7 Best Lakes, Reservoirs and Beaches in Utah (2024)
There are over 100 bodies of water in Utah that are large enough to fit a boat on. The massive lake Powell is famous for its lovely houseboats and beautiful sandy beaches. Bear Lake is a mesmerizing cobalt blue natural lake that is popular for diving and boating. Then there is the famous Great Salt Lake that has 11 islands and is so salty that it is known to be the American equivalent of the Dead Sea.
7 Best Lakes, Reservoirs, and Beaches in Utah
Here are the best lakes, reservoirs, and beaches in the beautiful state of Utah.
1. Great Salt Lake
Perhaps no other lake is more famous in all of Utah than the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the entire Western hemisphere. It is also the largest natural lake in North America, west of the Mississippi River. This unique lake is spread over 1700 square miles and it is also the largest lake in the United States outside the great lakes region. The shoreline itself is 10,000 miles long. The lake’s high salinity has earned it the name of America’s Dead Sea.
This spot is the perfect setting for experiencing some of Utah’s best outdoor recreational activities, with sailors and kayakers plying the lake waters as sunbathers bask and relax on the sandy beaches and swimmers enjoy floating in the highly saline waters.
The Great Salt Lake is one of the most notable geologic features in Utah. In fact, the city is even named after the lake. The lake has a rich history, many important and exciting features, and it plays a very important role in maintaining the ecosystem of this place, while of course, providing many recreational opportunities to visitors.
The lake and the islands nearby offer visitors great opportunities to kayak, sail, float, hike, bike, birdwatch, and much more. You can launch a kayak or boat at the Great Salt Lake Marina, take a sunset cruise, or just sit on the banks of the lake and take in the spectacular views. Nearby the lake is the Saltair, which is a resort that has been rebuilt at least three times in history. It is presently used as a famous concert venue.
If you want to find out the best place to float or swim in the lake, then head to the Antelope Island State Park, where the white oolitic sand beaches give you easy access to the lake without the brine flies that are present in the other areas of the shoreline. The beach area here also has showers where you can rinse off the salty water. One of the unique experiences at the Great Salt Lake is to just float in the highly salty waters of the lake.
There are 11 islands on this lake, with Gunnison Island being a famous protected reserve for many endangered birds. In fact, the entire lake itself is a heaven for birdwatchers as the surrounding wetlands have made it the perfect home and sanctuary for many migratory and local birds.
Visitors can indulge in activities like sightseeing, hiking, biking, and golf around the lake, while in the winter months, there is ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
2. Lake Powell
Lake Powell is actually located on Arizona’s Navajo National reservation and is surrounded by the magnificent and picturesque red rock desert of Utah. It is said to be one of the most scenic reservoirs in all of America. The lake has nearly 1900 miles of shoreline, and it covers around 160,800 acres as it sits in the heart of the stunning Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Lake Powell is also one of the major tourist attractions of Utah and a popular recreational hub for activities like fishing, boating, waterskiing, hiking, camping, and diving.
Lake Powell came into existence from the construction of the 1963 Glen Canyon Dam, which impounded the roaring Colorado River. Today also, the lake serves as a major reservoir for the Upper Colorado Basin, while the Glen Canyon Dam is a significant source of hydropower for the region.
There are many marinas around this lake that can be used by boats of all sizes, including even houseboats. Since this is a popular fishing spot, anglers come here looking for largemouth bass, striped and smallmouth bass, sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish. There are many campgrounds located all around the lake.
3. Utah Lake
The Utah Lake is a majestic 100,000-acre natural freshwater lake in Utah. Located in the Mountain land Region of the north-central part of the state, the lake’s eastern shore is home to the prominent cities of Orem and Provo.
The lake sits snuggled nicely between the Wasatch Mountains to the east and the Lake Mountains to the west. This beautiful lake has some incredibly scenic sights, and it is a popular destination that sees crowds all around the year. Utah Lake is one of the last few remnants of the prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which used to cover most of the state of Utah in the prehistoric times. The water sources of this lake hail from the American Fork River, the Provo River, Hobble Creek, and the Spanish Fork River. The only outlet of the lake is the Jordan River.
Since the lake is located inside the Utah Lake State Park, there are many places for camping, boat rentals, boat slips, picnic spots, and swimming areas. However, it is important to know that the water levels in the lake tend to fluctuate severely, sometimes by nearly as much as nine feet due to the water being diverted for irrigation purposes. The Utah Lake is another popular fishing spot, but you are most likely to only catch carp here. This lake is ideal for a long weekend getaway with your friends and family.
4. Bear Lake
Sitting on the Utah-Idaho border, the mesmerizing Bear Lake is the second-largest natural freshwater lake in the state. The rich turquoise blue water of this lake has earned it the famed nickname of the Caribbean of the Rockies. You will feel awed to look at the natural beauty of this area. Surrounded by lush green wooded forests and majestically standing mountains all around, there is a certain sense of peace and tranquility here that lends a mysterious and enigmatic touch to the spot. This is a popular summer tourist destination, so if you want to photograph this lake and its stunning surroundings in peace, choose an off-season time to come here.
5. Flaming Gorge Reservoir
The Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a manmade lake spread over 42,000 acres between Utah and Wyoming. It is located in the heart of the Ashley National Forest and is a part of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
The lake was created during the construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam in Red Canyon. There are many boat ramps, marinas with boat slips, and fishing docks around the lake. There is also a popular network of crisscrossing hiking trails, picnic sites, and several camping sites around the lake that have made this a popular tourist destination. The reservoir is especially popular with fishermen who come here for its lake trout. Apart from brown and rainbow trout, the lake is also well-stocked with kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass. The incredible clarity of the lake has made it a popular destination with underwater enthusiasts who come here for spear fishing and scuba diving.
6. Jordanelle Reservoir
Sitting just an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City, the Jordanelle Reservoir is home to extensive and beautiful beaches. Just offshore from the beaches are unique places where you can enjoy in all types of floating fun at the Aqua Zone. This floating fun palace has made Jordanelle Reservoir a hot favorite with families with children. Aqua Zone is full of all types of walkways and structures and provides endless hours of enjoyment for children and a lot of relaxation for the parents. If you love to walk on the beach, then Jordanelle Reservoir is the perfect beach to head to in Utah. You can walk along the water’s edge until you get tired. Off the beach, there are cabanas with charcoal grills and picnic tables. There is also a children’s playground available nearby.
7. DMAD Reservoir
The DMAD Reservoir is an 1199 acre oasis located in the Sevier Desert in Utah, near Delta. The reservoir was created in 1959 due to the impounding of the lower end of the beautiful Sevier River. The purpose was to supply water, provide recreation, protect aquatic habitats, provide water for irrigation, and to allow for the cooling of a number of coal burning power plants nearby. The name of the reservoir is derived from the four irrigation companies that worked together in the creation of the reservoir – Delta, Melville, Abraham, and Deseret.
The lake here is nearly 80 feet deep, and most of the 6.3-mile long shoreline is owned and managed by the Bureau of land Management. There are some simple campgrounds here, with several places for boat launches along the lakeside. The most popular activities you will find here include boating, camping, and fishing.