Idaho Charms

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - May 27, 2009
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Here’s summer! Need a family-friendly, cheap place to take the gang on a camping trip this year?

Northern Idaho reigns in my camp book as the rivers and lakes and outdoor fun capital. Immaculate public campgrounds with clean, no-smell restrooms and hot showers. Roads without any potholes (there’s a reason in itself!). Great for tents - my choice - and RVs, seemingly everybody else’s.

Here’s my guide through the Panhandle and north-central. E-mail me with any questions.

Fly into Spokane and rent your car/RV in town - much cheaper than airport rentals. It’s a short hop into Idaho. Head to Sandpoint and its Springy Point campground three miles west of I-95 just before the bridge into town.

No showers, but good water-front sites in lots of trees. Take the afternoon Lake Pend d’Oreille sightseeing cruise from City Park. Best breakfast: Panhandler Pies. Best family-style eats and beer bar: Eichardt’s on Cedar Street.

Northwest of Sandpoint is Priest Lake. Best campground is the 93-unit Indian Creek with flush toilets, showers, a convenience store and gasoline. And a beach!

From there, run southeast on Highway 200 into Montana and cut back west through the Lolo Pass, reentering Idaho on Highway 12 West, the Lewis & Clark Trail. That follows the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers and is dotted with great National Forest Service campgrounds. My favorites are Whitehouse, White Sands and Wild Goose. Water and no-smell-technology toilets. What looks like a town on the map can be no more than an old lumber community of a dozen residents. Have your cooler stocked when you start Highway 12. The first “town,” Powell, population 226 in summer, has a lodge and convenience store

At Lowell, population 23, turn south and follow the Selway River Road to the O’Hara campground, where the best site is No. 32. Powell has two restaurants, a convenience store and gasoline. Across from the Camp Visitor’s Center is Fenn Pond, which is stocked with rainbow trout. Most rivers have rainbows, steel-head, chinook and catfish. Fishing license required.

Absolutely no cellphone service along the rivers.

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