Summer is a great time for traveling. While some people may prefer to spend the summer at a theme park, or in some exotic locale in the tropics, there are a great many wonders in the natural world to behold right here in our marvelous state of Idaho. The first of eight state parks we’re going to look at over the course of June and July is relatively close to home: Farragut State Park.
The 4,000-acre Farragut State Park is situated at the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of North Idaho. The park’s namesake was David Glasgow Farragut, the first admiral of the Navy. The land encompassed within the park was once home to Farragut Naval Training Station, a major training base of the U.S. Navy built along the shore of Lake Pend Oreille during World War II.
Why was a Navy training base built so far away from the ocean? The reason behind choosing this location was that it kept the base and its occupants safe from coastal invasions. This was crucial because the attack on Pearl Harbor of 1941 was still a fresh memory that no one wanted to have repeated.
The training base was home to 293,381 men during its years of operation between 1942 and 1946. Famous people visited the base, including war-bond promoter and movie actress Lana Turner and even then-president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. While most of what once consisted of the training station’s land has been sold off or removed by the U.S. government, the U.S. Navy still uses a 20-acre section of land today for an acoustic research detachment.
Going even further back in time, Lake Pend Oreille, what is now Farragut State Park and the surrounding region was carved out thousands of years ago by catastrophic flooding that occurred near the end of the Pleistocene epoch (or Ice Age). This flooding event, called the Lake Missoula Flood, was caused by the collapse of an ice dam that previously held back Glacial Lake Missoula in what is now western Montana. After being freed from its constraints, the water flowed across North Idaho and into Oregon and Washington before finally reaching the Pacific Ocean. As the waters flowed through what would become the park, it left behind an escarpment on Bernard Peak some 500 feet higher than the current surface of Lake Pend Orielle; you can see this escarpment today.
Farragut State Park is a paradise for visitors and wildlife alike. Wildlife is especially plentiful in the park and represents a lot of the fauna and flora found throughout the Idaho Panhandle. Some common animals found in the park include ducks, bobcats, black bears, woodpeckers, coyotes, trout, white-tailed deer, bluebirds, perch, hawks and mountain goats.
If you’re really fortunate when walking around Lake Pend Orielle, you might just catch a glimpse of our state fish, the rainbow trout! While often valued by fishermen, there are a lot of interesting things to learn about this fish as a living creature, too. Rainbow trout are members of the salmon family and are often found dwelling in cool, clear rivers, streams, and lakes, just like Lake Pend Orielle. If you’re especially quiet as you move through the secluded sections of forest in Farragut State Park, you might spy white-tailed deer. When you do spot them, you’re likely to find two, three or more of them since they like to spend time in small groups.
If you choose to travel this summer, spend some time marveling at the beauty of Lake Pend Orielle, pine forests and other forms of wildlife that inhabit Farragut State Park!