Driving on lake beds is bad for the environment and against the law

Sep 2, 2022, 4:31 PM | Updated: 4:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As the Great Salt Lake continues to dwindle, state land managers are reminding the public that driving on the exposed lakebed is illegal and potentially dangerous.

According to a release from the Division of Natural Resources, law enforcement officers have seen more visitors on the dry lake bed in the last few weeks.

Driving on the lakebed doesn’t just disturb the delicate crust, but it also has serious implications for wildlife, air quality, and the sensitive GSL ecosystem,” Ben Stireman, Sovereign Lands Program Administrator for the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said.

The release also explains that under Utah Code Section 65A-2-3.2p, anyone without written permission, operating a motor vehicle on the bed of a navigable lake is guilty of a class B misdemeanor and is also liable for civil damages.

Beyond it being bad for the environment and against the law, vehicles can also get stuck in the soft mud, requiring rescue and sometimes damaging the vehicle.

Lake beds and river beds are considered sovereign land owned by the state.

This means that the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands oversees the management and regulates the use of land.

The state currently manages the following as sovereign lands:

  • Great Salt Lake
  • Utah Lake
  • Jordan River
  • Bear Lake (Utah portion, special rules for driving on the lakebed apply to Bear Lake)
  • Bear River (portions)
  • Colorado River (portions)
  • Green River (portions)
  • Moab Exchange Lands
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Driving on lake beds is bad for the environment and against the law