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Redfish Lake

The largest lake of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area


Last updated: by Olha Savych
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Redfish Lake is a large alpine lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, located at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, not far from Stanley, Idaho. The lake got its name because in the past the quantity of sockeye salmon visiting the lake from the Pacific Ocean for spawning season was so great that it turned the water red. In the 1950s about 5000 salmon species made a 900-mi (1,448-km) journey to get to the lake. In present days, after a few hydroelectric dams were built on the rivers (Salmon River, Snake River and Columbia River) connecting the lake to Pacific, the number of wild sockeye salmon getting to the lake is quite small.

Redfish Lake is located on the elevation of 6,547 ft (1,996 m). It stretches for 4.5 mi (7.2 km) in length and has a maximum depth of 387 ft (118 m). It is an excellent area for swimming, fishing, boating, paddle boating, and kayaking. The best time to enjoy those activities is from May to October. For the warmest season, go in June–September. Redfish Lake has a great 17-mi (27-km) walking trail around it. Sawtooth National Forest is also rich with hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and rafting on Salmon river. The lake can be reached by a paved road off State Highway 75. The area has several campgrounds—some camping places require reservations, while others are first-come, first-serve.

Fly fishers will not be disappointed by the Redfish Lake. It's rich in rainbow and Dolly Varden trout as well as landlocked salmon and kokanee. In 1999, the lake was stocked with sockeye salmon, but if you catch this endangered species, it should be released. Fishing supplies and licenses are available at the nearby town of Stanely.

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