To help manage the throngs of visitors and campers, the U.S. Forest Service has made some changes at Priest Lake this summer.
Most of the changes focus on Bartoo and Kalispell islands where some campers have left litter and human waste behind, stripped lower tree branches for firewood and damaged the landscape with crudely built pit toilets and fire pits.
Some of the new regulations this summer include:
Bartoo and Kalispell islands will have campground hosts and an island ranger to check on visitors. Campers will be required to register and pay a $5 per night camping fee on the two islands.
The two islands now have a limited number of designated family and group camping sites. The sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Next year some of the sites will be on a reservation system.
Portable toilets will be required at sites without outhouses. Campers using their boat toilets will not be required to have a portable toilet.
No firewood collecting will be allowed on the islands. Firewood will be sold at the Kalispell public boat launch.
Users of the Kalispell boat launch will be charged a $4 fee for launching and parking. Boaters can buy a season launch pass for $25.
Beginning next week, some Priest Lake visitors will also be stopped on the state Highway 57 and asked to participate in a survey.
Motorists will be chosen at random for a 10 to 15 minute interview, given a questionnaire to fill out and mail back and a map to chart what areas they visited at the lake.
The survey is part of an effort led by the University of Idaho to determine how tourism and recreation affect the lake.
“The idea is to get a base of information that will help us make decisions that best serve the users while preserving the lake’s resources,” said Priest Lake Ranger Kent Dunstan. He urged visitors to take part if approached by researchers.