Bear Lake State Park
The marina at Bear Lake State Park
Bear Lake straddles the Utah-Idaho border at 5,923' elevation in the Rocky Mountains. Created some 28,000 years ago by earthquake activity, Bear Lake is 8 miles wide and 20 miles long with a surface area of 112 square miles. It's the calcium carbonate compounds suspended in the water that give this lake its cool Caribbean-blue color.
Bear Lake is a favorite for sailing, swimming, scuba diving and water-skiing. There's also excellent year-round fishing for whitefish, mackinaw, Cisco and cutthroat trout.
The lake was first discovered by mountain man trapper Donald Mackenzie in 1819 while he was exploring the area for the North West Fur Company. Apparently he found lots of fur bearing animals in the area because in 1827 and 1828, two of the biggest and most famous mountain man rendezvous happened here. More than a thousand Indians and mountain men (including famed Jedediah Smith) converged here for several days of trading and partying that turned the southern end of the lake into a "lighted city," according to one observer at the events. Bear Lake State Park still hosts an annual Mountain Man Rendezvous, plus the annual Bear Lake Raspberry Days festival in Garden City.
Rendezvous Beach, East Side and the Bear Lake Marina are the primary recreation areas in the park. Rendezvous Beach is where the Mountain Man festivities occur, and Bear Lake State Park offers 220 campsites with restrooms, showers and utility hookups along a 1.25-mile stretch of beach in this area. There is a local concessionaire who rents out small boats and jet skis on Rendezvous Beach.
East Side is actually a group of primitive areas (East Beach, Cisco Beach, First Point, South Eden, North Eden) located about 10 miles north of Laketown. In this area the terrain is rocky and the bottom of the lake drops off quickly to a maximum depth of 208'. That makes this a great area for scuba diving, with two designated areas marked off and wooden walkways built out onto the lake to assist divers in getting to the water with their equipment. There are 6 designated primitive campsites and 2 concrete boat ramps in this area. Cisco Beach also sees a swarm of Cisco (7-inch Bonneville Cisco, a member of the whitefish family) come close to the rocky shore to spawn for a week-to-10-days every January. Depending on the weather, you can scoop these fish out of the water either through holes in the ice or by wading up to waist-deep in the frigid water. You'll also find mackinaw trout, cutthroat trout and whitefish in Bear Lake.
Bear Lake Marina offers an 80'-wide concrete boat ramp in a sheltered harbor with boat slips, restrooms, showers and 13 campsites. You can rent boats and buy fishing and boating supplies at the marina.
The park entrance and facilities are located on Highway 89, just minutes from Garden City.
Bear Lake from Bear Lake State Park
Lower photo of Bear Lake State Park courtesy of laketownutah.com
Other photos courtesy of AE Crane, via Byways.org
Map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!