Bear Lake, Idaho & Utah, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Idaho - Southeastern - Utah - Cache Valley -

A natural freshwater lake straddling the borders of Utah and Idaho, Bear Lake is a 70,000-acre turquoise jewel that lives up to its moniker of “Caribbean of the Rockies.” This lake, estimated to have formed 150,000 years ago, boasts spectacular views and a healthy year-round tourism industry, thanks to its beautiful location and ecological diversity.

The Shoshoni Native American tribes made the Bear Lake area home until the arrival of French-Canadian trappers and settlers in 1818. By 1825, mountain men were making their home here, including such famous names as Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridger. Despite Bear Lake’s proximity to the Oregon Trail, most settlers didn’t make it this far south until 1863, when Charles C. Rich led Mormon pioneers to colonize the area. His agreement with the Native Americans left most of the Utah side in the control of the Shoshonis, and much of the Idaho portions to the settlers. Over time, the lake’s popularity grew, and it became a destination resort and recreation area for people from all over the country.

Although Bear Lake is a natural lake, water levels are controlled by the Utah Power and Light Company for irrigation water storage, hydropower generation, flood control, and fish and wildlife management. Bear Lake is not naturally connected to the Bear River, which starts in the Utah mountains and follows a circuitous route through Wyoming and Idaho, returning to Utah and terminating at the Great Salt Lake. The predecessor of Utah Power built Stewart Dam in 1917, diverting river water through canals into Mud Lake which connects to Bear Lake. Water leaves Bear Lake through a canal and rejoins the Bear River. The dam, canals, and pumping facilities are located in Idaho. Bear Lake is at full capacity at 5,924 feet above sea level; water cannot be pumped from the lake below 5,902 feet.

Today, this natural reservoir continues its recreational tradition and welcomes thousands of visitors to its shores each year. Suspended limestone deposits in the water give it its unique Caribbean-like feel, though the views and landscape are anything but island-like. Get a lay of the land, along with amazing photo ops, from one of Bear Lake’s three scenic drives: Bear Lake Scenic Byway, Laketown Scenic Byway, and Logan Canyon Scenic Byway. Measuring between 15 and 81 miles roundtrip, these panoramic drives will afford you views of the rich blue waters, provide glimpses of the surrounding area, and give you a front seat to some of the most amazing scenery that Utah and Idaho have to offer.

Another way to see the area is on hiking and biking trails. Beginning mountain bikers will enjoy the 11-mile Swan Flat/Red Sink loop, and experts will be challenged to traverse the 10-miles Steam Mill Lake trail. If hiking is your game, the Lumber Pine Trail is all yours, offering an enjoyable walk through fir forests to the 500-year old, 25-foot circumference Lumber Pine Tree, a tree that was once thought to be the largest of its kind in the world. Though it was later discovered that the tree was actually the result of five trees grown together, it is still a sight worthy of the hike.

If you’re itching to get outdoors, but hiking and biking aren’t your favorite pastimes, sign up for a horseback trail ride and traverse the canyon, catch views of majestic elk, and tailor your ride to your preferences. Another option is an off-road Jeep or ATV trip, offered by several local companies, allowing you to explore hard-to-reach areas that would be otherwise impossible. Take your camera along to capture amazing views and, if you’re quiet enough, scenes of Bear Lake wildlife.

Back on the lake’s shores, water sports are the name of the game. Rent a jet ski or powerboat to enjoy the lake at full speed, parting waves and creating your own as you explore the lake’s almost 70,000 acres. If you prefer to let someone else do the work, guided pontoon boat tours are available, where you’ll learn about the Bear Lake’s past and present. Or, bring your sailboat with you to enjoy what Bear Lake lovers know to be exciting, but smooth sailing. Three Utah state parks and two Idaho state parks offer beaches, boat ramps, small boat rentals, and camping facilities.

The reservoir is known as a great fishing location, home to a trophy-winning cutthroat trout fishery. It was here that an enormous 19-pound cutthroat set the Idaho state record. Large Mackinaw (lake trout) grow to a whopping 30 pounds and join the lake’s endemic Bonneville variety of cisco and whitefish, Bear Lake’s own whitefish, and sculpin to make your fishing trip an exciting and prosperous one.

Summers at Bear Lake are made sweeter by Raspberry Days, an annual festival that shows off the sweet fruit that flourishes in this region. Usually during the first week in August, Berry Days is home to parades, dancing, fireworks, rodeos, a raspberry recipe bakeoff, concerts, craft fair, the Miss Berry Princess contest, and many other forms of fun. If you can, plan to be at Bear Lake for the festival, as it’s a delicious way to end your summer.

During the winter, Bear Lake shifts gears and transforms into a winter wonderland. Snow-capped trees paint the landscape and icicles dangle from every tree, covering the lake’s shores in a blanket and tranquil white. The area comes alive with cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowmobiling for the outdoor enthusiast. Anglers also dot the lake’s surface, cutting holes in the ice in search of the four species only found at Bear Lake.

The lake is year-round paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering everything from mountain hiking in summer to ice fishing in winter. If peace and quiet with a twist of excitement are what you seek, you’ll find yourself in a four season heaven at Bear Lake.

Things to do at Bear Lake ID

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Jet Skiing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park

Fish species found at Bear Lake ID

  • Cisco
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Sculpin
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Bear Lake ID Photo Gallery

Bear Lake ID Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Utah Power & Light

Surface Area: 69,760 acres

Shoreline Length: 48 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,924 feet

Average Depth: 94 feet

Maximum Depth: 208 feet

Water Volume: 650,000 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 19.6 years

Drainage Area: 250 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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