Free Boondocking On The Shores Of The Largest Lake In Idaho

We stayed at Clark Fork Drift Yard Idaho in early August.

Our Previous Stop: Amazing Views & Free Camping Near Glacier National Park

Our Next Stop: Montana

Campground Info

Location: 48.173685, -116.231830
Cost: Free
Camping Limit: 3 Day
Amenities: Porta Pottie, Boat Dock
Limited Use: This area is closed every year from April 1 to May 15.

Related: Save 50% On Campgrounds All Over The United States With Passport America

Essentials Nearby

Town: Clark Fork, ID4 miles
Gas Station: Chevron – 4 miles (Also Refill Propane)
Dump Station & Potable Water: Sam Owen Campground5 miles ($8 Credit Card Only, Free Potable Water)
Grocery Store: Monarch Market4 miles

Cell Phone Service

Verizon – Great
AT&T – Good

Nearby Attractions

Lake Pend Oreille – 0 miles
Scotchman Peak Hike – 10 miles
Coeur d’Alene Bike Trail – 69 miles
Glacier National Park – 193 miles
Missoula, MT – 165 miles
Canada – 73 miles

Our campsite at Clark Fork Drift Yard in Idaho.

Camping At The Clark Fork Drift Yard In Idaho

The first thing you need to know about camping at the drift yard near Clark Fork, ID is there is really only one sort of established campsite. The rest of the camping is either in the parking lot, along the circle road that leads to the one campsite, or you can camp in the small area before the parking lot.

Clark Ford Drift Yard Camping Area from above with Lake Pend Oreille in the background.

In this drone shot, you can see the main campsite in the top left corner on the edge of the circle. Some was camping in it when we got there so we chose to park along the edge of that same circle. It ended up being a great place to camp we just didn’t have much outdoor space which was fine since we could only stay there for 3 days.

To the right, you see another smaller circle where people were also camping. This is also a good spot for a nice campsite as well although that spot did have a few cars pulling into it late at night. Otherwise, people camped along the edges of the parking lot which is for the boat ramp.

The parking lot you can camp in at Clark Fork Drift Yard in Idaho.

The main problem with the good campsite in the corner is it’s by a river opening where you can fish or launch small boats and it’s also by the entrance to a grassy area where some people were tent camping so there was a lot of traffic and people parking around that area. Some people even parked right next to the guy camping in that spot to spend the night. If you don’t like neighbors or people parking next to your campsite it may not be the best place to go.

Boat ramp and small campsite at the Clark Fork Drift Yard in Idaho.

Near the boat ramp was a porta-potty. There was a small fire pit in the area to the right where the van is parked in this picture but if you camp there expect people to walk past your site often to get to some of the good fishing spots along that part of the lake/river.

Clark Fork River DrftYard Rules.

Because you are camping on either a parking lot or a road the sites are pretty level and big rig friendly.

There are some railroad tracks not too far away and a train does go by almost every hour during the day and once or twice at night. The larger trains can be pretty loud but they weren’t too bad for the most part.


Our Camping Review Of The Clark Fork Drift Yard Free Camping Area

Even though it’s a small area and there’s not really any official or private campsites it’s still a great place to camp for free right on Lake Pend Oreille. There aren’t any other free campgrounds on the east side of the lake and sometimes you can’t be too picky when searching for free places to stay.

There were a lot of trucks with boats driving in and out of the main parking area but the loop we were parked in had minimal traffic and it was quiet at night. Except for when the train went by but it wasn’t so loud that we woke up from it every night.

The water near the dock/boat ramp is clean and nice to swim in. The fishing from shore wasn’t so great in August but it’s supposed to be really good in the spring and fall.

The drift yard is fun to explore and it’s a pretty unique area. It was built to collect all the driftwood floating down the Clark Fork River to stop it from going into the lake since it’s a danger to boaters. There are huge masses of old driftwood floating in the water near the shore, if you are a driftwood collector there may be some treasures to find.

Tall grass outside our trailer at Clark Fork Drift Yard in Idaho.

The combination of the mountains, the tall grass, and the lake make for beautiful sunsets and it’s a place I recommended for campers who are traveling through and want to spend a few days exploring Lake Pend Oreille or hike to Scotchmans Peak. The Scotchmans Peak hike is fantastic but it’s long and steep going up and coming down. It wouldn’t recommend it for children or people with knee issues who struggle with downhill hikes.

If you head into the Clark Drift Yard expecting to camp in a parking lot with beautiful surroundings you won’t be disappointed. If you are looking for a good campground with private campsites you aren’t going to find that there.

Have any questions about camping at Clark Fork Drift Yard in Idaho? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

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