Utah Lake, (originally named
Lake Timpanogos) at , is the
largest natural freshwater lake in the state of Utah and a
remnant of the prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which covered much of the state.
via the Jordan River at its
north end into Lake Bonneville's largest remnant, Great Salt Lake.
to the lake are the endangered June
and the Utah Lake
, now extinct
. Although 13
species of fish are native to the lake, only the June sucker and
constituting less than one percent of the biomass
. By far the dominant species in the lake is
the common carp
, introduced in 1881 as
an alternative to the overharvested native fish. Common carp are
now estimated at 90.9% of the biomass, contributing to a decline in
native fish populations by severely altering the ecosystem.
Satellite photo of Utah
Lake dominates Utah
in north-central Utah, with major cities such as
hemmed between the lake's eastern shore and the
. West of the lake are
Mountain and jutting into the south portion of the lake is
Mountain, which divides Goshen Bay and Lincoln Beach.
Connected to the main body of the lake are two large, shallow bays:
the aforementioned Goshen Bay to the south and Provo Bay to the
east, where Hobble Creek enters the lake.
Despite its large surface area, the lake is shallow; it has a
maximum depth of 14 feet (4.27 m) and an average depth of
about 9.4 feet (2.74 m). This shallowness allows winds to
easily stir up sediments from the lake's bottom, contributing to
seen in Utah Lake's water.
several hot springs around the lake that
are popular with local residents, such as those located near
Lincoln Beach and Saratoga Springs.
The lake contains a small island, Bird Island, located about 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
, and channel catfish
Major tributaries include the Provo
, Spanish Fork, and American Fork rivers, as well as
Hobble, Mill Race, and Currant creeks. Additionally, there are many
and smaller creeks flowing
into the lake. Utah Lake is drained by the Jordan River
, which begins at the lake's
north end, where a pumping station has been created to regulate its
then flows north through Utah and Salt Lake counties into the southeast portion of Great Salt
White bass have established themselves
as the second most numerous fish in the lake
Utah Lake's wetlands
are an important
stopover and nesting area for migratory birds. More than 220
species of birds use these wetland areas. Utah Lake Wetland Preserve
located at the south end of the lake, in and around Goshen
The rapidly growing population of Utah Valley threatens the future
of Utah Lake. Various proposals to dike the lake's bays
occasionally surface. Recent development along the lake's western
shore has fueled a proposal to construct a causeway
across the lake. To date, economic costs,
environmental concerns, litigation, and public opposition have
stymied these proposals.
were the predator fish in the ecosystem, and
were present in large numbers; in 1864, a commercial fisherman
hauled in a single net holding between 3,500 and 3,700 pounds
(1,588-1,678 kg) of trout. By 1874, laws were in place to
protect Bonneville cutthroats, but commercial netting was not
banned until 1897. The trout population in Utah Lake was extinct by
the 1920s. Today, the primary predators in the lake are the
non-native walleye and white bass.
As of 2006, fishing regulations for Utah Lake released by the Utah
Division of Wildlife Resources protect certain large-bodied
nonnative predator species in the lake, such as bass and walleye;
anglers are required to release largemouth and smallmouth bass over
in length, and can take only one walleye over . In an effort to
control the population of white bass and walleye, the DWR places no
limit on the number of white bass that can be taken, a limit of six
fish on walleye (one over 20 inches), and requests anglers to
harvest them from the lake.
Endangered and extinct species
Utah Lake is the home to the June sucker, a critically endangered
fish, and former home to the Utah Lake sculpin, an extinct
The last living examples of freshwater snail Thickshell pondsnail
) are reported from early 1930s.
The June sucker (Chasmistes liorus)
lives naturally only
in Utah Lake and the Provo River. The species was federally listed
as endangered April 30, 1986. The June sucker is unique among the
sucker family of fish in that it is not a bottom-feeder, but has
evolved a mouth that allows it to collect zooplankton
from the water. June suckers are
dark gray or brownish dorsally, with a white or slightly greenish
belly. They can reach a weight of 5 pounds and have a long life
span of over 40 years.
June sucker were once abundant in Utah Lake, but several factors
have brought the species to the brink of extinction. Some
contributions to its decline include predation on its young by
introduced species such as the white bass and walleye, overfishing,
pollution and resulting turbidity
Lake, drought, alteration of water flow, and the introduction of
carp, which eat native vegetation and various floaties that provide
shelter and food for June sucker.
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
2005, over 8,000 June sucker were released into Utah Lake.
The June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program
coordinates and implements recovery actions for the June
Utah Lake sculpin
The Utah Lake sculpin (Cottus echinatus
) was a species of
freshwater sculpin endemic
to Utah Lake. The species is
believed to have disappeared during the 1930s, when a severe
led to a rapid fall in water levels
in the lake. A cold winter led to the lake freezing, resulting in
the overcrowding of the remaining fish. This, along with decreased
water quality from agricultural
practices has been identified as the likely cause of extinction
The Utah Lake sculpin was a benthic
species (bottom dwelling), invertebrates constituting its major
source of food. It was one of two lake-dwelling sculpins native to
Utah (see Bear Lake
At least 24 species of fish have been introduced into Utah Lake's
waters, and of these, common carp (Cyprinus carpio
bass (Morone chrysops
), channel catfish
), largemouth bass
), and walleye (Sander vitreus
) have been
especially successful. State record catches for both channel
catfish (32 lb 8 oz) and white bass (4 lb 1 oz) are from Utah
Introduced to the lake in 1881 as a source of food after native
species had been depleted by overfishing, the common carp has
become the dominant species in the lake and has perhaps had the
most detrimental effect on the lake's ecosystem.
Carp are estimated to make up 91% of the lake's biomass
, with an adult population numbering around
7.5 million. The average carp in the lake is about 5.3 pounds
(2.4 kg), for a total of nearly 40 million pounds (18 143
695 kg) of carp in the lake.
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 (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,
carp, and predators.
Because carp have had such an effect on the June sucker, a large
part of the work done by the JSRIP is studying means of removing or
reducing the carp population. The program is still studying viable
methods of removing carp, such as selling them as animal feed or
possibly poisoning the lake. It is hoped that removal of carp and
other invasive species will restore the lake to something
resembling its natural state, providing a better environment for
the June sucker and other native species such as the once-abundant
Bonneville cutthroat trout.
On May 16, 2006 a fish consumption advisory was issued after
in Utah Lake were found to contain
more than twice the level of polychlorinated biphenyl
allowed by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency
. Although the advisory has been
issued, toxicologist Jason Scholl from the state health department
noted that the health risks from eating carp from Utah Lake are
minimal, since the levels of PCBs were below the EPA screening
levels for cancer causing agents, and it would require prolonged
exposure to PCBs to cause harm.
The fish were being tested as part of the JSRIP's efforts to reduce
and control the carp population and determine if they are safe for
human or animal use. Of all the chemicals tested, which included
, only PCBs were found in
Because elevated levels of PCBs were found in carp, it is feared
that other fish species in the lake may also be contaminated. This
summer other types of fish will be collected and analyzed.
According to the advisory, "an environmental investigation will be
initiated as an effort to track down and clean up the source of
PCBs, if possible."
Due to its close proximity to the Provo
-Orem metropolitan area
Utah Lake is a fairly popular destination for many water sports
, including boating
, water skiing
, and fishing
. The main marina
Utah Lake is located in Utah Lake
on the eastern shore, near the location where the
Provo River empties into the lake. Other marinas are located at Saratoga
Springs, American Fork, Lindon, and Lincoln
The lake was more popular historically, before declining water
quality made it less attractive for recreational use. Amusement
resorts operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at
Saratoga Hot Springs in the northwest corner of the lake, and at
Geneva in the northeast. Geneva (named after the owner's daughter, not
the lakeside city in
Switzerland) was built where the Lindon Marina is now, at the
point the railroad came closest to the lake.
It included a
hotel, swimming pools, a dance floor, and water slides.
its name to nearby Geneva
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 1896. 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.
Several cases have come to court since 1947, with decisions going
both ways and some being settled out of court. Most recently, the
U.S. District Court found in favor of the State, ordering the
Attorney General to delineate the 1896 shoreline using a variety of
sources to solve remaining disputes.
is the first name given to what is
now Utah Lake. It was so named by Franciscan missionary
Silvestre Velez de
Escalante while on his quest in late summer and early autumn of
1776, to find a land route from Santa
Mexico to Monterey, California.
It was associated with the name of the
group of Ute Native Americans
were living in the area at the time.
The name of this lake appears on a number of maps crafted in the
first half of the 19th Century. Because knowledge of the area was limited,
however, the lake drawn on the maps became confused with what came
to be called The Great Salt
Lake. The name was also applied to a river that
cartographers showed flowing from the lake to the Pacific Ocean.
A number of cartographers charted it as
Escalante's record, however, 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 by the Native Americans as connected by a river to this lake
and of much greater size. The map that came from Escalante's
journey showed both Lake Timpanogos and a second lake, called L.
Meira, fed by the cartographer's erroneous charting of the Buenaventura River
Maps of the first half of the 19th Century sometimes show but two
lakes, sometimes three. Timpanogos is almost always applied to the
largest. The others are called Salt Lake, Salado/Salades, and Lost
Lake. When one realizes that the Miera map does
not show Great Salt Lake, it becomes clear that Lake Miera, Salt
Lake, Salado, and Lost Lake, all refer to what is now Sevier Lake, which sinks into the sand and is often dry.
But when one thinks that the largest lake on the map refers to
Great Salt Lake (as it at times does), then the name Timpanogos is
transferred to that body, and Salado or Salt Lake seems to apply to
fresh Utah Lake.
It is not too hard to understand how wishful thinking and limited
knowledge combined to create misinformation. The hope for a water
route to the Pacific died hard. When the report came that there was
a lake whose outlet drained into a large salty lake or sea, many
concluded there was a connection to the ocean. When the Great Salt
Lake was first "discovered", it was thought it might be connected
to the ocean. When the Great Salt Lake was sufficiently charted and
named as such, the erroneous application of Timpanogos to it was
dropped and the name's association with Utah Lake was evidently
- Report on Utah Lake by the Utah Division of
- Utah Lake Watershed. Great Salt Lake Basin
- Achieveing Recovery: Nonnative & Sportfish
Management. June Sucker Recovery Implementation
- June sucker: The connection between Utah Lake's
endangered fish and you?. Project WILD Wildlife Review
magazine, Summer issue, 2006
- Carp In Utah Lake Impacting Ecosystem. June
Sucker Recovery Implementation Program
- Carp in Utah Lake pose health risk for humans. Jared
Page, Deseret Morning News.
- Lincoln Beach Warm Springs. Utah Outdoor
- Inlet Park Hot Springs. Utah Outdoor
- Utah Lake's Bird Island.
- Utah Lake Wetlands Preserve. Utah
Reclamation Mitigation Conservation Commission.
- Causeway proposal resurfaces. Sharon Haddock,
Deseret Morning News.
- Going native. Project WILD Wildlife Review
magazine, Spring issue, 2006.
- Provo River – Utah Lake June Sucker Recovery
Program. LeRoy W. Hooton, Jr., Salt Lake City Department of
- Utah Fishing Proclamation, 2006 Pg. 19, V.
Provisions For Specific Waters: Utah Lake (Utah County)
- Utah Fishing Proclamation, 2006 Pg. 21.
"Harvesting Fish For Better Management" Utah Division of
- THICKSHELL PONDSNAIL. Utah Division of Wildlife
Resources, accessed 21 July 2009.
- Fish Transfers. Red Butte Dam
- Endangered fish find new home in Utah Lake.
Caleb Warnock, Daily Herald
- State of Utah Record fish. Utah Division of
- Utah Lake is overrun with carp. Sara Israelsen,
Deseret Morning News.
- Fish Advisory issued for Carp in Utah Lake.
Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
- State of Utah v. U.S. Dept of Interior. U.S.
District Court for Utah, Central Division.
- Western North America map
- See entries for September 25 and associated valley