Splashing In Northern Idaho

Known as Idaho’s crown jewel, Priest Lake, beneath the Selkirk Mountains, is somewhat unspoiled, remote, and uncrowded as compared to others further south.

by Yasmina Platt
Published In Midwest Flyer Magazine Online October/November 2021 Issue

Although Priest River (a small town) and Priest Lake in northern Idaho are both great places to fly to, the fuel system icing inhibitor “Prist” is not required (at least in the summer).

Contributing Editor Yasmina Platt with the Cessna 172 on straight floats she rented from Coeur d’Alene (CDA) Seaplanes in Sandpoint, Idaho.

I had heard wonderful things about the “Coeur d’ Alene” (CDA) area from fellow seaplane pilots. Some refer to it as a “mecca” for float flying, so I had to check it out for myself. My hubby and I jumped into the motorhome (having made reservations back in February) and spent a month in the area this summer.

As many of you know, renting a seaplane isn’t as easy as renting a landplane. In fact, only a handful of Fixed Base Operators or flight schools can rent you one without their flight instructor. CDA Seaplanes (www.cdaseaplanes.com) is the company I flew with, flying their Cessna 172 on straight floats, and I highly recommend them. They require that their flight instructor is onboard with you, whether or not you are seaplane rated.

Our mornings started and ended from a private dock on the Pend Oreille River, east of Priest River. From there, we explored many pristine lakes, rivers, and even a waterfall.

As much as I like flying on lakes, river flying is much more fun to me. It’s more challenging, and I enjoy all the twists, turns, and obstacles (yes, including boats).

I also really enjoyed the Clark Fork area of Lake Pend Oreille. The landscape is beautiful and the Gauntlet – a horseshoe-shaped portion of the Clark Fork River – was fun!

As far as scenery, I really enjoyed landing on Sullivan Lake and admiring Pewee Falls (both in Washington State, actually) from the air. Although a local travel brochure said the waterfall can only be seen from a kayak on the water, we proved them wrong.

As far as scenery goes, I really enjoyed landing on Sullivan Lake and admiring Pewee Falls (both in Washington State, actually) from the air. Although a local travel brochure stated that the waterfall can only be seen from a kayak on the water, we proved them wrong.

Known as Idaho’s crown jewel, Priest Lake, beneath the Selkirk Mountains, is somewhat unspoiled, remote, and uncrowded, as compared to other lakes further south.

If you are not (yet) a seaplane-rated pilot but want to join in the fun, you are in luck. Both lakes have awesome backcountry airstrips, you can camp out at, and have direct access to the respective lakes (pack your swimming suit!). The photo above shows Sullivan Lake State Airport (09S), which is owned by WSDOT’s Aviation Division and has a 1,765 by 100 ft grass runway.

If you are not (yet) a seaplane-rated pilot, but want to join in the fun, you are in luck. Both lakes have awesome backcountry airstrips you can camp out at, which have direct access to their respective lakes (pack your swimming suit!).

Sullivan Lake State Airport (09S) is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation,

The Tanglefoot Seaplane Base (D28) is near 66S. Preeeetty cool!

Aviation Division and has a 1,765 by 100 ft grass runway. Cavanaugh Bay Airport (66S) is owned by the Idaho Transportation Department, Division of Aeronautics and has a 3,100 by 120 ft grass runway. 66S even has a restaurant across the street. What a deal! As you may imagine, these airstrips are only open in the summer, as snow/ice is prevalent in the area.

The area also has multiple restaurants with docks where one can park their seaplane to grab some food. One example is “Forty One South Restaurant,” located at The Lodge at Sandpoint in Sagle, Idaho.

We enjoyed our time so much that central Idaho may be on our list for next summer. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have regarding airstrips and bodies of water to check out there. In the meantime, fly safe and fly often!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yasmina Platt’s new job has her planning the future of aviation infrastructure for Joby’s electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. She also writes an aviation travel blog called “Air
Trails”
(www.airtrails.weebly.com), in addition to articles on pilot destinations for Midwest Flyer Magazine. Pilots can locate articles Yasmina has written by going to www.MidwestFlyer.com and typing “Yasmina” in the search box.

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