Thorofare to Upper Priest Lake

ThorofarePriest Lake is linked to Upper Priest Lake by a narrow waterway termed the Thorofare. The 2.5-mile channel meanders through some of nature's most spectacular forested scenery. The entire length is protected from human development since it lies within the boundaries of the Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area.

All watercraft traversing the Thorofare are restricted to "no wake" speed. This speed restriction makes the Thorofare an ideal waterway for canoeists and kayakers. The shallow, crystal clear water affords an unrestricted view of the channel bottom. The large trees that have fallen into the Thorofare over the years seem to come alive and create a surreal effect as you pass over them.

Upper PriestAlong the banks of the Thorofare, the wonders of nature can be observed close-up and personal. Wildlife of all varieties is a common sight, and you will likely observe numerous fish pass beneath your boat. Be on the lookout for bald eagles, ospreys, numerous duck species and the occasional moose - which may decide to swim across the channel in front of your boat!

Enjoying the solitude and beauty of boating on the Thorofare is truly a unique nature adventure that should not be missed

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Trail 302

Trail 302Upper Priest Lake Trail 302 is a pleasant, easy hike that traverses a predominately Douglas Fir forest for the first few miles. The trail then drops into an area of old growth cedar as it approaches the north end of Upper Priest Lake.

The trail crosses Ruby Creek as well as other smaller unnamed creeks and eventually follows the east shoreline of Upper Priest Lake to Trapper Campground. The trail passes by an old mine shaft, Coolin's cabin, and early hunting stands perched high in the ancient cedars.

The tread of the trail is in good shape and several wet areas are traversed via trail bridges. However, depending on weather, portions of the trail in the cedar grove area may be somewhat boggy.

The route to the Trail 302 trailhead is via USFS Road 302 (an extension of State Highway 57) from Nordman. Travel 21 miles north on USFS Road 302 and 1013 over Granite Pass to USFS Road 655. Turn right onto Road 655 and proceed for approximately 1/2 mile. The trailhead will be on your right and the vehicle parking area to your left, across from the trailhead.


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Vinther-Nelson Cabin

Vinther-Nelson CabinThe Vinther-Nelson Cabin is one of the best known historical landmarks in the Priest Lake area. The cabin was built on Eightmile Island in 1897 by the Crenshaw brothers. The Crenshaws resided in the cabin while they pursued their mining venture at the 'Deer Trail Lode' mine, a short distance from the cabin. After seven months of arduous work at the mine without success, the brothers sold the cabin to the W.J. Anders family who homsteaded the island for the next two years. In 1900, Anders sold the cabin to cousins Sam Vinther and Nels Nelson. The cabin remained in the Vinther and Nelson families until 1982 when it was designated as a National Historic Site. At that time, the families donated the cabin to the US Government and now serve as permanent caretakers and curators of the cabin. 

Vinther-NelsonThe Vinther and Nelson families have retained many of the artifacts related to life at the cabin in the early 1900s and they have graciously made them available for public viewing. Most of the cabin's original structural materials remain as testament to the building skills of the early pioneers of the lake. A visit to the cabin is a great way to take a step back in time and get a feel for the way of life at Priest Lake at the turn of the century. A small museum is located at the rear of the cabin and a beautiful walking trail leads to the top of the island where you can observe the land cleared by the Anders family in an valiant attempt to establish a farm. 

The cabin is located on the east side of Eightmile Island near the narrow channel that separates the island from the mainland and is accessible only via watercraft.

Open During Summer Only: Wednesday - Sunday
HOURS: 10am - 3pm

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Water Sports and Sandy Beaches

Water Sports

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..

Bonner County Boating Regulations for Priest Lake

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.








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Phone: (208) 443-3191
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