Idaho Scenic Drives: Pend Oreille Scenic Byway

Visit the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway, and discover a water-lover's paradise! The route follows the shore of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced OH-ray) for the majority of the length of the byway and then winds alongside the Clark Fork River to the Montana state line. You'll find yourself beneath towering mountains that are reflected in the many miles of water along the byway.

The area is largely undeveloped, ensuring that you are treated to the serene outdoors of Idaho by viewing waterfowl, other species of wildlife, and a variety of plants. Be sure to take advantage of the many pull-offs along the road to experience an uninhibited view of this majestic area.



These days, there's never a dull moment with Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River nearby. You can go boating, fishing, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming in the lake, rivers, and streams that line the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway. If water sports aren't your thing, go camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, or golfing. In the wintertime, hit the slopes at Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort.

Historical Qualities of Pend Orielle Scenic Byway

Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River have been important in the development of the area that is now the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway. Before humans had an impact on the environment, however, glacial Lake Missoula had a significant effect on the land.

Subsequent glacial cycles caused cataclysmic flooding, which began in the area of Cabinet Gorge, near the Idaho-Montana border, and then spread across Oregon and Washington before reaching the Pacific Ocean. This tremendous phenomenon created many of the geological formations seen in the area today.

After the glacial ice abated, the land became habitable, and the native Kalispel people lived in the area. The Clark Fork River was an important aspect of their existence, and the Kalispels hosted an annual regional gathering at the mouth of the river. There, they hunted, fished, picked berries, and traded. The importance of this event and the key location at the mouth of the river continued as traders and trappers moved through the area, exploring the west.

One British explorer, David Thompson, established a trading post on the banks of Lake Pend Oreille while he was

searching for the headwaters of the Columbia River, and he was instrumental in the settlement of the Pend Oreille region.

As traffic through the West and Northwest continued to grow, new routes of transportation were needed. With the creation of the steamboat, the waterways in the area of the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway became connected, enabling people to travel efficiently from one place to another.

When the Northern Pacific Railroad was being built in the

Pend Oreille section, many structures, such as bridges, were built to span the many areas of water. The wooden bridge built to cross the Pack River was the longest structure in the entire transcontinental system.

Qualities of Pend Orielle Scenic Byway

With unspoiled landscapes and clean country air, it is no wonder that Idaho is known for its many outdoor activities. Pend Oreille Scenic Byway is no exception, and with more than 100 miles of shoreline along Lake Pend Oreille, water recreational opportunities are never far away. Boating, fishing, sailing, and other water sports are all available along the byway. The water is clean and pure, and it draws visitors from around the world.

In addition to the scenic and recreational Lake Pend Oreille, two rivers are accessible along the byway. The Clark Fork River stretches across two miles of delta and wetland; the river itself is a popular place to go fishing. The Pack River does not create such a vast delta, but it provides wonderful opportunities for canoeing and kayaking.

The Pend Oreille Scenic Byway is located in Bonner County, which accounts for 20 percent of the total surface water in Idaho's 44 counties, so the byway follows either a lake or river for its entire length.

View Enlarged Image This map will guide you along Pend Orielle Scenic Byway.
View Enlarged Image This map will guide you along Pend Orielle Scenic Byway.

Water sports may dominate the recreational scene, but a look toward the forests to the sides of the lake reveals an area rich in other recreational opportunities. A number of trails are accessible through the Kaniksu National Forest, affording you the chance to go hiking, biking, or horseback riding. Hunting, berry picking, and snowmobiling are additional activities that you can enjoy.

The abundance of water along the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway makes this an ideal route to travel for bird-watching. The delta area at the confluence of the Clark Fork River provides prime opportunity to see different waterfowl up close in the marshes and wetlands.

A variety of fish can also be found on the lake and rivers of the byway, and 20-plus-pound rainbow or Mackinaw trout can be caught during week-long fishing derbies that begin in May and end in November. You may also spot deer and moose all along the byway and near the water.

Find more useful information related to Idaho's Pend Orielle Scenic Byway:

  • Idaho Scenic Drives: Pend Orielle is just one of the scenic byways in Idaho. Check out the others.
  • Hope, Sandpoint: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Pend Orielle Scenic Byway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Idaho? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.