Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lower Coeur d'Alene River, Idaho

Backroad Destination-Lower Coeur d'Alene River, Idaho

I accepted a job with the Forest Service in Coeur d'Alene in March 1978.   Since I was working for the Park Service at Lake Mead and needed to complete my job there  I set my reporting date as late April.  I dreamed about spending my weekends wandering the mountains of Idaho.  It turns out I bought a canoe and spent much of my free time canoeing and exploring the lakes of the lower Coeur d'Alene River.  Of course, the Forest Service was paying me to wander among the peaks and lakes of the northern Rockies during weekdays.  So I guess I needed a different environment on my days off.

The lower Coeur d'Alene River area is important in my life in other ways.  Recently, my wife was musing about what happened to that young romantic Forester she met on our first date.  A canoe trip, complete with picnic lunch with a red checkered table cloth for seating and of course the mandatory bottle of wine with two wine glasses. 

Romantic?  The first date was a canoe trip through a swamp to an isolated island.  The red checkered table cloths came from the commercial laundry where my mother worked.  The wine.  Well, you can take the kid out of California but he will probably take some wine with him and always drink it out of wine glass unless he is backpacking.  I do have to admit I was impressed that she just said yes to a canoe trip through a swamp for a first date.  We launched at the Killarney boat ramp and headed west to our island and as they say the rest is history.

The boat ramp is now also a small campground that can take large rigs with campsites both the water edge and mountain side.  

If you like bird watching or waterfowl hunting, kayaking, canoeing, fishing for pike or bass, gathering wild rice, or riding a bicycle this is the place for you.  The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes  and has been covered under my previous post on Wallace, Idaho.  Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.  Links are at the end of the post.

The one thing the area lacks in is campgrounds and camping areas.  There is the campground at Killarney Lake.  The campground fee is only eight dollars includes water and garbage services.  Other possible campgrounds are Heyburn State Park: Heyburn State Park.  It is just outside of the lower Coeur d'Alene River, but does provide easy access to the bicycle trail.  This might be a good choice if bicycling is your primary interest.   There is also a private campground next to Old Mission State Park, but we have not stayed there just driven past.  You can also stay at the Forest Service campgrounds on the North Fork of the Coeur d' Alene River.

Up from the river bottoms it is National Forest land and you can disperse camp there, but you might have to search a bit for an ungated road.  Contact the Forest Service for additional information.  This is what you need to disperse camp in north Idaho.  Click on photo.

Do not forget to visit Catado or Old Mission State Park.  There is not much "old" stuff in Idaho.  This is worth the visit:  Old Mission State Park

The trailheads for the bicycle trail are located up and down the  trail, but no camping is allowed at the trailhead.  There is a Forest Service boat launch at Rainy Hill that would make an excellent boondock, but the website states no camping.  Here are some of the trailhead signs for the bicycle trail and trail.

That's the good news.  The trail is actually a superfund site.  It is the old railroad grade through the valley.  As part of the clean-up the proposal was to pave (cap) the railbed and turn it into a public recreation site.  Here is the "official" sign at Killarney Lake.  It was not there in 1978.

This is a unique part of Idaho.  It was one of favorite haunts when I lived in Coeur d'Alene.  It probably is not for everyone, but if your first date was a canoe trip in a swamp you will probably like it.


Dugg said...

I scoped out a good potential boondocking site along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes a few years back---and you have inspired me to actually ride the thing next summer.

I don't get that bucket & shovel sign though---are campfires required at dispersed sites in Idaho?

Vladimir Steblina said...


However, you must have a bucket and shovel to boondock to help put out fires.

It use to be axe, bucket and shovel.

When I worked in Idaho I thought it a stupid requirement particularly the axe. You can be pretty effective putting out a fire with just dirt if you know how to throw it with a shovel.

I remember the first time I did it on fire. I actually, stood back and said "Wow, that really works!". Plastic collaspsible bucket works. You should already have a shovel.

The legacy of the 1910 fires still lives on.

So Dugg, where are your spots??

Dugg said...

I have two buckets and a hoe. Hopefully those will suffice.

I scoped out the potential boondock site using only a topo map and Google Earth---haven't actually been there yet.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Well, just call your hoe a McCloud tool. The FS will probably just laugh and give you a pass.

I would land at Killarney Lake and then scope out moving to a boondock location.

Be sure to kayak or canoe in the area. It is great.

Dugg said...

I agree---that small BLM campground at Killarney Lake, pretty much near the midpoint of the trail, is an awesome find! Heck, at only $8/night, I may not even need to boondock.