BY BLYTHE THIMSEN
Seventy miles, give or take. That is the distance from one side to the other across the Idaho Panhandle. With eight lakes and five rivers all tucked within that area, there is no shortage of natural beauty and year-round recreation to discover.
While summer calls for lounging on the bow of the boat and soaking up the warm sun, when fall arrives, it is time to experience Coeur d’Alene Lake in a whole new way. Fall river and lake cruises allow you to get back out on the water, after the peak summer crowds have dissipated, and revel in the beauty of the gorgeous surroundings―with a few creature comforts added in (think indoor amenities, a full bar and gourmet food).
Deciduous and evergreen trees mingle along the 125 miles of shoreline encircling the 25-mile long lake, creating a luxurious border whose colors are afire in the fall. Quaking aspen and western paper birch blend with the western larch, ponderosa pine and mountain hemlock, to name just a few of the trees that you might encounter along the lakeshore. And there is no shortage of wildlife along the water’s edge during the fall, especially in the late afternoon.
“In the fall, people really enjoy seeing the colors change, especially on the St. Joe River cruise,” says Kelly VanDewerker of Coeur d’Alene Cruises, which is based out of the award-winning Coeur d’Alene Resort and offers lake and river cruises through October 29th. “The weather has cooled down and there is a nice breeze on the upper deck. There is more activity on the lake during the summer months; in the fall the lake feels more relaxing; there is a calmer energy.”
Lake cruises run an hour and a half, but for those with more time, a cruise down the St. Joe River—the highest navigable river in the world— is well worth the six-hour commitment. Sweeping views of wildlife and vibrant nature outside your window are the perfect accompaniment to the gourmet buffet lunch served on the cruise.
“The boats tend to have more locals on board during the fall months, whereas in the summer there are primarily tourists,” says VanDewerker. “The St. Joe River cruise is exceptionally popular during the fall. You have the chance to view so much wildlife.”