When people think of Idaho, they probably don’t think about underwater activities. However, the state is actually filled with some impressive diving sites!
The water sports opportunities in the state are largely unappreciated by outsiders, but there are numerous local divers who enjoy Idaho’s aquatic treasures. The following article will explore nine of them to help you discover something new and exciting to do while on vacation this summer!
9 of the best locations to go diving in Idaho
1. Lake Coeur d’Alene
Lake Coeur d’Alene is located along the scenic north shoreline of central Idaho and it features a 3-mile long beach area that attracts thousands of sunbathers each year. The water at this location is warm enough for swimming during the summer season and it can be enjoyed year-round when it is cold enough for ice fishing.
The lake has a maximum depth of 12 feet and features numerous underwater structures, including several sunken boats. The water’s visibility ranges from approximately 30 to 100 feet, which allows visitors to see the large number of aquatic plants growing in the area, as well as -of course- fish. The variety of species that can be seen while diving at this location includes bass, perch and catfish.
2. The Snake River Canyon
The Snake River Canyon is located about five miles north of Lewiston, Idaho along U.S Route 95 and The river descends over 2200 feet over a distance of 25 miles through Hells Gate State Park before meeting with the Columbia River. The canyon features a number of prominent sandstone formations that are home to a variety of plants, birds and animals.
The water is clear enough to provide divers with underwater visibility that ranges from 30 to 100 feet in depth. The sites offers some excellent locations for fishing, hiking and camping. The most popular dive areas include the Hells Gate Dam, The Huntley Powerhouse and The Race Track.
3. Lake Pend Oreille
Lake Pend Oreille is located on the Idaho-Washington border at an elevation of approximately 1’500 ft above sea level near Sandpoint, Idaho. The lake covers more than 33 square miles and has a maximum depth around 370 feet, making it deeper than both Lakes Tahoe and Eerie combined.
The water features a clarity of approximately 40 feet in the deepest areas and it is popular with divers of all levels, who visit the area to explore this unique underwater environment. The lake has an average surface temperature of 67.5 degrees and it is well known for its clean water quality, pristine beaches and calm atmosphere. The most popular dive sites are The Twin Peaks, The Hole-in-the-Wall and The South Bay Bridge.
4. The Snake River Diversion Dam # 4
The Snake River Diversion Dam # 4 was constructed in 1955 at Twin Falls to provide irrigation water for farmers growing potatoes on the large surrounding fields throughout the year.
The diversion dam features a single thin concrete wall that crosses the river from the east to west and is located at the confluence of The South Fork Snake River and The Twin Falls Canal. The dam provides shallow water at its top level, but the underwater area drops off very quickly as you descend into The river’s depths. The average depth of the water in this location is approximately 12 feet and it ranges from less than 2 feet to over 50 feet in depth. The most popular dive sites are The Horseshoe Bend, The Blue Hole and The Staircase Area.
5. Lake Walcott Mine
Lake Walcott is located approximately 18 miles northeast of Twin Falls and 14 miles south of Picabo in The central part of The state, just west of The Snake River. The lake covers an area of about 4 square miles and has a maximum depth of 93 feet -the deepest location in all The State Parks.
It features numerous sandstone formations and its water level fluctuates throughout the year as river flow changes in response to melting snow or heavy summer rains. Lake Walcott is the only the state park with a public boat ramp that allows access for the disabled. The entrance to the lake is also the shortest of any other of the state parks. Diving in the area is permitted and includes numerous submerged rock formations as well as the remains of The Gold Mine located in the deeper areas.
6. Temple Bar
Temple Bar is a rapid along The South Fork of The Salmon River that runs through Hells Canyon between the Owyhee Mountains on The Oregon side and the Seven Devils mountains on The Idaho side. The river descends 1700 feet over a distance of about 7 miles through steep rocky terrain, which has caused rapids at this location to be considered some of the most dangerous in North America.
It enters The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area after flowing through The Snake River Canyon, and includes some of the fastest and deepest whitewater in The United States. To the northeast of the rapid is a deep water hole that extends over 100 feet below the surface of the river, allowing divers to explore the walls and bottom without needing any special training or additional equipment other than a mask, fins and snorkel. Divers can see numerous rock formations as well as an abundance of fish underwater at this location.
7. Lake Walcott State Park Beach
Lake Walcott State Park Beach is one of the most popular places for scuba diving in the state’s South Eastern region, located near Picabo on The banks of The Lake The Walcott.
The Beach is the most southern point of the state’s Snake River State Park and includes a boat ramp for the disabled, picnic facilities, restrooms and the beach itself. In the summertime – particularly on hot days – the waves along the shoreline rise up between 4 to 5 feet tall.
At the north end of the beach there are some small islands that you can swim to after jumping from the rocky cliffs behind them. Spring Creek runs into the lake through an open canyon and provides a good place for taking in the view while enjoying fresh mountain air after completing your dives… perfect for a holiday or long break, given how much there is to keep you entertained!
8. Middle Fork Of Salmon River
The South Fork of The Salmon River begins at Bergman Glacier in central Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest. The North Fork of The Salmon River flows from The White Cloud Mountains in The Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Middle Fork of The Salmon River flows north through The Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness, a part of The National Wilderness Preservation System. It is located entirely within Custer County and the drainage basin encompasses approximately 19,000 square miles or about 45 percent of the state’s land area.
Within the wilderness area are three rivers: The South Fork of The Salmon River, The Middle Fork and the North Fork – which converge to form The Main Stem or “The Main Salmon”. These rivers flow out as one river after they merge into Hells Canyon just outside the East border of Idaho at the town of Brownlee.
9. Spirit Lake
Spirit Lake (part of The Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness) is located along the western edge of The Sawtooth National Forest and was formed by a landslide approximately 4,000 years ago along the east side of the mountain known as Castle Peak that measures over 11,000 feet tall, which is also the tallest peak in The Stanley Basin.
Spirit Lake has been ranked among the top ten most scenic lakes in America. It covers about 80 acres and lies at an elevation of 7590 feet above sea level, featuring a maximum depth of 359 feet. The lake is the second deepest in The United States outside The Great Lakes which are all located in The Northeast.
Personally, Lake Walcott Mine is my favourite diving location in Idaho, given how challenging some of the dives can be in the deeper parts. If you’re diving in a new location, remember to always check in on local diving schools and brush-up on scuba diving laws in the respective state you’re visiting.