At the site of what was once one of the largest state-of-the-art lumber mills in northern Idaho sits a placid state park tucked around the former mill pond.

Winchester Lake State Park, located about 38 miles south of Lewiston, has been a popular draw for tourists since its establishment in 1969. The man-made lake formerly served as the mill pond for the Craig Mountain Lumber Co., founded in 1909 that, at its peak, produced 120,000 board feet of timber every 10 hours.

After industry shutdowns during two world wars, the mill closed for good in 1965 following a fire that nearly destroyed the town of Winchester. Planning for the mill site to be converted into a state park began the next year.

Winchester Lake State Park is surrounded by Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir and the lake is stocked with rainbow trout, catfish, perch, bass, bluegill and tiger muskie. Hiking, nordic skiing, snowshoeing and mountain bike trails circle the 100-acre lake that has an average depth of 23 feet with the deepest point of 35 feet.

There are also 46 serviced, 22 standard and three American with Disabilities Act campsites for picnickers and campers. Reservations can be made from Memorial Day through Labor Day for campsites and year-round for yurts. Canoes are also available for rent and small boats are allowed. Gas engines are not.

During the summer months, classes and programs are often available, including junior ranger programs, wolf education and research center programs and first-time adventure programs.

A small visitor’s center is located at the entrance to the park and the Museum of Winchester History is about a mile away in the town of Winchester. The museum tells the story of the frontier community carved out of heavily timbered landscape on the summer grounds of the Nez Perce people. Early photographs show the Craig Mountain Lumber Co. and the mill pond, as well as pictures of the construction of the Camas Prairie Railroad with its tunnels and trestles. Hand-wrought tools, clothing, household items and firefighting equipment document the struggles faced by the townspeople making a living on the edge of the Camas Prairie. n

Winchester Lake State Park

LOCATION: 38 miles south of Lewiston. Turn west off U.S. Highway 95 onto Business Highway 95; drive 1 mile to the edge of the lake and follow the signs to 1786 Forest Road park entrance.

WHAT YOU’LL DO: Fishing, camping, picnicking, hiking, boating, bird watching.

DIFFICULTY: 1 out of 5

WATERING HOLES: Winchester Kitchen and Bar on Winchester Main Street.

PARK AMENITIES: Auto touring/scenic routes; boat ramp and launch; boat rental (nonmotorized); charcoal grills; dump station; electricity; fire rings; firewood sales; fish cleaning station; flush toilets; group picnic shelter; indoor showers; life jacket loaner station; paddle board rental; picnic areas; swimming; vault toilets and drinking water.

FEES: $10 Idaho State Parks passport; other fees for services are available at:

CONTACT: (208) 924-7563

HOURS OF OPERATION: Day-use locations within state parks are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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