Freshwater lake in Utah County, Utah, United States
Satellite photo of Utah Lake
Location of within UtahShow map of Utah
Location within the United StatesShow map of the United States
|Location||Utah County, Utah,|
|Coordinates||40°13′12″N°48′00″W / °N °W / ; Coordinates: 40°13′12″N°48′00″W / °N °W / ;|
|Primary inflows||American Fork, Provo River, Hobble Creek, and Spanish Fork|
|Primary outflows||Jordan River and evaporation|
|Catchment area||3,sqmi (9,km2)|
|Managing agency||State of Utah|
|Max. length||24mi (39km)|
|Max. width||13mi (21km)|
|Surface area||95, acres (km2)|
|Average depth||ft (m)|
|Max. depth||14ft (m)|
|Water volume||,acre⋅ft (×109m3)|
|Surface elevation||4,ft (1,m) (compromise)|
|Settlements||Provo-Orem metropolitan area|
Utah Lake is a shallow freshwater lake in center of Utah County, Utah, United States. It lies in Utah Valley, surrounded by the Provo-Oremmetropolitan area. The lake's only river outlet, the Jordan River, is a tributary of the Great Salt Lake. Evaporation accounts for 42% of the outflow of the lake, which leaves the lake slightly saline. The elevation of the lake is at 4, feet (1,m) above sea level. If the lake's water level rises above that, the pumps and gates on the Jordan River are left open.
The first European to see Utah Lake was Father Silvestre Vélez de Escalante in He stayed with the Timpanogots band of Ute Tribe for three days. The Timpanogots were later integrated with the Mormon settlers or expelled from the area between the s and s. The fish of the lake were overharvested by the settlers and subsequently restocked with non-native species.
Although thirteen species of fish were native to the lake, only the Utah sucker and the critically endangered June sucker remain. The dominant species in the lake is the common carp, introduced in as an alternative to the overharvested native fish. The carp is now estimated at 90% of the biomass of the lake and is contributing to a decline in native fish populations by severely altering the ecosystem. Pollution has also caused problems with the lake's ecosystem. Raw sewage was dumped into the lake as late as Pollution problems still remain; the lake's phosphorus and mineral salt levels are in violation of the Clean Water Act. In recent years, the lake has been prone to harmful algal blooms or HABs.
 Utah Lake is managed cooperatively by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands and the Utah Lake Commission. The Division manages public use and issues permits for commercial users of the lakebed and shoreline while the Commission facilitates development. The lakebed and surrounding shoreline is made up of State Sovereign Lands. Utah Lake is one of three lakes in the state that were deemed "navigable" at statehood and granted to the State of Utah. Sovereign lands are managed under the public trust doctrine.
The Utah State Legislature has designated the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands as the executive authority for the management of sovereign lands, and the state's mineral estates on lands other than school and institutional trust lands. Sovereign lands are defined by the Utah State Legislature as "those lands lying below the ordinary high water mark of navigable bodies of water at the date of statehood and owned by the state by virtue of its sovereignty."
The Commission was created by State statute in Utah's General Legislative Session, House Concurrent Resolution 1, under authority of the Interlocal Cooperation Act. The Commission is funded and empowered by 17 area governments, including; Utah County and its municipalities, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, and three state agencies. Founded in , the Commission seeks to promote multiple public uses of the lake, facilitate orderly planning and development in and around the lake, and enable individual Commission members to govern their own areas.
Utah Lake is within Utah Valley, in north-central Utah. Mountains surround Utah Valley on three sides: the Wasatch Range to the east, Traverse Mountains to the north, and the Lake Mountains to the west. Mount Nebo reaches an altitude of 11,foot (3,m), and Mount Timpanogos reaches an altitude of 11,foot (3,m), nearly 7, feet (2,m) above the valley floor. Jutting into the south portion of the lake is 6,foot (2,m) West Mountain, which divides Goshen Bay and Lincoln Beach. Utah Lake is situated on the western edge of the valley and covers more than 25% of Utah Valley's floor. Because of its location on the western side of the valley, the eastern shore has a gentle slope and the western shore rises abruptly against the Lake Mountains. Connected to the main body of the lake are two large, shallow bays: the aforementioned Goshen Bay (north Goshen Valley) to the south and Provo Bay to the east. Major cities such as Provo and Orem are located between the lake's eastern shore and the Wasatch Range.
Utah Lake is a remnant of a much larger pleistocene lake called Lake Bonneville, which existed from 75, to 8, years ago. At its peak 30, years ago, Lake Bonneville reached an elevation of 5, feet (1,m) above sea level and had a surface area of 19, square miles (51,km2), which was nearly as large as Lake Michigan. The weight of the lake depressed sections of the lake bottom by as much as feet (73m) before the surface rebounded when the lake dried up. About 12, years ago, the climate of the region became warmer and drier. As evaporation rates exceeded inflow rates, the lake began to dry up, leaving Utah Lake, the Great Salt Lake, Sevier Lake, and Rush Lake as remnants.
Over the roughly 65, years that Lake Bonneville existed, sediments built up, creating a lacustrine plain over Utah Valley. As a result, the valley floor and lake bed are relatively flat, which causes the lake to be shallow. The lake has a maximum depth of just under 14 feet (m) and an average depth of about feet (m). This shallowness allows winds to easily stir up sediments from the lake's bottom, contributing to the turbidity or the impression of pollution seen in Utah Lake's water.
Three faults run under Utah Lake. One of the faults, the Bird Island fault, runs under the eastern edge of the lake and helps give rise to hot springs near Lincoln Beach. The other major hot spring is on the northern shore and is called Saratoga Springs. The hot springs mostly result from the development of hydraulic pressure as the ground water slopes toward the middle of the lake.
The lake contains a small island called Bird Island, about miles (km) north of the Lincoln Beach boat ramp, near its south end. The island has a few trees and is somewhat visible from Lincoln Beach. During high-water years, the island may be completely submerged, the trees being the only indication it is there. It is a fairly popular destination among fishermen seeking walleye, white bass, and channel catfish.
The Utah Lake watershed drains 3, square miles (9,km2) over mostly mountainous terrain. The watershed's highest point is at 11,foot (3,m) Bald Mountain in the Uinta Mountains. , acres (3,km2) (32%) are managed by the United States Forest Service, , acres (1,km2) (11%) are managed by other government entities, and the majority of the rest, 1,, acres (5,km2) (51%), are privately owned.
Two major tributaries account for nearly 60% of inflow by streams or rivers into Utah Lake. The Provo River accounts for 36% of the inflow, and the Spanish Fork river accounts for 24%. Other tributaries include the American Fork river, Current Creek, Dry Creek, Hobble Creek, and Mill Race Creek. Additionally, there are many hot springs and smaller creeks flowing into the lake. Utah Lake is drained by the Jordan River, which begins at the lake's north end. The river flows north through Utah, Salt Lake, and Davis counties and then into the southeast portion of the Great Salt Lake. Given the lake's semi-arid climate, large surface area, and shallow average depth, evaporation accounts for 42% of Utah Lake's outflow.
After several years of drought, irrigation companies were arguing over their share of Utah Lake's water from the Jordan River. Judge Morse of the Third District Court issued his judgment that became known as the Morse Decree of The decree stated that the irrigation companies "are entitled to a decree awarding to them, subject to the limitations hereinafter set forth, the right to the use of all the balance of the waters of the Jordan River, for municipal, irrigation, culinary, and domestic purposes, to the extent of the capacity of their several canals, and the right to impound and store all of the waters of said river in Utah Lake." In response to the drought, a pumping plant was installed at the outlet of the Jordan River from Utah Lake. It was the largest pumping plant in the United States at the time. The plant contained seven pumps with a total capacity of cubic feet (20m3) per second. After the decree was released, Utah Lake essentially became an irrigation reservoir and the Jordan River's flow was highly regulated.
As a result of the – flooding, a lawsuit was filed for compensation due to flooding based upon breach of contract of the previous compromise level. In , a new compromise level was reached which governed the maximum level of the lake. The new level was chosen to be 4, feet (1,m) above sea level. When the water level in Utah Lake exceeds this level, the Jordan River pumps and gates are left open. The new compromise level also meant that the lake's elevation was below Jordan River's stream bed.
In , a study showed Utah Lake was being seriously polluted. As a result, Utah County cities decided to plan how and where to build sewage treatment plants instead of dumping raw sewage into the lake. By , many cities had constructed sewage treatment plants, but Provo's was still under construction. Raw sewage was still getting into the lake by 
In the State of Utah, the Utah Division of Water Quality and Utah Division of Drinking Water are responsible for the management and regulation of water quality. Lakes, rivers, and streams that exceed the standard levels are then placed on the DEQ d list in accordance with the Clean Water Act. The Act requires states to identify impaired water bodies every two years and develop a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for pollutants that a body of water can assimilate without causing the water body to exceed the water quality standards. Utah Lake was originally put on Utah's and d list for phosphorus and total dissolved solids (TDS) exceeding recommend values. High levels of phosphorus can cause high levels of nuisance algae growth, low dissolved oxygen, and eleTDS tells about the concentration of mineral salts in the water, which can cause problems to agriculture and culinary water supplies. Excess levels of phosphorus come from multiple sources, but namely the waste water treatment plants, are extremely concerning when it comes to Utah Lake management because high levels can trigger harmful algal blooms and eutrophication There is some discussion as to how much of the phosphorus is the result of anthropogenic causes and how much is the result of historic phosphorus stored in the lake sediment.
Krissy Wilson of Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources, stated in that water quality is now improving, with greater flows of water, among other things, contributing to the improvement. However, the presence and activity of carp, which stir up solids in the water, makes it difficult to appreciate the improvement without conducting scientific measurements.
Harmful algal blooms in Utah Lake
There are several cyanobacteria species that are especially common when phosphorus levels and temperature, among other unknown criteria, are favorable for harmful algal blooms. These are Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and Dolichospermum flosaquae species, both of which produce cyanotoxins. If levels are high enough of either of these species and others the lake is closed to the public.
The first inhabitants of the area were nomadic hunter-gatherers of the Desert Archaic Culture. An archeology site, called the Soo'nkahni Village, has been explored next to the Jordan River in Draper. The site dates back 3, years and over 30, artifacts have been found. The next recorded inhabitants were the Fremont people who lived in the Utah Lake area from about AD to about AD. They consisted of small villages of hunters and farmers. They farmed corn, squash, and beans. When climatic conditions changed, they caused trouble for farming. Also, the ancestors to the Ute, Paiute, and Northwestern Shoshone moved into the area. As a result, the Fremont people left the area.
The third group to inhabit the area were the Utes of central Utah and eastern Colorado. The Timpanogot (also called Timpanogos, Timpanogotzi, Timpannah, and Tempenny) band of the Utes inhabited Utah Valley. They were the most dominant band of Utes due to the relative ease of gathering the plentiful local food supply. It was a sacred meeting place for the Timpanogos, Ute and Shoshone tribes. During the spring spawning season, these tribes would meet at Utah Lake for the annual fish festival. At the festival, there was dancing, singing, trading, horse races, gambling, and feasting on the plentiful fish the lake provided. It was also an opportunity to find a mate from another clan. In , Jedediah Smith visited a camp along the Spanish Fork river that had 35 lodges with about people.
Franciscan missionary Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, while on his expedition in late summer and early autumn of , was trying to find a land route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Monterey, California. Two Timpanogots from Utah Valley acted as guides for his party. On September 23, , the party traveled down Spanish Fork Canyon and entered the Utah Valley. From Escalante's journal, he describes Utah Lake: "The lake, which must be six leagues wide and fifteen leagues long, extends as far as one of these valleys. It runs northwest through a narrow passage, and according to what they told us, it communicates with others much larger. This lake of Timpanogotzis abounds in several kinds of good fish, geese, beaver, and other amphibious animals which did not have an opportunity to see. Round about it are these Indians, who live on the abundant fish of the lake, for which reason the Yutas Sabuaganas call them "Come Pescados" (Fish Eaters). Besides this, they gather in the plain grass seeds from which they make atole, which they supplement by hunting hares, rabbits, and fowl of which there is great abundance here." Escalante named the lake Lake Timpanogos, after the tribe living in the area. Escalante's record clearly distinguishes between this Lake Timpanogos, a body of fresh water that he saw and sized, and Great Salt Lake, which he did not see or name, but was described to him as a river "communicates with others much larger." The next recorded European visitor was Étienne Provost, a French-Canadian trapper who visited Utah Lake in October  The city of Provo and the Provo River are named after him.
Early Mormon settlement
The Mormon settlement of Utah began in July , when pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. Under the direction of Parley P. Pratt, an exploration of Utah Valley was conducted. The party brought a small boat in which they explored Utah Lake and caught fish with their nets. The first battle between settlers and Indians occurred in early March A company of forty men was sent into Utah Valley to stop the stealing of cattle from the Salt Lake Valley. The company met in the village of Little Chief, who told them where the people responsible for the stealing were located. A skirmish took place in which four Timpanogots were killed. The settlers named the site of the skirmish Battle Creek, which was later renamed Pleasant Grove.
In April , a group of about thirty families came into Utah Valley and settled on the Provo River, very close to the main Timpanogot village on the Provo River. The settlers built a stockade called Fort Utah and armed it with a twelve-pound cannon to intimidate the Timpanogots. In August, a Timpanogot named Old Bishop was murdered by three settlers over a shirt they wanted from him. Some Timpanogots shot at cattle or stole corn in response. Winter was especially hard and Timpanogots stole cattle for food. By January , settlers of Fort Utah reported to officials in Salt Lake City that the situation was getting dangerous. They wanted a military party to attack the Timpanogots. A militia was sent from Salt Lake City and on February 8 and 11, and they engaged the Timpanogots in battle. On February 14, eleven Timpanogots surrendered, but were later executed while their families watched. A government surgeon went to the execution site and cut off the Timpanogots' heads for later examination. One militia man and Timpanogots were killed. Over the ensuing years, fewer and fewer Timpanogots lived in Utah Valley and by all Timpanogots had moved to the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. However, some Timpanogots occasionally returned to fish on Utah Lake into the s.
Captain Howard Stansbury of the United States Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers was ordered to map, survey, and explore Utah and Salt Lake Valleys. In , Captain Stansbury explored Utah Lake and Utah Valley, surveyed and made observation of the local wildlife.
Historically, there have been four species of amphibia, twelve species of reptiles, thirteen species of fish, species of birds, and forty-two species of mammals found in the environs of Utah Lake. The dumping of raw sewage, destruction of natural habit, hunting, and the introduction of non-native fish species have taken a toll on the native species in and around the lake.
Some of the mammals that live around the lake are the big brown bat, the silver-haired bat, mule deer, Botta's pocket gopher, desert woodrat, and striped skunk. There are seventeen known native mollusca to Utah Lake. Only three were reported in the lake ecosystem in , and one species is extinct. The last living example of the thickshell pondsnail (Stagnicola utahensis), a freshwater snail, was reportedly seen in the early s. Four specimens were sent to the Smithsonian Institution in and the only known location for the snail was Utah Lake.
During the s and lasting into the s, the killing of fish-eating birds was seen as a fish conservation measure. Bounties were given by local government entities, and upon presenting evidence of offending dead birds, game officers paid the bounties. A report by a hunter states, "There was a bounty paid on cranes and heron in Two men could make as high as $66 a day. Wading into the rookeries with their pants off they would crack the heron over the head. When the bounty was paid on pelican we would use a fish float tide to a wad of rushes. Gulls were also caught. There has been 10, slaughtered. At the Big Channel gidls have been shot and there are four or five hundred pelicans which have been shot. In I killed 1, mudhens [coot]. We would eat the hearts and gizzards, take the feathers and oil and discard the rest."
The Utah Lake wetland ecosystem is an important breeding area and stopover for migratory birds in the Pacific Flyway. Today, about species of birds use the lake either as their permanent home or as a stop over on their migration. The Utah Lake Wetland Preserve has been established at the south end of Utah Lake. It contains two units, one at Goshen bay with more than 21, acres (km2) of land preserved, and another unit at Benjamin Slough. Birds seen at Utah Lake include sandhill crane, double-crested cormorant, great horned owl, turkey vulture, golden eagle, cinnamon teal duck, and mallard duck.
Parley P. Pratt visited Fort Utah in June and saw thousands of fish being caught by settlers and Timpanogots. He estimated that barrels of fish could be secured annually from the fishery. The winter of – caused much of the livestock to die. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints elders sent members in the Salt Lake Valley to Utah Lake to obtain fish; an estimated 96, pounds (44,kg) of fish were brought back. The first commercial fishery also started the same year. At the General Conference of the LDS Church, a committee was appointed to develop fish culture because of the declining fish harvest in Utah Lake. By , it became illegal to commercially catch any fish except for non-native species.
At least 25 species of fish have been introduced into Utah Lake's waters. Thirteen introductions were unsuccessful. Carp, largemouth bass, white bass, black bullhead, channel catfish, walleye, goldfish, yellow perch, blue gill, and black crappie are found in abundance. The golden shiner and the fathead minnow are rarely found.
Of the thirteen species of fish native to Utah Lake, one species is extinct (the Utah Lake sculpin), one is no longer present in the lake and is under review to see if it qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act (least chub), one is already listed as endangered (the June sucker), and one is found in relative abundance throughout Utah (the Utah sucker). All other native fish are no longer extant in the lake.
The Bonneville cutthroat trout was historically the top predator fish in the ecosystem, but is now restricted to tributary streams. A review in indicates that viable populations are distributed throughout its historic range and does not merit listing as a threatened or endangered species.
The Utah Lake sculpin was last found in , and likely became extinct in the s after severe drought lowered the lake levels, allowing much of the lake to freeze, overcrowding fish in unfrozen portions of the lake. This overcrowding and pollution from agricultural runoff are cited as probable causes of the fish's extinction.
The Bonneville redside shiner, mottled sculpin, leatherside chub, Utah chub, speckled dace, longnose dace, mountain whitefish and mountain sucker are no longer in the lake, but still exist in tributaries.
The June sucker was federally listed as an endangered species in The lower 5 miles (km) of the Provo River is the only known spawning location for the species. Biologists have been rearing the June sucker in Red Butte Reservoir and releasing them into Utah Lake to help build the population. During the summer of , over 8, June sucker were released into Utah Lake. The June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program (JSRIP) coordinates and implements recovery actions for the June sucker.
The common carp was introduced in as a source of food after native species had been depleted by overfishing. It is now the most prevalent fish found in Utah Lake. Carp makes up about 90% of the lake's biomass, with an adult population numbering around million. The average carp in the lake is about pounds (kg), for a total of nearly 40,, pounds (18,,kg) of carp in the lake.
As early as , fish and wildlife representatives noted that carp were causing the trout population in the lake to collapse. Due to their habit of grubbing through bottom sediments for food, carp stir up sediments and increase the turbidity of the water. In addition, they destroy submerged vegetation that holds sediments in place and provides shelter for native fish populations. Without vegetation, winds can more easily stir up sediment from the bottom of the lake, which is already a problem due to the lake's shallowness, resulting in greater turbidity and less sunlight reaching the remaining vegetation. Without cover for their young, native fish, such as the June sucker, become easy prey for white bass, walleye, and other predators.
Efforts are underway to reduce the population of carp in Utah Lake by employing local commercial fishermen, led by Bill Loy, Jr. to remove 5 million pounds of carp each year, as part of the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program's efforts to restore Utah Lake to a habitat in which the June sucker can survive. The intent is to cause a crash in the carp population which will allow the ecosystem to begin to rebuild and the June sucker to reestablish dominance in the lake.
The Utah Lake Commission has previously stated its goal is to remove 32 million pounds of carp from the lake, and more than 17 million pounds have been removed as of November 
Due to its proximity to the Provo-Oremmetropolitan area, Utah Lake is a fairly popular destination. From the s to the s, up to twelve resorts offering boat rentals, picnic facilities, dance halls, swimming pools, and bath houses served tourists at the lake. The most popular and longest-lived resort was Saratoga Springs, on the north shore. Saratoga Springs was best known for its natural hot springs, but also had waterslides and amusement park rides. It lasted from the s until the floods of  In the summer, fishing, water skiing, boating, camping, and picnicking are the most popular activities. During the winter, ice fishing, ice hockey and ice skating are popular on the lake especially at Utah Lake State Park, and Lincoln Beach. The main marina for Utah Lake is at Utah Lake State Park on the lake's eastern shore. Other marinas are at Saratoga Springs, American Fork, Lindon, and Lincoln Beach.
The ownership of lands along the shoreline of Utah Lake has been in dispute between the State of Utah and farmers for many years. The bed of Utah Lake, along with other natural lakes, was granted to the state upon admission to the Union in However, due to the lack of an exact definition and significantly fluctuating lake levels, intermittently dry areas and wetlands, including all of Provo Bay, have been claimed and farmed by surrounding land owners. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in that the State of Utah owned the land beneath Utah Lake.
In January , the Utah Department of Natural Resources received a project proposal as a potential solution to the lake's nutrient pollution, invasive species, and murky water. The project proposal involved dredging the lake bottom of all nutrient-loaded sediment, replacing invasive plant and animal species with native species, and restoring the water quality before building and developing housing on arch-shaped islands. The proposal became known as the Utah Lake Restoration project, and had an estimated cost of $ billion which would be obtained through private investors. The proposal led to the creation of the House Bill - Utah Lake Amendments (HB ), which asserted that Utah Lake faced serious challenges, that conservation and restoration was possible and in the interest of the state, and authorized "the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands to dispose of state land in exchange for the execution of a project for the comprehensive restoration of Utah Lake," an act which would otherwise be prohibited. On March 21, , Governor Gary Herbert signed HB into law.
Critics of the project include ecologists and other scientists raising hydrologic and ecological concerns with the project. Specific issues include the fact that the project would likely lead to the creation of anoxic waters due to lake stratification, the destruction of the lake's unique hydrology and biogeochemistry, the release of toxins and nutrients, altering the lake from its natural state, and geology unsuitable for supporting inhabited islands. Other critics disputed the passing of HB as an attempt to trade sovereign lands in exchange for a service. The ability of the developer to maintain the alterations to the lake after the projects completion has also been brought into question.
In , Utah Lake's carp and channel catfish were found to be contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCB's. After an investigation, no originating source for the PCB's was found.
The lake was closed due to contamination from toxic algae in , , and 
Utah Lake folklore
Lake monster: In the late s and early s, there were several sightings of strange creatures in the lake, with descriptions of the cryptid's appearance varying from being reptilian with an alligator's head, to being seal-like. 
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- ^"Isciculture in Utah", Deseret News, Salt Lake City, November 9, , retrieved March 29,
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- ^Utah Lake is overrun with carp, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, September 22, , retrieved April 10,
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- ^Known for toxic algae, Utah Lake could become a housing development for half a million people. The Salt Lake Tribune Available at: https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics//01/20/why-this-developer-believes-it-makes-sense-to-build-a-city-in-the-middle-of-utah-lake/
- ^ULRP. "Utah Lake Restoration Project". Utah Lake Restoration. Retrieved
- ^Utah Lake Restoration – A Comprehensive Solution. Available at: http://utahlakerestoration.com/
- ^ULRP. H.B. Utah Lake Amendments. Utah Lake Restoration Available at: http://utahlakerestoration.com//03/h-butah-lake-amendments/
- ^News D. Op-ed: The present, future and past of Utah Lake. Deseret News Available at: https://www.deseret.com//3/8//op-ed-the-present-future-and-past-of-utah-lake
- ^Commentary: Keep Utah Lake shallow and wet. The Salt Lake Tribune Available at: https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary//03/10/commentary-keep-utah-lake-shallow-and-wet/
- ^Commentary: HB should be vetoed because Utah Lake is not for sale. The Salt Lake Tribune Available at: https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary//03/21/commentary-hbshould-be-vetoed-because-utah-lake-is-not-for-sale/
- ^Speckman, Stephen "No Smoking Gun Found In Utah Lake PCB Study", Deseret News, Utah, 28 October
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- ^Carter, D. Robert (27 June ). "Fishermen find Utah Lake Monster". Deseret News. Retrieved 7 December
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- Brimhall, Willis H.; Merritt, Lavere B. "Geology of Utah Lake: Implications for Resource Management". In Wood ().
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Utah Lake.|
Utah Lake is both criticized and praised. The twin personality of one of the largest freshwater lakes west of the Mississippi sets the stage for political conflict, controversy over the environment and how best to manage it for not only decades to come but over hundreds of years.
Here are some of the key reasons Utah Lake has been a hot topic over the years and what is important to know, especially about a development proposal on the table.
1. The 3 man-made islands proposed for Utah Lake
A development proposal under review includes grand plans for multiple islands to serve recreational and wildlife needs, as well as a new residential and retail community.
These islands could offer sophisticated transit systems and a new way of living with smart homes and buried utilities. The development, the company says, emphasizes environmental restoration of the lake and would be paid for by economic development, without a taxpayer burden. That, proponents say, would turn Utah Lake into a world-class destination for tourists and residents.
Its proponents envision a future for Utah County and the lake that includes a vibrant residential community to help with the county’s growing pains and boost economic development.
2. Utah Lake may be shallow, but its depth of controversy is deep
The lake is seated at the head of the table for many Utah lawmakers, local government leaders, developers, conservationists, wastewater treatment plant operators, scientists and even the office of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. The wide-ranging and diverse interests of people who want to be caretakers of its future collide in what many would say is a symphony performed off-key because few can agree on a fiscally sound solution that meets everyone’s interests.
For the proposal of man-made islands and a residential community to become a reality, there would be a catch. The state, under a law, would have to give up ownership of certain lands in and around the lake as long as certain conditions are met and federal approval is given to an ambitious dredging proposal to expand its depth for development.
Look for more discussion on this in the months to come, on top of what law has already set the groundwork.
3. Toxic concerns over Utah Lake
Forget seagulls. Harmful algal blooms have been the literal albatross around the neck of Utah Lake’s reputation and its barometer of health.
While some in the ecological scientific community say they are on the decline and part of the lake’s dicey and false reputation, the public, political and news media attention — as well as other scientists — paints a different story.
The blooms, accentuated by this drought, occur in stagnant water fueled by hot weather and excess nutrients of phosphorus and nitrogen. They have blossomed in many bodies of water in Utah over the years, but Utah Lake’s problem has drawn particular attention due to the shore-to-shore public health advisories warning people to steer clear of the lake.
One study indicates the severity of the blooms, with extremely high concentrations of toxins, are renewing the focus to address the problem, including new controls for wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the lake.
4. Go fish? The one that nearly got away
Successful restoration efforts are part of Utah Lake’s story, including the recent federal government’s categorization of just how imperiled the June sucker fish remains.
The June sucker is endemic to Utah Lake. While once considered “endangered,” it has now been downgraded to threatened.
The species was considered abundant in the early s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the first dramatic decline in the population happened in the late s when 2 miles of the Provo River was dewatered killing 1, metric tons of fish.
In addition, hundreds of June suckers were lost in when Utah Lake was drained dry during a four-year drought. There were only documented fish in
Since then, its wild population has increased significantly, with more than 3, hundred fish recorded spawning annually in recent years.
5. Utah Lake is huge, and its impacts many
Utah Lake is very large. It has 96, surface acres but only has an average depth of 9 feet.
It has an expansive watershed of nearly 3, square miles. It is fed by multiple rivers that include the Provo, American Fork and Spanish Fork rivers. In turn, it feeds the Jordan River, which dumps into a canal system supporting the Great Salt Lake.
The “lake effect” plays an important role in how Utah Lake precipitation behaves. It supports multiple marinas and is a destination for anglers and sailing. Its wide-open expanse contributes to warnings from the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City for high wind events that can imperil boaters, and there have been several tragic deaths over the years.
6. Your waste does not disappear with a flush
Is Utah Lake wasting away? Multiple publicly owned wastewater treatment plants discharge the treated wastewater into the lake, but many are 50 to 60 years old and are not equipped to filter out the nutrients of phosphorus and nitrogen, which have been detrimental to the lake’s health.
The excessive concentration of these nutrients contribute to the formation of the harmful algal blooms. While the state environmental regulators have imposed a limit on phosphorus discharges, the rules won’t be enough to keep up with the population surges in Utah County — the fastest-growing area in the state.
There has to be money, political muscle and ecological willpower to solve the problem — but will it be timely enough to right an environmental wrong and will residents be willing to foot the tab?
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated Utah Lake is 96, surface miles in size. It is 96, surface acres.
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Seven thousand acres of common reed plants called phragmites line the shores of Utah Lake. The reeds are a nuisance, but the name, pronounced frag-my-tees, is at least fun to say. Here's more that you might not have known:
• An estimated 40 million pounds of carp live in Utah Lake. That equates to million adult fish or the equivalent of 33, beef cattle.
• Fourteen fish species are native to Utah Lake. One, the Utah Lake Sculpin, was last spotted in and is extinct; the June sucker, found only in Utah Lake, is on the endangered species list and is the focus of a federally mandated rehabilitation effort.
• Utah Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in Utah and the third largest in the Western United States with a surface area of 95, acres. It trails Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California line, , acres; and Flathead Lake in Montana, at , acres.
• There is a small island near the south end of the lake.
• Almost half of the water in the lake (by volume) evaporates each year.
• The Dominguez-Escalante expedition first documented the lake in
• At one time more than 10 resorts existed on the shores of the lake.
• The lake is only 14 feet deep at its deepest point; the average water depth is 9 feet.
• The lake is 13 miles wide, east to west, and 24 miles from north to south.
• Drive west far enough on Center Street in Provo and you'll end up in Utah Lake; stop short and you'll be in the parking lot of the Utah Lake State Park marina.
• Developed marinas on the lake are also found in Vineyard, American Fork, Saratoga Springs (3), and at Lincoln Beach west of Spanish Fork.
E-mail: [email protected]
Hydrologist Robert Baskin of the U.S. Geological Survey recently studied water chemistry at Utah Lake. For best results, he dove one of the lakes half dozen deep springs and shared the following with UtahLake.gov:
1. Utah Lake has an avg depth of 14 feet. In addition to the 63 foot deep spot you dove, how many other known deep spots exist in Utah Lake?
There are probably between 5 large deep springs in Utah Lake. The majority of them occur in the northwest area of the lake and are associated with thermal waters. There are other springs located around the margins of the lake but they generally do not have large openings that a diver might access. There is a small spring just to the west of Bird Island that is easily accessible with about a 4 orifice. Clear, warm water is flowing out of the vent into an otherwise murky lake. Many smaller thermal springs occur in the Bird Island area and along the north and west sides of West Mountain.
2. What were you doing on that particularly dive?
That dive was part of a larger effort to define the water chemistry of the springs and define the source of the water. I was diving to try and find an orifice where I could obtain a clean sample that was representative of only the uncontaminated spring water (i.e. not mixed with lake water). I only managed to get to 63 feet (on the pressure gage) by pulling myself down on the anchor line trying to overcome the buoyancy effects of the mud boil. I eventually had to let go of the anchor line to open up the bottle I was carrying to obtain a water sample. I lost the anchor line at the point and was on my own. Visibility was zero and I was using the change in temperature to guide me towards the spring. My wetsuit was keeping me cool instead of its normal job of keeping people warm. I had to consciously think of where the bubbles from my regulator were going to keep myself oriented. It was a very unique situation for me.
3. What did you learn from the experience?
Data from the dive provided both temperature and chemical information about the water which was used to examine the source environment of the water, possible routes the spring water took to the site, and a comparison point to compare with other springs and water sources to the lake. The springs are geothermally heated and are kept open by a constant flow of warm water from a deep-seated source. The spring flow is not strong enough to blow all the mud out of the area but does keep the mud in a continual state of suspension. In hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to dive in such conditions. I did not know if there were buried trees or some other hazard that I could have snagged up on. I did have a tether/safety line attached to me and to the boat; I had worked out trouble signals for the tether line; the line was attended by a support person on the boat; a spare, sealed octopus (regulator) was attached to my buoyancy compensating vest in a easy-to-reach location; my air tank was full; there was a spare tank on air on the support boat above me; and the support person on the boat was a licensed diver who also had a full set of dive gear available. If anything had gone wrong, I hopefully had a way out, but with no visibility, who knows what I might have encountered. Diving in zero visibility water is difficult at best; when it is a suspended mud solution, one really needs to be cautious as mud can clog regulators and interfere with otherwise solid safety procedures.
Tags: BaskinChemistryDepthDiving3 Comments
Of utah lake average depth
Is Utah Lake dangerous for recreation?
UTAH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) Utah Lake has had its fair share of issues, from harmful algal bloom to invasive predators.
In May , Priscilla Bienkowski, 18 and Sophia Hernandez, 17, went missing on the lake, prompting a week-long search that ended in both girls being found dead.
But with an average depth of only nine feet and a popular destination for fishing, boating and water sports, what conditions can make the lake dangerous and what can people do to stay safe while recreating on the lake?
According to an article from the Utah Lake Commission, the fact that the lake is fairly shallow is a factor. Windy weather can create larger and more powerful swells in shallow water than in deep water.
In addition, at 24 miles long and 12 miles across, the wind can rapidly gain speed across the lakes large surface area with nothing to block it. These factors, coupled with temperature, stormy weather, and inappropriate safety precautions can create dangerous conditions.
The article quoted a boater on Utah Lake who stated: “I’ve been on many lakes during severe storms but nothing comes close to the large swells and waves on Utah Lake in inclement weather. It’s downright terrifying.”
However, Utah Lake State Parks website has several resources to help visitors keep track of the lakes conditions. For example, it includes a webcam which allows visitors to check the lakes conditions before they arrive.
In addition, the site includes a link to the National Weather Service to check the marine weather conditions of the lake. This site allows visitors to check the temperature of the water, wind speeds, and access safety warnings. Finally, visitors can check the lakes water levels at Central Utah Water Conservancy
According to watertemperature.net, Utah Lake is currently 50 degrees Fahrenheit and too cold for swimming, which is another factor that could make the lake dangerous. Finally, always wear a life jacket when in the water.
Before heading to the lake this summer, make sure that youve checked conditions and are taking appropriate safety precautions.
Copyright Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.Sours: https://www.abc4.com/news/top-stories/is-utah-lake-dangerous-for-recreation/
You want facts? We got ‘em—some of the more fascinating ones you’ll find:
- The lake is 24 miles long, 12 miles across (over 96, acres)
- Third largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi (slightly smaller than Flathead Lake, Montana and Lake Tahoe, California)
- Average depth is nine feet. Maximum depth is 14 feet
- Water temperature can get as high as 80 degrees, but averages around 73 degrees during the warm summer months
- Almost half (41%) of the water in Utah Lake evaporates each year
- June sucker fish are endangered, native to only Utah Lake, and have a life span of over 40 years
- There were over ten recreational resorts at one time that surrounded Utah Lake
- A showboat used to ferry on Utah Lake, featuring ondeck dancing and a full orchestra
- A boxing match was once staged at the bottom of the lake
- Natural hot springs around the lake can be found on the south end of the lake and in the Saratoga Springs area
- The Jordan River pumping station at Utah Lake was the largest pumping plant at the turn of the 20th century
- Oppositely positioned to the South instead of the North, Utah Lake is patterned after the famous Israeli fresh water lake (Sea of Galilee), in addition to the adjoining Jordan River (name of both locations) and the Great but incredibly salty Salt Lake, which is not unlike the Dead Sea.
- The first European to see Utah Lake was Father Silvestre Vélez de Escalante in
- Utah Lake is a remnant of a much larger pleistocene lake called Lake Bonneville, which existed from 75, to 8, years ago
- There are five public boat harbors/marinas: Saratoga Springs City Marina; American Fork City Boat Harbor; Lindon Boat Harbor; Utah Lake State Park; Lincoln Beach Boat Harbor
- Non-native carp make up 75 percent of all fish (but not for long!)
- Other fish species include walleye, white bass, channel catfish, and the endangered June sucker, which has made considerable recovery over the last decade
- Utah Lake has one small island (Bird Island) near the south end of lake
- The lake makes Utah Valley one of the most favorable habitats of the Great Basin
Tags: Interesting Facts5 Comments
About Eric Ellis
Eric Ellis was hired as the Executive Director of the Utah Lake Commission in March of Eric comes to the Utah Lake Commission with a well-rounded mix of experience and education, which you can read about in his bio section on our About page.
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The Story of Utah Lake: Murky and Misunderstood
Utah’s public has long considered Utah Lake to be highly polluted. Once known as the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi, it is surprising just how unpolluted what later became a water storage reservoir really is.
Extremely unique in the world, Utah Lake is 22 miles long by 15 miles wide, with an average depth of less than 10 feet.
Because it is so shallow, every time the wind blows, the wave action stirs up the very loose bottom, turning the lake’s water muddy, thereby reinforcing the public’s common and long-held misconceptions about pollution. Surprisingly, the health of Utah Lake’s waters and fish is counterintuitive to the public perception.
Oh sure, there have been a few harmful algal blooms (HABs) in areas protected from the wind, especially inside the lake’s various marinas, or in the extremely shallow Provo Bay. But surprisingly, it is actually this “muddiness” of the water that has most protected the lake’s water quality and fish. Operating like a shade umbrella, the suspended silt (mud) helps to reduce the penetration of sunlight necessary to produce those kinds of algae that can harm us, our dogs, and all the fish in the lake.
I find the most significant evidence of the lake’s longtime health is the fact that the ten commonly introduced sport and food fishes in the lake have only rarely been negatively influenced by the off-flavor compounds so commonly produced by HABs.
As an avid Utah Lake fisherman for more than 40 years, I have found the lake’s fish to be great table fare year-round, and have never found any of its food fishes to have poor flavor or texture so common to many of Utah’s other fisheries, especially later in the year.
The Geneva Steel plant on the western shoreline of Utah Lake in Lindon may have polluted the lake and its fish over many decades. That facility was deemed the least polluting steel plant in America, however, the plant may have discarded some electrical transformers that leaked toxic PCBs into the water table that still find their way into the lake and its fish.
Today, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality does not recommend the consumption of common carp and channel catfish by young children and pregnant women. PCBs are largely found in fatty tissues that can be trimmed or cooked away.
Some readers might know about an ongoing Endangered Species recovery program ― the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program (JSRIP), to save a unique native fish species only found in Utah Lake from extinction. Early in the state’s history, June suckers were harvested for food by local Indians and Mormon pioneers.
Later, a dam and pump house were installed at its Jordan River outlet, turning the lake into a reservoir with more radical water level fluctuations. The original delta-oriented tributary streams were highly modified, preventing this rare species from successfully reproducing.
I have represented the public on the JSRIP for the past 20 years, witnessing the artificial culture and stocking of their young in the lake, and more recent efforts to restore some of the delta characteristics of the lake’s two largest tributary streams, Hobble Creek and the Lower Provo River.
Although these investments have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, I agree with experts that those investments are likely to benefit the sucker and all the sport fishes in the lake. These and other efforts have finally contributed to the recent successful downlisting of the species to “threatened” status instead of “endangered”.
A more controversial effort to save the sucker was the huge, ongoing and expensive removal of carp from the lake. Although the common carp population had grown to entirely overwhelm the lake, there was never any real evidence that the carp had contributed to significant declines in the sucker. In fact, the well-adapted June sucker has always outcompeted the carp in the lake’s largely open, featureless waters.
This was especially evident as the carp were historically starving to death, resulting in stunted growth to a mere 4 ½ pound average each ― the smallest in Utah! Although the JSRIP has financed the removal of three quarters of the adult carp over the decades, those remaining have doubled in size to more successfully reproduce, essentially replacing those removed.
As a longtime advocate and avid angler of Utah Lake, I recommend not believing the “fake news” about Utah’s gem, Utah Lake. All ten sport and food fish are great to catch and eat any time, HABs are rare out in the lake’s open waters, and carp have little to do with ultimate survival and well being of the lake’s only remaining native threatened fish.
Even with Utah’s extended drought that will undoubtedly result in very low future Utah Lake water levels, I recommend that everyone check out all of the great recreational opportunities on the huge, largely unpolluted lake right here in our own backyard.
Dan Potts is the Outdoor Interests Representative for the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program.
MORE ABOUT UTAH LAKE
Terror at the Bottom of The Lake
The Endangered Utah Lake June Sucker
Spring White Bass Fishing in Utah Lake
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Filed Under: Hidden Utah, Utah LakesTagged With: Utah LakeSours: https://utahstories.com//07/story-of-utah-lake-murky-and-misunderstood/