About Priest Lake

Priest Lake is located in the northernmost portion of the Idaho Panhandle with the northern end of the lake extending north to within 15 miles of the Canadian border. The history of the lake dates back almost 10,000 years to the end of the last ice age. After the vast glaciers that covered most of the area receded and vegetation started to re-grow, humans started to resettle the area. This is evident from historical artifacts found in the area and ancient rock art along the lake. Most of the land on the east side of the lake until 2014 was owned by the State of Idaho and managed by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL). The west side of the lake is predominately federal land managed by the Priest Lake Ranger District. Originally there were 343 State leased cottage sites on the east shore of the lake and 11 State leased sites on the west side at the outlet to Priest River. The Priest Lake State Lessee’s Association (PLSLA) was formed in 1967. At that time, the State only leased their cottage sites. PLSLA was formed to serve the interests of the lessees.  Due in large part to PLSLA’s activism, in 2010 the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners adopted the “Cottage Site Plan” – a plan to dispose of their cottage sites. In 2014, IDL began the process of selling its State Lease sites by voluntary auction. By 2017, IDL had disposed of about half of these sites, with few exceptions, to the former lessees of those sites. In July of 2017, after 50 years of service, the Priest Lake Lessees’ Association name was retired, and its name and bylaws were changed to the Priest Lake Cabin Owner’s Association (PLCOA) to serve the interests of owners of Priest Lake lessees as well as the new property owners and others.

Our Mission is to ...

"Protect Priest Lake and the Rights of its Stakeholders."

Board of Directors

Randy Absalonson


John Brumley


Maggie Drummond


Mike Belles


Mike Budig


Denny Christenson


Darin Davidson


Tom Hartanov


Matt Rudolf


Bill Symmes


Priest River Cold Water Augmentation - The Siphon

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) was proposing to draw cold water from the deep (hypolimnic) layer of water in Priest Lake to cool Priest River. A number of studies researching the cost and impact on Priest Lake and Priest River have been completed. However, there are many unknowns that could eventually seriously affect both the lake and the river. There are several other methods that are available to help cool the river that are more economical and effective than the siphon. We believe that some other method to cool the river needs to be chosen – not the siphon.

March 21, 2023 – Update

On March 21, 2023, Governor Brad Little signed into law Senate Bill 1021 (Protecting Priest Lake), a law which now requires that any alteration to the outlet control structure at Priest Lake be authorized by the Idaho state legislature and governor.

This is a major win for the thousands of people who live at or frequent Priest Lake.  For nearly 10 years, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) has been setting the table for the construction of a massive pipe in the bottom of Outlet Bay at Priest Lake which would have diverted billions of gallons of deep and cold water around the dam into Priest River in an effort to improve the river’s fish habitat.   However, their own sponsored studies failed to prove any long-term significant benefit to the river’s fishery, and the risks to the lake were real.  A harmful algae bloom popped up 2 years ago in Outlet Bay itself, the very bay from which IDFG proposed to draw off billions of gallons of water.

Priest Lake Wetlands

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in the soils. They contribute a number of functions that benefit people. These are called ecosystem services and include water purification, groundwater replenishment, stabilization of shorelines and storm protection, water storage and flood control, processing of carbon (carbon fixation, decomposition and sequestration), other nutrients and pollutants, and support of plants and animals. (Wikipedia)

Priest Lake has three major wetland areas: the south end of the lake by Coolin, the north by the Little Priest Lake Thorofare, and Bear Creek.

Two of these wetlands, the Coolin Wetland and the Sandpiper Shores Wetland, are being threatened.

These areas are critical to the preserving the Crown Jewel of Idaho and needs to be saved.

Interactive map to all of the wetlands in the US.

Coolin Wetland

The Coolin Wetland is located near Coolin Idaho. Its ownership has been contentious for the past few years.  It is linked to the wetland surrounding Chase Lake.

Currently, the area has been purchased by a developer that has questionably subdivided it into 26 lake front lots and 7 large secondary lots which could be subdivided in the future.

Developing this area would permanently destroy this critical wetland.

Sandpiper Shores

Sandpiper Shores is a 72 acre wetland property on the west side of Mosquito Bay with 365 feet of shoreline at the mouth of the Thorofare, north Priest Lake. 

The site has been previously approved for a 14 Lot major subdivision. The developer purchasing the site is in the final stages of site inspection with plans to develop the site. Currently, it is unknown what the developer’s plans are for this area.

PLCOA is concerned over the potential development of the Sandpiper Shores – Mosquito Bay wetlands and is working to inform the public about the critical importance of preserving wetland ecosystems and the potential permanent loss of a critical Class I Idaho Panhandle wetland system on the north end of Priest Lake. 

Forming Homeowner Associations

When the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) began auctioning leased cottage sites every lot sold required the buyer to accept the CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions and Regulations) that went along with the sale.

The Department of Lands has failed to fulfill that agreement.

PLCOA is demanding that IDL follow through on this commitment. Now, each neighborhood is faced with doing that themselves.

Cottage Site Leasing

The Idaho Department of Lands has been managing more than 2.5 million acres of land that supports state institutions, primarily the state’s public school system. Since approximately 1935 some of this land has been leased for cottage sites. In 2010 there were 354 state-leased cottage sites. That year the Land Board, which provides direction to the department, approved a plan to auction their cottage sites. The first auction was in 2014 and since then cottage site ownership has been a mix of leased sites and fee simple sites. Initially the State’s leasing/auction program was scheduled to last through 2024 when they would reassess the program’s success. The Department of Lands is now reached out to existing lease holders to gauge interest in leasing options and plans to continue the auction opportunity.