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Bear Lake Basin : History, geology, biology, people
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues
  • Patsy Palacios, SJ & Jessie E Quinney Natural Resources Research Library, Utah State University, Logan
  • Chris Luecke, Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan
  • Justin Robinson, Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan
Publication Date
Bear Lake is a large, deep lake located on the border of Utah and Idaho in Rich County Utah and Bear Lake County Idaho. It was formed through seismic activity along a fault on the eastern side of the lake. Tectonic shifts of the plates along this fault resulted in a lake basin that is over 200 ft deep along the eastern shore with a gradual slope to the western shore. The lake water has high concentrations of calcium carbonate because of high levels of evaporation typical of this semi-arid climate. These high concentrations of calcium carbonate give the lake it's bright blue color. The three largest towns along the lake shore are Garden City, Utah, and Fish Haven and St. Charles, Idaho. Most of the region is rural in nature with economic activity coming mostly from agriculture and recreation. The population of the region has remained fairly stable during the past century. Historically the region was used by Shoshonie, Bannock, Ute, Sioux, and Blackfoot Indian tribes, primarily during spring and summer periods. Water in the Bear Lake basin has been used for irrigation and electrical generation since the late 1800's. The Utah Power and Light Company secured water rights to Bear Lake water in 1912 and began construction of canals linking Bear River and Bear Lake from 1914-1917. These canals and the Lifton pumping station allowed the Utah Power and Light Company to use the top 20 ft of Bear Lake water for electrical generation and irrigation. The Bear River Compact, a collaborative effort by the states of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, provides for the distribution of water on the Bear River. Recreational use of Bear Lake has increased tremendously during the past ten years. Sales of fishing licenses, visits to state parks along the shore, and boating activities have all increased by nearly 50% during the past decade. Snowmobiling has become a significant winter recreational activity during recent years. Managing the growth of recreational use and the accompanying increase in seasonal homes will be a major focus of county planning activities in the near future. Bear Lake continues to support an active sport fishery. Cutthroat trout and lake trout are the fish most desired by anglers, but whitefish are the most abundant fish caught. In recent years the exotic yellow perch have been captured by anglers. The high quality of the fishing experience at Bear Lake is demonstrated by the designation of the lake as one of Utah's "Blue Ribbon Fisheries".
Citation Information
Patsy Palacios, Chris Luecke and Justin Robinson. "Bear Lake Basin : History, geology, biology, people" (2007)
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