of times, and the great jökulhlaups recurred over and over again, moulding the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. There are legends passed down through the millenia among the natives of the northwest relating tales of the great floods -- eyewitness accounts of these giants of destruction.

Lake Pend d'Oreille Occupying the Purcell Trench (the Water Level of Lake Missoula was several Thousands of Feet Higher)


-----There is some wild country surrounding Lake Pend d'Oreille. Deer, bear, cougar, moose and mountain goats can be seen from off a cruising boat.


Deer, Mountain Goat Kid and Common Mergansers


Bald Eagle and a Red-Throated Loon


-----Fishing can be not only good sport but a profitable enterprise in Lake Pend d'Oreille. Seems there are several species of trout that are apparently destructive to the Kokanee Salmon. Idaho Fish and Game has a bounty on their heads - $15/fish. Here's Chris explaining to Pat that if he can catch two of the bounty fish it will not only pay for his 4-day license but give him a net profit as well. "You fill out these forms, drop the heads into this pipe, and soon Fish and Game sends yu a check." "Really?," said a disbelieving Pat. So, soon there were four of the offending Lake Trout hanging from the stringer. Pat paid for his license and Chris for his gas, thanks to Fin and Feathers.


-----Oh, and we all enjoyed the delicious lightly-cooked filets prepared for dinner by Patty. Yum and money in the pocket.


-----One of the joys of cruising is sharing good times with friends. Our trip to Pend d'Oreille was shared with Voyager, MzKaye, and Daydream. We had a rendezvous in Buttonhook Bay at the south end of the lake.


Voyager, MzKaye, Halcyon, Daydream Snuggled Together for the Evening; Happy Birthday, Pat

Happy Everyday, El



Tying and Tied at the Restaurant Dock in Bayview


(Photos by Anderson)


-----At the top end of the lake is Sandpoint, with a fine marina and lots of choices for meals. We decided to stop and have a lunch.

Sandpoint Mural


Sandpoint; the Power House Marina; and the Harbor Breakwater


El and Friend

-----Coming into the harbor at Sandpoint, a man and woman ran out to the end of a pier and shouted to us, "We know you. Hi, Ellie." Turns out Raye and Dennis had just been reading our Halcyon Days website. They happened to be in Sandpoint and saw C-Dorys turn in to harbor. To their great surprise, one of them was Halcyon. We invited them to join us all at the dock and head into town for a lunch. Soon, all the new friends were happily engaged in boat talk over a fine meal.


Raye and Dennis; Pat and Patty; Jody


El and Bill; Chris


-----Leading out from the northwest corner of the lake is the Pend d'Oreille River. It trends for tens of meandering miles to Albeni Dam. It was a grey, rainy, and cold day when we cruised down the river but it was a beautiful ride from within the toasty warm cabin of Halcyon. And by the time we were ready to anchor, the day was improving greatly. We dropped the hook in a fine marshy slough off the river and rafted together for some socializing.


On the River; Tied at the Corps of Engineers Albeni Cove Recreation Area; and Anchored in the Slough

(08 - 08)

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