Geography of Pend Oreille County, Washington

Geography of Pend Oreille County, Washington

Pend Oreille County, located in the northeastern corner of Washington state, is a region of stunning natural beauty characterized by its rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and lush forests. From the towering peaks of the Selkirk Mountains to the sparkling waters of the Pend Oreille River, the county offers residents and visitors alike a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities and scenic vistas. Check travelationary to learn more about the state of Washington.

Physical Features:

  • Selkirk Mountains: Pend Oreille County is dominated by the Selkirk Mountains, a subrange of the Rocky Mountains that extends into northern Idaho and southeastern British Columbia. The Selkirks are characterized by their rugged terrain, deep valleys, and alpine meadows. Several peaks in the Selkirk Mountains exceed 7,000 feet in elevation, including Gypsy Peak, which is the highest point in Pend Oreille County at 7,301 feet. The mountains provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing, as well as scenic drives along mountain roads and highways.
  • Pend Oreille River: The Pend Oreille River flows through the northern part of Pend Oreille County, serving as a major waterway and shaping the landscape of the region. The river originates in Canada and flows southward into Washington state before eventually joining the Columbia River. The Pend Oreille River is known for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, offering opportunities for fishing, boating, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. The river is also popular for its whitewater rapids, which attract kayakers and rafters seeking thrills and adventure.
  • Pend Oreille Lake: Pend Oreille County is home to Pend Oreille Lake, one of the largest and deepest lakes in the Pacific Northwest. The lake covers approximately 148 square miles and reaches depths of over 1,100 feet. Pend Oreille Lake is known for its crystal-clear waters, rocky shorelines, and abundant fish populations, including trout, bass, and northern pike. The lake provides opportunities for boating, sailing, fishing, swimming, and other water-based activities, as well as scenic beauty along its shores and islands.


Pend Oreille County experiences a continental climate, characterized by four distinct seasons with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers. The region’s climate is influenced by its inland location, as well as its proximity to the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Winters in Pend Oreille County are cold and snowy, with daytime temperatures often below freezing and nighttime temperatures dropping well below zero Fahrenheit. Snowfall is common from November through March, with several feet of snow accumulating on the ground. Winter weather can be severe, with blizzards, ice storms, and avalanches occurring in the mountains and higher elevations.

Summers in Pend Oreille County are warm and dry, with daytime temperatures often reaching into the 80s Fahrenheit. Humidity levels are low, and rainfall is sparse, making irrigation necessary for agriculture and landscaping. Thunderstorms are common during the summer afternoons and evenings, bringing brief but intense rain showers, lightning, and gusty winds.

Human Impact:

  • Timber Industry: The timber industry has been a major part of the economy in Pend Oreille County for over a century, with forests covering much of the region. The county’s forests are dominated by coniferous trees such as Douglas fir, western red cedar, and western hemlock, which are harvested for lumber, paper, and other wood products. Timber harvesting provides jobs, income, and tax revenue for residents and communities across the county, although it also raises concerns about environmental degradation, habitat loss, and wildlife habitat.
  • Outdoor Recreation: Outdoor recreation is a popular pastime in Pend Oreille County, with opportunities for hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing. The county’s mountains, lakes, and rivers offer a variety of outdoor activities for residents and visitors alike, from scenic drives along mountain roads to whitewater rafting on the Pend Oreille River. Outdoor recreation contributes to the local economy, attracting tourists and supporting businesses such as outfitters, guides, and lodging providers.
  • Mining: Mining has played a significant role in the history of Pend Oreille County, with deposits of lead, zinc, and other minerals found throughout the region. The county’s mining industry dates back to the late 19th century, with mines operating in areas such as Metaline Falls and Tiger. Although mining activity has declined in recent decades, it remains an important part of the local economy, providing jobs, income, and tax revenue for residents and communities across the county.

Conservation Efforts:

Efforts to conserve and protect Pend Oreille County’s natural resources are ongoing, with a focus on preserving sensitive habitats, managing water resources sustainably, and promoting responsible land use practices. Conservation organizations, such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy, work to protect critical ecosystems, restore degraded habitats, and enhance wildlife habitat. Efforts to address issues such as habitat loss, water pollution, and climate change are also underway, with initiatives to promote conservation practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase public awareness and engagement.


In conclusion, Pend Oreille County, Washington, offers a wealth of natural beauty, outdoor recreational opportunities, and cultural attractions for residents and visitors alike. From the rugged mountains of the Selkirk Range to the pristine waters of Pend Oreille Lake, the county boasts a diverse array of landscapes and ecosystems. While facing challenges such as timber harvesting, mining activity, and environmental degradation, Pend Oreille County remains a resilient and vibrant community with a deep connection to its land and heritage. Through collaboration, innovation, and conservation efforts, the county continues to balance economic development with the protection of its unique landscapes and ecosystems, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.