Dworshak State Park is almost exactly in the middle of the Idaho wilderness. It’s miles from anywhere, has no cell phone service, and no Wi-Fi connection. If there’s a better RV camping place in the area, we haven’t found it yet.
This park is on the shore of Lake Dworshak, a large reservoir that snakes its way through the rugged Idaho backcountry. The towering mountains, clear blue skies, and placid water combine to make some unbelievable scenery. The landscape is surprisingly diverse. Open, grassy meadows blend seamlessly with thick stands of trees and rocky lake shores. There’s a lot more to do at Dworshak State Park than look out your RV window. Visitors enjoy outdoor activities like archery, swimming, boating, hiking, and more.
Dworshak State Park has over 100 RV parking spots in several different campgrounds. Visitors can basically take their pick of scenery and amenities. Whatever makes a good camping trip for your family, it’s probably at Dworshak State Park.
Dworshak State Park is about an hour south of Spokane. If you don’t have a lot of time, or you just want to get there in a hurry, take U.S. 195 south to Moscow (Idaho, not Russia). Highway 195 is a mostly straight road with good visibility on either side. Be advised that, in this part of the country, there’s not much in the way of civilization.
Other RV campers prefer the extremely circuitous, and extremely scenic, route. Interstate 90, which runs east to Missoula, is cut through the Coeur d’Alene National Forest and Lolo National Forest. Then, cut back west on U.S. Highway 12 through the Nez Perce National Forest until you reach the park. Along Interstate 90, there are a number of charming little towns where visitors are always a welcome sight and there is always something different.
Inside the park, there’s a large parking lot near the activity field, swimming area, and boat launch. Overnight large vehicle parking is also available near the boat launch.
Lake Dworshak State Park’s largest RV campground loop has 25 parking spots. Some are back-in, and some are pull-through. Some of the sites have electric hookups, but all the sites have a picnic table and a fire ring or outdoor grill. Even in winter, you can enjoy a meal outdoors with your family. Kokanee Loop is a heavily-wooded loop, but most of the parking spots are quite open. So, you have plenty of room and plenty of shade. Kokanee Loop also has the largest and nicest restroom facility. It includes hot showers. There’s a smaller restroom facility as well, along with numerous drinking water spigots and an amphitheater.
This 21-site RV campground is next door ro Kokanee. It’s also closer to the swimming area. Like Kokanee, Osprey has a mixture of back-in and pull-through sites, and a mixture of electric and non-hookup sites. All the parking spots have picnic tables and grills or fire pits. Although the loop is on a hill, the RV parking sites are all quite level.
The most remote RV campground loop has ten parking spots. Seven of them are back-in spots. All Camas parking spots have picnic tables and outdoor cooking facilities. This loop is adjacent to the activity field, but since no foot path connects the field and the loop, you’d probably never know that if we didn’t tell you.
Kokanee salmon and bass usually bite really well at Dworshak State Park. Rangers estimate that the waters contain over 200,000 kokanee salmon. Many of them are the larger two and three-year-olds. Early spring kokanee salmon fishing is often a question mark. If the winter was cold, the Corps of Engineers must run more water through the dam, and that entrains the fish. “Entrainment” is the word of the day, and it means exiting through the dam. The dam is quite a sight, by the way. It’s the third-highest concrete dam in the United States. The Corps estimates that it’s prevented nearly $3 million of flood damage since 1972. Heavy winter snowfalls also mean cooler water, and that means fewer fish. Smallmouth bass usually congregate toward the lower part of the lake. For dedicated trout anglers, there’s a trout tent camping area which includes a large fishing jetty.
The boat launch is not far from the camp entryway and the fish cleaning station. For motorboats, Lake Dworshak does not have a whole lot of open water. But in terms of surface acreage, it’s a huge body of water. Feel free to explore all parts of the lake, which basically resembles an extremely wide river. Kayaks, canoes, and other unpowered boats are welcome here as well. There are plenty of tree-lined shores to explore. These boaters have a relaxing time on the water that’s occasionally punctuated by a wildlife sighting. Anglers have free reign over the lake as well. On shore, the park marina has 99 boat slips as well as a gas-selling convenience store and a cool indoor conference/party facility.
Unless you swim in late July or early August, the water is either cool or cold. If that’s the way you like it, feel free to jump in. The swimming area is a wide, sandy beach that’s very clean and well-kept. There’s a designated no-boat area right around the beach. Take a break from the water to enjoy the playground, take a stroll on a footpath, or just relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of Lake Dworshak State Park.
Remember we said that grassy meadows dominated parts of Lake Dworshak State Park? The outdoor activity field is in one of these places. Most people don’t expect a well-maintained outdoor activity field in the middle of the Idaho wilderness, so it’s a welcome change for many. Some activities include volleyball and horseshoes. There’s also plenty of room for pick-up football and soccer games. If you need a breather, wander among some of the nearby hiking trails that are lined with berry bushes. Speaking of hiking trails...
The 10-mile Big Eddy Trail winds through the thick woods to the west of the park. The trail is a bit faint at times, but there are interactive signs to keep you on track. Many of these signs contain information about local wildlife. For something a little shorter, try the half-mile Placid View Trail. It offers some good views of the lake along with plenty of berry-picking opportunities. A number of foot trails connect the various sections of this park. When you’re away from a loop, you feel like you’re miles from anywhere, and that’s a nice feeling.
Visitors to the Idaho Panhandle often think that they’ve crossed the line into Canada. Super-rare woodland caribous are around Lake Dworshak State Park, along with moose, grizzly and black bears, deer, elk, wolves, and mountain lions. In the skies overhead, the placid lake water draws scores of eagles, osprey, great blue herons, dippers, and kingfishers.