It’s true that Utah is a desert. But it is also ranked sixth in the nation for the amount of boatable water per capita. Within an hour’s driving distance from Salt Lake, you’ll find seven boatable reservoirs: Jordanelle, Deer Creek, Pineview, Utah Lake, Echo, Strawberry, and Willard Bay. These picturesque mountain lakes provide a respite from the summer heat, spectacular views of the Wasatch’s best terrain, and water critical to the region. Enjoy the reservoirs by boat, canoe, kayak, SUP, sailboat, free swimming and even zip line. Many of the reservoirs will rent boats, and other equipment, by the hour or day. Here are our recommendations for the best boating and top 7 lakes and reservoirs near Salt Lake and the Wasatch Front.
Jordanelle State Park
Known for its proximity to Salt Lake, Park City and nearby luxury Deer Valley rentals
Located just east of Park City, this reservoir is one of the most popular due to its close proximity to Salt Lake. Visitors may camp, boat, swim, hike, bike and fish all around the lake. Nearby condos, including luxury Deer Valley condos, are also available for those looking for a comfortable bed. The Hailstone Recreation Area and Marina is near Park City on the west side of the lake and offers campsites and a day-use area for motorized watercraft. For a quieter experience with walk-in campgrounds and a boardwalk, the Rock View Campground on the southeast side of the lake offers more peace and solitude as well as motor-free lake access. Park City SUP, Park City Rowing Academy, and Park City Sailing all meet at Jordanelle Reservoir. Hike or pedal around the lake on the 15-mile Perimeter Trail that connects Hailstone to Rock Cliff. While it does get crowded on the weekends, this reservoir has the capacity and the amenities for a convenient weekend getaway.
Jordanelle campsite reservations can be made at ReserveAmerica and fill up quickly.
Rent boating, personal watercrafts, fishing equipment, SUPs, kayaks or water toys/inflatables at Jordanelle Rentals or call 435.615.7397.
Average depth: 109 ft
Surface area: 3,000 acres
Elevation: 6,200 ft
Jordanelle average summer water temperature: 72 degrees
Deer Creek State Park
Known for its proximity to Provo Canyon and Stunning Views of Mt. Timpanogos
The OG Utah County hot spot before Jordanelle was built in the 1990s. Tucked discreetly between Heber City and Provo Canyon, this lake has stunning views of Mount Timpanogos. Day-trippers, SUPers, and fishers will enjoy day camping on Charleston Beach on the southern, most-eastern tip of the lake. Adventurers looking for something new can learn to kiteboard or take a zipline tour. Kids of all ages will jump at the chance to bounce off Island Aqua Park’s inflatable obstacle course. For consistent wind current, sailors flock to the lake in the late afternoon and evening hours. Just a few miles down, you can float the Provo River: a popular activity with the locals and the Provo college-age set. Campers can make overnight reservations at the Great Horned Owl or Chokecherry sites.
Deer Creek campsite reservations can be made at stateparks.utah.gov or call 1.800.322.3770.
Rent boating, personal watercrafts, fishing equipment, SUPs, kayaks or water toys/inflatables at Deer Creek Island Resort Rentals.
Average depth: 65 ft
Surface area: 2,965 acres
Elevation: 5,423 ft
Deer Creek average summer water temperature: 72 degrees
Known for Its Proximity to Ogden/Northern Wasatch Cities and Spectacular Views of The Ogden Valley
Originally constructed in 1937 to control the floodwaters of the Ogden River, Pineview is the sparkling crown jewel of The Ogden Valley. Buttressing the cities of Eden and Huntsville, and a stone’s throw from Snowbasin Mountain Resort, this reservoir is a favorite for residents living in the Northern Wasatch cities and Northern Salt Lake suburbs. There are three swim areas with sandy beaches—Cemetery Point, Anderson Cove Campground and Middle Inlet Beach north of Huntsville. Due to low water levels, this year you can launch your boat at Port Ramp Marina or Cemetery Point. Overnight camping is only allowed at Anderson Cove. Discover an open-swim/boatless area at the extreme west end of Pineview Reservoir near the dam. Windsurfer Beach (near the Pineview Trailhead parking area) and Spring Creek (on the eastern side of the lake) are the best spots for SUPs, kayaks and other wakeless boats. Also urban legend has it that bull sharks were illegally introduced to the lake and are thriving. Don’t worry, your toes are safe at Pineview.
Pineview campsite reservations and marina information can be found here.
Rent boating, personal watercrafts, fishing equipment, SUPs, kayaks or water toys/inflatables at Cemetery Point Club Rec.
Average depth: 81 ft
Surface area: 2,874 acres
Elevation: 5,000 ft
Pineview average summer water temperature: 70 degrees
Echo State Park
Known for Being a Paddle Boarders Paradise in 2021
Winding next to I-80 between Park City and Coalville, the region’s oldest reservoir (and newest state park) recently underwent a long-awaited uplift. Brand-new bathrooms, showers, campgrounds and cabins are now available. While the park hopes to provide boat rentals in the future, for now visitors must bring their own boat or watercraft. Echo reservoir is a great option for Salt Lakers who are looking to escape the crowds of Jordanelle. But with water levels dipping below 44%, motorized vehicles are being limited in 2021. Kayakers, SUPers, wave runners, fishing and other smaller boats will be allowed. Echo State Park just became a paddle boarder’s paradise!
Campsite reservations and marina information can be found here.
Rentals currently not available.
Average depth: 50 ft
Surface area: 1394 acres
Elevation: 5,560 sf
East Canyon average summer water temperature: 70 degrees
Known for The Best Lake Fishing in Utah
Affectionately known as “The Berry” to local anglers, this stillwater lake is considered the best fishery in Utah. Anglers will find world-class cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass. Crayfish trapping is allowed for those partial to a crawdad boil (or for those trying to keep the kids occupied for hours). Strawberry can be fished, water-skied or enjoyed by a variety of boats and watercraft. The reservoir boasts four major campgrounds on its shores: Strawberry Bay, Aspen Grove, Renegade and Soldier Creek. For those wanting a clean, comfortable bed and shower, The Strawberry Lodge offers a variety of room sizes as well as a cafe, watercraft rentals, marine services and guided fishing tours.
Strawberry Reservoir campsite reservations can be found here.
Rent boating, personal watercrafts, fishing equipment, SUPs, kayaks or water toys/inflatables at Strawberry Bay Marina & Lodge.
Average depth: 200 ft
Surface area: 8,400 acres
Elevation: 7,612 ft
Strawberry Reservoir average summer water temperature: 62 degrees
Known For Its Size & Sailing
Surprisingly, Utah Lake is the third-largest largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. This expansive lake borders some of Utah County’s largest cities and fastest growing neighborhoods. The lake’s only river outlet, the Jordan River, is a tributary of the Great Salt Lake and evaporation leaves the lake slightly saline and extremely shallow. It’s shallow depth, summer algae blooms, and history of pollution (once a Superfund site) make it a fickle location for waterskiing and other motorized boating sports. But the lake has a rich history of sailing, and the Bonneville School of Sailing is an accredited U.S. sailing school and offers international sailing licenses and credentials. The lake also has 27 public access points for launching a variety of boats and watercraft. We recommend starting at the Utah Lake State Park Nature Preserve near the Provo airport and off the Lindon Marina. Both offer a huge selection of rentals along with soft, sandy beaches and a convenient place to launch your boat.
Utah Lake campsite reservations and marina information can be found here
Rent boating, personal watercrafts, fishing equipment, SUPs, kayaks or water toys/inflatables at the Lindon Marina or Utah Epic Rentals.
Average depth: 10.5 ft
Surface area: 96,000 acres
Elevation: 4,488 ft
Utah Lake average summer water temperature: 73 degrees
Known For Being The Best Place to Boat and Lounge on the Great Salt Lake
Everyone is welcome to swim and float in the Great Salt Lake, but the smell, flies and dirty water deter most. If you are set on floating in the lake, spend a day on the beach at Antelope Island when it is not biting gnat season. You’ll see herds of bison, antelope and wild horses along the way. Another way to explore the salty-side of the lake is with The Great Salt Lake Rowing Club. They offer sculling lessons on the lake as well as competitive and recreational teams.
On the north side of the lake, you’ll find plenty of enjoyable beaches, campsites and boatable water on the freshwater portion of the lake at Willard Bay. The Bay has a north and south marina that offer all the amenities you’ll need for a weekend on the lake. Surrounding Willard Bay, near the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, you’ll also discover treasure troves of wetland teeming with rare migratory birds.
Read our blog, for other activities near the Great Salt Lake.
Willard Bay campsite reservations and marina information can be found here.
Rent boating, personal watercrafts, fishing equipment, SUPs, kayaks or water toys/inflatables at Club Rec or call 435.734.9494.
Average depth: 19 ft
Surface area: 19,000 acres
Elevation: 4,236 ft
Willard Bay average summer water temperature: 72 degrees
Before You Go
Check for Drought Updates
Along with most of the West, Utah is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recordable history. Many lakes are falling below 50% capacity and as such, some boat ramps and other services have become unavailable. Low water levels are also creating navigational hazards and reducing boatable surface area. For the latest restrictions, contact the state park or marina before visiting.
Prepare for High Elevations
Utah’s northern reservoirs are all located above 4,000 ft. Higher elevations and dry mountain air are a recipe for sunburn and dehydration. Make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen (mineral-based sunscreens are best for you and a lake’s ecosystem) and water. And always go up any canyon with a full tank of gas in your car and boat.
Be Sure Your Boat is Quagga Free
Quagga, aka the STD of the sea, is a real threat to Utah’s waterways. Boaters must display a quagga form and undergo professional decontamination if they are coming from out of state or have been at Lake Powell. Accordingly, you’ll lose a few hours—or the entire day—if you don’t show up with the proper certification. Find a decontamination site here.
Get a Fishing License
Utah requires every person over the age of 12 to have a fishing license for any species of fish. State fishing license fees will vary based on residency status and length of time, so be sure to purchase the type of license that best suits your needs. Multi-year fishing licenses can often save you money over the long-term. In fact, save yourself some time and purchase fishing licenses same day here. Then download The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources app to store your license and gain access to fishing maps and guides.
Boatable Paradise a Few Hours from Salt Lake
For those willing to drive a few hours north and south, more boatable waters await. Drive a few hours north to the cobalt-blue waters of Bear Lake and a few hours south to the scenic beaches of Lake Powell. Many call Bear Lake the Meditteranean of Northern Utah and consider Lake Powell to be the best boating in the USA. Both are truly a boaters paradise!
Want to know more about living along or moving to the Wasatch Front? Visit our relocation and neighborhood pages.
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