Lake Coeur d'Alene

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Lake Coeur d'Alene
Location Kootenai / Benewah counties, Idaho, United States
Coordinates 47°32′00.46″N 116°48′32.84″W / 47.5334611°N 116.8091222°W / 47.5334611; -116.8091222Coordinates: 47°32′00.46″N 116°48′32.84″W / 47.5334611°N 116.8091222°W / 47.5334611; -116.8091222
Type glacial, reservoir
Primary inflows Coeur d'Alene River, Saint Joe River
Primary outflows Spokane River
Basin countries United States
Max. length 25 mi (40 km)
Max. width 3 mi (4.8 km)
Surface area 49.8 sq mi (129 km2)
Max. depth 220 ft (67 m)
Water volume 2,260,000 acre·ft (2.79 km3)
Residence time 0.5 years
Surface elevation 2,125 ft (648 m)

Lake Coeur d'Alene is a natural lake in the Idaho Panhandle, with its northern end located in the city of the same name. It spans 25 miles (40 km) long, ranges from 1 to 3 miles (4.8 km) wide and has over 109 miles (175 km) of shoreline.

Geology and geography[edit]

Lake Coeur d'Alene, like other lakes surrounding the Spokane Valley and Rathdrum Prairie, was formed by the Missoula Floods, most recently 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. The Purcell Lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet flowed south from Canada, carving the basin of present-day Lake Pend Oreille and damming the Clark Fork river. The impounded river repeatedly filled to form Glacial Lake Missoula and broke through the ice dam, resulting in massive floods that filled the Rathdrum Prairie area with sand, gravel, and boulders.[1] Large eddy bars formed downstream from bedrock obstructions, thereby damming tributary valleys and creating lakes. Lake Coeur d'Alene is fed primarily by two rivers, the Coeur d'Alene River and the Saint Joe River. The outflow is via the Spokane River.

The elevation of the lake varies from 2,128 feet (649 m) above sea level in the summer to up to 7 feet (2.1 m) lower in the winter, controlled by the Post Falls Dam 9 miles (14 km) below the lake on the Spokane River.[2]

The average temperature of the lake between June 1 and September 30 is 68°.


The first European to see the area was explorer David Thompson in 1807. The lake has been a primary method of transporting lumber in Kootenai County since the industry took root in the region. In fact, prior to a fire in 1917, Harrison was going to be the county seat of Kootenai County, as the swiftly growing lumber town was at an opportune junction of the St. Joe and Coeur d' Alene Rivers. After the fire, the mills were largely moved to the city of Coeur d'Alene, which then grew to become the county seat.

There are a number of Ford Model T automobiles sitting on the bottom of the lake, due to people in the early 1900s who would drive across the lake during the winter time in order to save half the distance in getting around the lake. When the ice broke, so did the chances for getting across. Also, there are some steamboats on the bottom that had been burned when they were no longer used to ferry people around on the lake. Divers frequently visit these ruins on the bottom.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe owns the southern third of Lake Coeur d'Alene. In United States v. Idaho,[3] the United States Supreme Court held an 1873 executive order issued by Ulysses S. Grant transferred ownership to the Tribe. While the court holding has not affected usage and access to Lake Coeur d'Alene, the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that the Tribe may set its own water-quality standards on its portion of Lake Coeur d'Alene.[4]


Lake Coeur d'Alene is a popular tourist site for many people during the summer, offering great beaches and scenic views. A seasonal hobby of some local residents is viewing the bald eagles as they feed on the kokanee in the lake, mainly from the Wolf Lodge Bay. The North Idaho Centennial Trail, popular among cyclists, walkers, and joggers, follows along the lake's north and northeastern shore. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes also runs along the southern shores.

Idaho State Parks and public facilities

In popular culture[edit]

The song "Coeur d'Alene" by the rock band Alter Bridge from their third album AB III is about this lake.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]