Utah Lake, Utah, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Utah - Mountainland -

Utah Lake is located in north-central Utah’s Mountainland region with the major cities of Provo and Orem on the eastern shore. It is the largest freshwater natural lake in Utah. Utah Lake has the picturesque Wasatch Mountains to the east and the Lake Mountains to the west. With its extensive shoreline, climate and an area of nearly 100,000 acres, Utah Lake is a utopia for the Utah residents and visitors who seek out its recreational opportunities. Boating is THE major drawing card. Fishing, boating, water sports, and camping are just some on the recreational possibilities. Open year round, many Provo and Orem residents come to escape the cities and relax with boating activities. With historic downtown Provo, Brigham Young University (museums), Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Bridal Veil Falls, Hutchings Museum of Natural History and Sundance Ski Resort nearby, Utah Lake is an ideal location to head out for a day’s sightseeing and play.

Prehistoric Lake Bonneville inundated much of Utah, gradually disappearing, and Utah Lake was formed by its remnants. As large as Utah Lake is, it is in a decidedly arid area, receiving only 15 rainfall inches annually. Utah Lake’s major sources are the Provo River, Hobble Creek, American Fork River and the Spanish Fork River. Its outlet is the Jordan River flowing north to the Great Salt Lake. American Indian peoples were the first humans to use the lake and plains, roaming through the Great Basin valleys. These were followed by the Piutes, Utes and Shosone living in and around the area. Fur trappers were followed by Mormon explorers and, in 1849, Provo became the first permanent settlement on the shore.

Resident leaders in the area (particularly interested in boating) filed an application in 1933 for the Civilian Conservation Corps’ help in developing facilities for boat launching, which resulted in a completed marina. Finally, Provo City began building camp and picnic facilities along the shore. This eventually became Utah Lake State Park with facilities covering camping, a visitor center, boat rentals, day use/picnicking, boatslips, food service, swimming and RV hookups. In addition, Saratoga Resort, near the Jordan River outlet offers fine resort amenities. Wet and dry periods are common on Utah Lake and, in 1992, the lake fell by nine feet.

In recent years, Utah Lake has suffered from a combination of factors that have generated the perception of pollution and declining water quality. Several inflowing streams have been channelized and have been used for irrigation purposes for nearly 100 years. Evaporation accounts for 42% of the water loss of the lake, which leaves the lake slightly saline. The lake bottom consists of somewhat loosely compacted silt. As the depth is so shallow on this huge expanse of lake, winds often roil the bottom, causing the lake to look muddy and reducing water clarity when there is no vegetation to hold it in place. The thriving fishery on the lake began to decline in the late 1800s, likely due to increased irrigation and drought contributing to increased salinity; many native fish cannot survive in highly saline water.

The government planted a large number of carp in the lake in the late 1890s as a future food source. Carp, although they can survive in saline water, also disturb the bottom vegetation while feeding. Utah Lake vegetation is loosely rooted in the sediment at the bottom and easily dislodged. A prolonged drought in the 1930s caused a major increase in the salinity of the lake and killed the majority of the native fish; at one point, the entire lake was only about a foot deep. Carp, however, are notorious for being able to survive under such conditions. Reduced water flowing in from the streams used for irrigation, and interference with access to the streams via water control structures reduced spawning habitat for the native fishes but proved ideal for the non-native carp. Destruction of much of the lakeshore’s natural plant life further reduced spawning habitat. The stocking of walleye and other predatory game fish further endangered the smaller fry of native fish. This imbalance in the natural habitat eventually passed the tipping point, and the native fishery never recovered. The remaining carp, with no real predators, became the dominant fish and have stripped most of the vegetation from the lake bed.

Recent studies generated by the State of Utah Division of Water Quality have clarified the situation somewhat: the lake is somewhat over the desired limit for phosphorus, no doubt due to agricultural run-off. This allows algae blooms in late summer when the water is warmest. It is also somewhat over the desired limit for dissolved solids, mostly the silt being delivered via the channelized streams. It is not, however, highly polluted as some believe: both situations are correctable. Carp now make up about 75% of the fish in the lake, although the native species are still present. The endangered June sucker, once plentiful in the lake, struggles to survive, mostly due to reduced habitat. Because the unique ecology of Utah Lake makes the bottom vegetation so important to the lake’s overall health, the majority of the carp must be removed and the natural inflow from the streams corrected. This will take some time, but there is strong local support for restoring Utah Lake to its former good health. The Utah Lake Commission has produced an explanatory website with many photographs from the days when Utah Lake supported large commercial fisheries and many lakeside resorts. Those glory days will likely never be completely duplicated, but the lake’s clear waters and natural fishery can be revived. It will just take time and a whole lot of carp removal.

Utah Lake is still a well-known a ‘fishing hole’. Bullhead catfish, channel catfish, black crappie, largemouth bass, walleye and white bass are found in the most likely spots. Fishing is open year round except for posted areas. Also, there are more than 50 geocaches situated nearby for new ‘finds’. One has been placed by State Park personnel. Many are relatively easy to find, log and add to your total.

All in all, Utah Lake is a spectacular setting to enjoy all of the wealth of outdoor activities and sightseeing. A trip to Utah Lake will agreeably fill your memory book.

Things to do at Utah Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Utah Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bullhead Catfish
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sucker
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Utah Lake Photo Gallery

Utah Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 96,900 acres

Shoreline Length: 80 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,450 feet

Average Depth: 9 feet

Maximum Depth: 18 feet

Water Volume: 900,000 acre-feet

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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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