Payette Lake, Idaho, USA

Also known as:  Big Payette Lake

One hundred miles north of Boise, nearly surrounded by Payette National Forest, lies breathtaking Payette Lake. Nestled beneath the peaks of the West Mountains in the Southwestern Region of Idaho, the area around Payette Lake has the well-deserved reputation of being Idaho’s Four-Season Playground. In Idaho’s Long Valley, Payette Lake fills a basin along the Payette River to a depth of over 300 feet spread over more than 5000 acres. – READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Payette Lake! Article topics include:

Looking for Payette Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore more of our favorite travel partners.

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Payette Lake! Article topics include:

Looking for Payette Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore more of our favorite travel partners.

All About Payette Lake

Lake Locations: USA - West - Idaho - Southwestern -

One hundred miles north of Boise, nearly surrounded by Payette National Forest, lies breathtaking Payette Lake. Nestled beneath the peaks of the West Mountains in the Southwestern Region of Idaho, the area around Payette Lake has the well-deserved reputation of being Idaho’s Four-Season Playground. In Idaho’s Long Valley, Payette Lake fills a basin along the Payette River to a depth of over 300 feet spread over more than 5000 acres. Sometimes called Big Payette Lake to distinguish it from Upper Payette Lake upstream and Little Payette to the east, the spectacular lake has been entertaining visitors since the late 1800s. Known to Native American tribes and frontiersmen, the French Canadian fur trapper, Francois Payette roamed these mountain trails and gave the river and hence the lake its name. In the 1860s, gold miners temporarily settled here to pan for gold but were unsuccessful and soon moved on. Although a small settlement called Lardo was located nearby at the outlet of the Payette River, Thomas and Louisa McCall purchased property at the site of the current McCall between 1889 and 1891. Thomas McCall established a school, hotel, saloon, and post office and developed businesses. The town was a success and eventually grew to encompass little Lardo. Farming was developed in the area primarily by Finnish settlers.

Timber and lumbering provided the mainstay of McCall’s economy. McCall supported at least one sawmill until 1977. Before the turn of the 20th century, a character called Anneas “Jews Harp Jack” Wyatte advertised the services of a 30-foot sailing yacht to visitors. Steamships moved freight and personnel up and down the length of Payette Lake far faster and more comfortably than the rough wagon roads in existence. And by the 1920s and 30s, visitors came to ski the slopes of the mountains west of the lake. At some time in the past a small dam used to control water for irrigation was built across the outlet at Lardo which maintains the lake at high pool except during crop irrigation. In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked at McCall constructing buildings and look-out towers. Idaho’s governor used one of the buildings as a summer residence. Because fire was always a danger in logging country, the Southern Idaho Timber Protective Association eventually formed here to enhance logging practices and fire prevention. The eight-building restored site is now home to the Central Idaho Historical Museum.

Payette Lake early developed a reputation as an excellent fishing lake, particularly for ‘mackinaws’. This lake trout variety was transplanted into the lake, as were rainbow and brown trout – naturals for the cold deep waters of Payette Lake. Whitefish and kokanee salmon were also caught. Many exceeded 25 pounds, attracting anglers from all over the world. Unfortunately, the lake provides little in the way of food sources for a large numbers of fish, so stringent limits have been placed on the sizes and numbers of fish that can be taken. Idaho Fish and Game has planted feeder shrimp varieties and fingerlings regularly to restore the fishery to healthy populations. They also maintain a hatchery southwest of McCall near the old Lardo Dam. The many small inlets and brooks hold trout; fly fishermen often make Payette Lake the centerpiece of their summer vacation. The Payette River inlet at the north end of the lake, called ‘the Meander’ or ‘Meander Lake’, is a favored fishing hole. This area is limited to electric motors, but the rest is an all-sports lake except for a 300-foot no-wake buffer along the shore.

Payette Lake is a favorite among sailors. Local marinas host a sizable summer population of sailboats of all types. Water skiing, wake boarding, jet skis and power boating are all popular, as are pontooning, canoeing and kayaking. The southern portions of the west and east arms of the lake are heavily developed and contain high-end housing. Areas along the northern portion of the shore are too steep for building and remain beautifully wooded. Between the two arms, a 1000-acre peninsula holds the south branch of Ponderosa State Park. The north branch surrounds ‘the Meander’. The park offers fishing, swimming, volleyball area, horseshoe pits, guided walks, camping, picnic areas, hiking and biking trails. A wide variety of wildlife inhabit the park, including Canada geese, mallards, osprey, wood ducks, bald eagles, songbirds, moose, deer, muskrats, beaver and bear. The Payette Lake area is a photographer’s dream, both in scenery and wildlife. Several tour guides and outfitters are located nearby in McCall to assure visitors the perfect fishing or hunting trip. White-water rafting is also available. The movie, “Northwest Passage” with Spencer Tracy and Robert Young, was filmed on the shores of Payette Lake.

Payette Lake freezes completely over, so ice fishing and ice skating keep the winter ‘lake lubber’ entertained. The area around Payette Lake is a nationally-known ski area, with two ski resorts and miles of cross-country trails for skiing and snowshoeing. The Payette National Forest provides all types of hunting and trail exploration. McCall takes winter visitors seriously, with carefully-groomed snowmobile trails, a year-round ice arena and myriad festivals and activities geared toward tourists. One of the largest is the famed McCall Winter Carnival – ten days of outdoor fun and snow activities. Highlights of the festival include incredible ice sculptures, racing and competitions. The local ‘snow sculpting’ team is so talented they compete internationally. And, of course, there are sledding hills, snowboarding and sleigh rides. McCall sponsors winter ski races and summer running competitions. The 4th of July Festival provides yet another reason to celebrate at Payette Lake, with fireworks, carnival and plenty of good food and drink. Nearly any type of outdoor equipment can be rented near McCall, from all types of watercraft, mountain bikes, ATVs and horses for horseback riding.

McCall offers a 27-hole municipal golf course, summer outdoor concerts, craft fairs and art programs. The area around Payette Lake offers several unique locations that visitors may wish to explore. About 30 miles from McCall, privately-owned Burgdorf Hot Springs is located in a ghost town and offers rustic accommodations in cabins ranging from 70 to 132 years old. The location is accessible by snowmobile or skis only in winter. Farther up the trail are unimproved hot springs open to the public. South of McCall, the Roseberry General Store is 1.5 miles east of Donnelly. Built in 1905, the old Finnish store still sells long underwear and Finnish knives. Across the road, the Valley County Museum incorporates an old schoolhouse and church, with nearly 20 other historic buildings scattered around the old town site.

Vacation rentals are plentiful around Payette Lake. Many of the condos, private homes and ski cottages are available for weekly or monthly rental. Many are lakefront. A few bed-and-breakfast facilities are located near the lake. Camping facilities are located along the shore, so every visitor can find just the right location at Payette Lake. Real estate is available both along the lakefront and up the mountain with lake views. One visit, winter or summer, and you’ll be hooked. Pack up the gear and come to Payette Lake for your next vacation.

Things to Do at Payette Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Playground

Fish Species Found at Payette Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Lake Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

All About Payette Lake

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Payette Lake

The Payette Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.


More Ways to Book a Payette Lake Vacation

While our interactive map above is perfect for comparing LAKENAME rental homes (with VRBO) and nearby hotels (with Booking.com), there might be times when you need to expand your search with a different type of accommodation. Here are some other LAKNAME lodging partners you might want to explore:

Check TripAdvisor
Explore RV Rentals
Find a Campspot
View All Resources

Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission. Read our full disclosure policy here.


More Sites to Book a Payette Lake Vacation

Our interactive lodging map shown above is perfect for comparing LAKENAME VRBO rental homes and nearby Booking.com hotels, there are times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodation. Here are some other LAKNAME lodging partners you can explore:

Check TripAdvisor
Explore RV Rentals
Find a Campspot
View All Resources

Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission. Read our disclosure policy here.


More Sites to Book a Payette Lake Vacation

Our interactive lodging map shown above is perfect for comparing LAKENAME VRBO rental homes and nearby Booking.com hotels, there are times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodation. Here are some other LAKNAME lodging partners you can explore:

Check TripAdvisor
Explore RV Rentals
Find a Campspot
View All Resources

Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission. Read our disclosure policy here.


Recommended Sites to Book a Payette Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Payette Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.
ALL TRAVEL RESOURCES

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

[get-post-images]

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Lake Reservoir Company

Surface Area: 5,330 acres

Shoreline Length: 21 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,990 feet

Maximum Depth: 304 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

More Payette Lake news from LakeLubbers.com

  • Advertise your vacation rental property or local business: DETAILS HERE
  • The Payette Lake forum has been discontinued: HERE’S WHY
  • New Payette Lake photos coming soon!
  • You’re invited to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook and Instagram!
  • Share this Payette Lake article with your fellow LakeLubbers:

Do you have a vacation rental property at Payette Lake? Coming in 2022, LakeLubbers will have an opportunity for you to showcase your listing and put it in front of thousands of lake lovers searching our site for homes, condos or townhomes to rent for their upcoming lake trip this season.

Please get in touch with our advertising team HERE and we’ll provide you more details on this upcoming advertising opportunity.

divider

Looking for the Payette Lake forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here.

We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook and Instagram!

Click here to advertise your Payette Lake vacation rental or local business.

The former Payette Lake forum is closed. Find out why here.

New Payette Lake photo gallery is coming soon.

Please share this article with your fellow lake lovers!

Spread the word! Share our Payette Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Explore local Payette Lake vacation rentals and hotel accommodations using our interactive map. Clicking on listings below will allow you to compare nearby properties, best rates and availability for your dates.

Looking for the old Payette Lake forum group? Click Here

New Payette Lake photos coming soon!

Vacation Home Name

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nam consequat a neque id hendrerit. Mauris ut commodo erat. Praesent at fermentum sem. Vivamus dui turpis, posuere sed auctor a, luctus semper nibh. Etiam quis neque vehicula, finibus sem sit amet, condimentum turpis….

  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • hot tub
  • wifi