Idaho’s Lakes and Rivers: A Legacy of Conservation and Preservation

In the heart of the American West, Idaho stands as a testament to the power of nature’s artistry. Its landscapes are adorned with towering mountains, lush forests, and sparkling waterways that have captured the hearts of adventurers, nature lovers, and conservationists for centuries. Among these natural wonders, Idaho’s lakes and rivers hold a special place, serving as a vital lifeline for both its human and wildlife inhabitants.

A Symphony of Blue

Idaho’s lakes and rivers form an intricate network of aquatic ecosystems, each with its own unique character and charm. From the vast expanse of Lake Coeur d’Alene, stretching for 25 miles along the Idaho-Washington border, to the pristine beauty of Priest Lake, nestled amidst the Selkirk Mountains, these water bodies offer a diverse range of recreational opportunities and ecological significance.

Lake Coeur d’Alene: A Jewel of the Inland Northwest

Often referred to as the “Crown Jewel of Idaho,” Lake Coeur d’Alene is a true natural wonder. Its crystal-clear waters, framed by towering peaks and verdant forests, create a breathtaking panorama that draws visitors from around the world. Boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking are just a few of the popular activities enjoyed on this magnificent lake.

Priest Lake: A Serene Wilderness Retreat

In the northern reaches of Idaho, Priest Lake beckons with its tranquil beauty. Surrounded by dense forests and rugged mountains, this pristine lake offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Fly fishing enthusiasts flock to its waters in search of prized trout, while kayakers and canoeists can explore its secluded coves and inlets.

A Legacy of Conservation

Idaho’s lakes and rivers have long been recognized for their ecological and recreational value. As early as the late 19th century, conservationists and lawmakers began taking steps to protect these precious resources. In 1895, the Idaho State Legislature established the first state park, Heyburn State Park, along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, setting a precedent for the preservation of natural areas.

The Idaho Conservation League: A Champion of Water Quality

For over 50 years, the Idaho Conservation League (ICL) has been at the forefront of efforts to protect Idaho’s water resources. Through advocacy, education, and legal action, the ICL has played a crucial role in safeguarding the state’s lakes and rivers from pollution, habitat destruction, and unsustainable development.

A Bright Future for Idaho’s Waterways

Today, Idaho’s lakes and rivers continue to face challenges, including climate change, invasive species, and the impacts of human activity. However, a new generation of conservationists and policymakers are working together to ensure that these precious waterways remain healthy and vibrant for future generations.

The Idaho Water Plan: A Blueprint for Sustainable Water Management

In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed the Idaho Water Plan, a comprehensive roadmap for managing the state’s water resources. This plan recognizes the importance of protecting lakes and rivers and sets forth strategies for addressing current and future challenges.

The Idaho Rivers United: A Voice for Idaho’s Rivers

Idaho Rivers United is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring Idaho’s rivers. Through grassroots advocacy, scientific research, and education, IRU works to ensure that Idaho’s rivers remain healthy and accessible for all.


Idaho’s lakes and rivers are a vital part of the state’s natural heritage. Their beauty, recreational value, and ecological importance make them a priceless asset that must be protected. Through the efforts of conservationists, lawmakers, and the public, Idaho’s lakes and rivers can continue to thrive for generations to come.

Idaho State Parks and Recreation
Priest Lake Ranger District
Idaho Water Plan
Idaho Rivers United