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Natural Wonders

Explore Large Lakes in the Utah Desert

Utah offers many natural lakes and man-made reservoirs. They attract people for far more than fishing. Boating, houseboating, and swimming are all popular.

Utah offers numerous natural lakes and man-made reservoirs. Many of the bodies of water are stocked with trout and abound with large-mouth bass, an invasive species that nevertheless is a favorite of fishermen. But lakes attract people for far more than fishing. Boating, sailing, houseboating, waterskiing, swimming and sunbathing are all popular.

Lake Powell


Crossing the border from Utah to Arizona lies Lake Powell. Houseboat rentals on Lake Powell let adventurers explore the almost 2,000 miles of shoreline that includes steep, colorful canyon walls as well as isolated beaches. The crystal clear waters are also favored for swimming, speedboats, water skiers, and intrepid sailors (the winds are erratic and subject to the whims of the canyon walls. Best bets for catching the wind are at Wahweap Bay, Padre Bay and Bullfrog Bay.)

Cruise ships offer day trippers a chance to see some of the celebrated beauty of Lake Powell where some reach into Rainbow Bridge National Monument to see the largest freestanding natural bridge in the world. Because of Lake Powell’s enormity, boaters should be aware of flash flood and high wind dangers that may make the placid water suddenly resemble the wild waves of an ocean.

Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake in Utah

This famously salty lake outside of Salt Lake City is what is left from the ancient lake of Lake Bonneville. The inland lake is the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. With white sand beaches, nine islands including Antelope Island, and legends that go back into the mists of time, it attracts visitors who love to photograph its vast face, kayak and sail its waters and wildlife aficionados who are attracted by the animals attracted to its freshwater inlets and wetlands.

Flaming Gorge Lake (Reservoir)

Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Flaming Gorge Reservoir

Water enthusiasts enjoy miles of lakeshore is a stunning canyon and forest setting in the Flaming Gorge. Fed by the Green River, This National Recreation Area spans the area of Utah and Wyoming on the northeast border and offers excellent horseback riding, kayaking and rafting, fishing, hiking, camping and biking during the summer season and snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing during the winter.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake by kla4067 [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Bear Lake by kla4067 [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Another lake that bridges a border is Bear Lake in Utah and Idaho. The lake has been called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its unique turquoise-blue color and its popularity with divers.

Bear Lake has many marinas, beaches, and two tourist towns in Utah, Garden City and Laketown. It also has two state parks, each named Bear Lake State Park: one in Idaho, one in Utah.

The Utah state park includes one-half-mile long Rendezvous Beach at the south end of the lake, location of the 1827 and 1828 Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, and 3 mile long Cisco Beach on the east side, plus additional campground, marina, and boat ramp areas.

Added bonus: the surrounding valley has gained a reputation for having high quality raspberries which are recovering from a virus in 2001. Enjoy the new hardier strains of berries at the Raspberry Festival during the first week of August.

Other Reservoirs in Utah

Utah is dotted with smaller reservoirs, many that are large enough for boating, fishing and other water sports including the Pineview Reservoir, the East Canyon Reservoir, the Jordanelle Reservoir, the Scofield Reservoir,Joe’s Valley Reservoir and the Deer Creek Reservoirs.

Other Natural Lakes in Utah

Fish Lake
Widgeon Bay on the Fish Lake, Fishlake Scenic Byway, UT

The Wasatch Pleateau is dotted with pristine alpine lakes surrounded by flowering meadows and towering mountains. Fish Lake is the largest natural lake in the state and lies within the deep woods of Fishlake National Forest in the Fishlake Mountains. The icy waters are lauded for their great fishing, but are too cold for most anything else. The wilderness area, however, is ripe for exploration, including the chance to see “Pando,” a stand of male Aspens that are genetically identical and share the same root system, making them the heaviest living organism on the planet.

Panguitch Lake, meaning “big fish” in Paiute, is one of the top fishing lakes in the state. This beautiful lake offers a variety of scenic outings that take advantage of its natural beauty.