High water levels at Bear Lake mean less beach space this summer

May 24, 2024, 6:23 PM | Updated: 6:42 pm

GARDEN CITY, Rich County — The popular summer vacation spot will have much less beach room because water levels have nearly exceeded Bear Lake.

Water officials said by the time the water peaks, Bear Lake will have some of the highest levels since the 1980s, which is about two feet short of full. This means less room for people who want to enjoy the beach Memorial Day weekend.

“I’m sure it’ll, especially on Monday, will pick up a ton. But right now, we’re kind of lone wolves out here,” said Rebecca Hrabar.

Hrabar shares a lot of her family journeys on Instagram, and they’ve spent a lot of time on Bear Lake over the last five years.

“The water’s up really high this year, which is, I mean, less of a walk down to the beach is always a plus for us, you know,” she said.

Hrabar's family playing on the Bear Lake beach.

Hrabar’s family playing on the Bear Lake beach. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

It might be less of a walk, but if there’s no parking on the beach this year, it also means more competition for fewer slots.

“So we kind of know beforehand what we’re going to see. and the reality is if you’re coming to North Beach and you don’t have a reservation that weekend, you’re probably best to go try some options over on the east side,” said Andrew Stokes, Idaho’s Bear Lake State Park Manager.

Stokes said they’ve started taking online reservations since they are expecting a lot more people coming to the Idaho side of the lake this year.

Luckily, Utah and Idaho sides have opened up more beaches on the east side, but they expect they’ll still have to turn more people away.

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)

And with growing crowds at Bear Lake, there’s an increasing concern for the lake’s future.

“There are approximately 40,000 visitors every single weekend to Bear Lake in the summer. And so that is creating a lot of impacts that range from environmental impacts to social impacts and beyond,” said Doctor Betsy Brunner, associate professor of communication at Utah State University

Brunner said she has the results of a study on how heavy usage could impact the lake in the long term as a destination spot and watershed.

“It is one of the most unique lakes that we have in North America, in the world,” she said.

On Saturday, a public meeting will be at the Garden City City Hall at 11:30 a.m. to review the study. It will also include some suggestions on how everyone can help better preserve Bear Lake.

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High water levels at Bear Lake mean less beach space this summer