A Landing a Day

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Bear Lake, Utah (and Idaho)

Posted by graywacke on September 3, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2118; A Landing A Day blog post number 546.

Dan –  Give me a break.  Five OSers in a row, then three USers in a row, and now, four OSers in a row, thanks to this landing in . . . UT; 76/59; 3/10; 148.9.  Here’s my regional landing map, which looks like a toss-up between UT & ID:

 landing 1

But as you may have suspected by the post title, I actually landed in the middle of Bear Lake, in UT:

 landing 2

I landed almost exactly one lousy mile south of ID, which is, of course, a solid USer.  So, let’s look at UT & ID:  Although adjacent states,  UT is 76/59 (over-subscribed by 17) while ID is 49/58 (under-subscribed by 9).  Oh well, the Landing God works in mysterious ways . . .

It’s time to fly with me from Seeley Lake to Bear Lake:


Here’s a static, oblique GE shot looking north:

 GE 1

Here’s a GE Street View shot from the east shore of the lake looking out at my landing:

 GE SV landing from East shore

Below is a streams-only shot that more-or-less shows that a drop of Bear Lake water heads north out of the lake into a canal that feeds the Bear River (3rd hit); which flows into the Great Salt Lake (14th hit); from Great Salt Lake, my drop has little choice but to evaporate . . .

landing 3


For this post, I’ve decided to feature the Lake and only the Lake –  as a geologist sees it.  I shan’t be writing anything about people or towns.  So here goes:

As my regular readers know, I enjoy learning about lakes, and what excuse they have for existing at all.  After all, lakes don’t come into existence during the course of normal landscape development.  If you take a big patch of high ground and start eroding it with millions of years of rainfall, you don’t get a lake – you get a dissected landscape, with every surface sloping down towards a stream, which leads to another stream, etc.

Something else needs to happen, like a glacier needs to dump a bunch of dirt and rocks and block up a stream.  Or maybe it’s a landslide that blocks the stream.  Or, a glacier simply gouges out a hole. 

Or maybe, the earth is splitting apart thanks to deep-seated tectonic forces, and a huge block of the earth is sinking.  And maybe the big hole that results fills up with water.  And maybe the block of the earth is sinking at a faster rate than it’s filling up with sediment.  And maybe Bear Lake is the result of that very sinking block of earth.

So, the eastern shoreline of the lake is marked by a fault, with (obviously), the lake side of the fault going down.  The west side of the lake is more like a hinge, so the basin slopes down from west to east.  Here’s a screen shot of a page from a wonderful pamphlet put out by the Utah Geological Survey (no need to read the words unless you’d like to – more about the pamphlet later):

 cross section

The total movement along the fault has been about three miles!  There’s way less than three miles of elevation difference, because the mountain has been busily eroding at the same time (over millions of years) that the fault has been moving.

Not surprisingly, the deepest part of the lake is just off the eastern shore.  Here’s a bathymetric contour map from Utah State University:

 lake depth utah state u

These are 5-meter contours; the deepest part of the lake is about 60 meters (about 200 feet) deep.

I mentioned the Utah Geological Survey pamphlet above.  Here’s the cover:

 why is bear lake so blue utah.gov

So, I guess I have to let you know why the lake is so blue:

 why is bear lake so blue utah.gov 2

Also in the pamphlet is information about the relationship between the Bear River and the Lake.  Here’s a picture showing variations on a theme over the past 220,000+ years (the current situation is in the lower right):

 bear river hydrology from utah.gov

For those curious, detail-oriented folks, here’s some additional information about the comings and goings of Bear River:

 time line, open & closed; utah.gov

To check out the entirety of this pamphlet, click HERE.

Because the lake is important for both flood control and agricultural water supply, folks have messed with the natural system a little.  There are hydraulic controls for the incoming water from the Bear River (via Mud Lake, part of the wetlands system north of the lake) and for the outgoing water (via a canal that goes back to the river). 

Here’s a GE shot showing that the two structures are close together along the north shore of the lake:

 GE 2 lake out & in

GE Street View coverage is available on the road that crosses both structures.  Here’s a view of the outlet structure looking towards the lake:

 GE SV lake outlet 1

And away from the lake:

 GE SV lake outlet 2

Here’s a view of the inlet structure, with Bear Lake off to the right out of the picture:

 GE SV lake inlet

As usual, I’m going to close with some pretty pictures.  Here’s a lovely Wiki shot of the lake with its very blue water:

 wiki cool shot of bear lake

And a Panoramio shot of the east shore of the lake, looking south (by Layne Parmenter):

 pano layne parmenter e shore of lake looking south

I’ll close with a Pano sunset shot over the lake by Carl Hancock:

 pano carl hancock sunset over lake

That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day





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