Bear Lake State Park is opening new areas to keep up with growth

Apr 3, 2024, 6:22 PM | Updated: 7:56 pm

GARDEN CITY – State park managers for Bear Lake are preparing for the crowds that continue to grow every year with new land.

Andrew Stokes, the manager of Bear Lake State Park on the Idaho side, said the park started a reservation system in 2022 because of the increase in visitors.

“One of the toughest parts about this job is turning those families away that want to come to play at the beach,” Stokes said.

The North Beach gate in Bear Lake, Idaho.

The North Beach gate in Bear Lake, Idaho. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

He said the system has been working for the park, but the crowds at the North Beach keep growing, and the park needs a new plan.

“Year after year, an increase in visitation. Our goal as a state park agency here in Bear Lake is to try to disperse some of that,” Stokes said.

Bear Lake continues to see major tourism growth

According to Stokes, the new plan for the park is to extend the beach with 28 acres of land just east of Highway 89, which was recently purchased for $2.5 million. This is part of an Idaho initiative to keep up with the state’s growth in outdoor recreation.

“In general, recreation across the state of Idaho has increased,” Stokes said.

Idaho land that's being sold as future lakefront property.

Idaho land that’s being sold as future lakefront property. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

With about 1,200 feet of beach, Stokes said it promises to bring more day-use space and more campgrounds, among other improvements that could start in three to five years.

Meanwhile, the Utah side is also seeing similar growth, according to Richard Droesbeke, the park manager for Utah’s Bear Lake State Park.

“Bear Lake is a big place. And we have ways that, and areas within the park that we’re spreading people out,” Droesbeke said.

He said that 35 campsites and one group site, all with water and electric RV hookups, are nearly ready to go for the upcoming season.

“That’s to me, it is exciting to be able to open up more opportunities, more facilities for people to come up and enjoy,” Droesbeke said.

The renovated Rainbow Cove campsite on the Utah side of Bear Lake.

The renovated Rainbow Cove campsite on the Utah side of Bear Lake. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

The state of Utah is investing $5 million in the campsite project, with another $4.5 million going to the Rainbow Cove campsite renovation. Droesbeke said that 24 of the new campsites should be ready by mid-summer, and there are plans to expand to a total of 60 sites.

He said construction could begin on a new marina on the Utah side of the lake by the end of the summer. The marina project is estimated at $60 million.

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Bear Lake State Park is opening new areas to keep up with growth