A few weeks ago I wrote about my experiences kayaking at Hyrum Lake State Park. I thoroughly enjoy being outdoors and taking in all of the beauty there is to bask in here in wonderful northern Utah. Furthermore, when it comes to getting in a boat, especially a kayak or a raft, that’s pretty much guaranteed a good time. So when I rented a kayak from the Outdoor Recreation Program at Utah State University and went to Hyrum State Park, I essentially laid the foundation for a future filled with awesome boat-related activities for me to blog about.
I rounded up my roommate and his girlfriend last Saturday, and we strapped our kayaks to the roofs of our vehicles and headed up to Bear Lake for an invigorating day of paddling. Bear Lake is not in Cache Valley, but I figured I should still write about it, since it’s just a short, hour-long drive through the beautifully scenic Logan Canyon, which this time of year is so incredibly colorful. My avid readers may remember my post last year about Logan Canyon’s great fall appeal, when the leaves on the trees turn every color of the rainbow. I could write volumes on this topic alone and, in fact, I’m planning another hike next weekend on Limber Pine Trail — you are all welcome to come along.
I saw Bear Lake for the first time this summer at a retreat for the editorial staff of The Utah Statesman, the college newspaper I work for. We did have opportunities to enjoy free time, but unfortunately I was there without a boat. So I found myself staring longingly out at the boats on the lake thinking, “I wish I was out there.” This is when I made a promise to myself to return to the lake as soon as I could to venture out into the water. Last Saturday, I did just that.
A few people I spoke with said the lake was 12 miles long and 6 miles wide. I usually don’t believe everything I hear, so I went on the Bear Lake website to get the official measurements. This is what I found out: According to the site, Bear Lake was formed 28,000 years ago in relation to “earthquake activity.” The lake is actually 20 miles long and 8 miles wide — quite a bit larger than what I was told — and at the deepest point it is 208 feet deep. It pays to double check what people say, especially when you are planning to paddle across the lake. If I would’ve decided to head up there on my own and try to paddle across the lake the long way, I would’ve been in for a nightmare.
Before I talk specifically about our kayaking expedition, I’d like to describe the trip there. Highway 89 winds through the scenic Logan Canyon past dozens of places to camp, hike and fish. There are trails available for all levels of hiking expertise — or the lack thereof — and as I blogged about in the past, if you have a camera, you’re pretty much destined to capture some excellent shots. I’ve said in the past, Utah can turn amateur photographers into professionals. Anyone from out of state who thinks this place in nothing more than the hub of religious fanaticism has obviously never even been here. Utah is filled with scenic beauty, and we here in northern Utah happen to get a high dose of it on a regular basis.
As we drove north through Logan Canyon and crested the mountain and came around the bend to begin the descent into Garden City, which is the town adjacent to Bear Lake, the first glimpse I got of the lake was absolutely breathtaking. I wouldn’t be able to put into words the profound awe that I’ve experienced every time I get to see this sight. What makes matters even worse is that I brought my camera but left the battery at home in its charger. I will have pictures on the site soon, but for now, I will have to just write about it.
As we made our way down the mountain, we stopped at a gas station to take a quick break and get directions to the nearest and best place to park and put our boats in the water. When I hopped out of my Jeep I noticed the wind was blowing good and strong. Every time I hearken back to memories of being a river guide on the Colorado River in southeastern Utah, I remember those blustery days of 55 mph wind gusts that had my passengers wondering if we’d ever make it to the take out. Fortunately, I was a strong enough rower that we never got blown up river, and I never had a person get blown out of the boat. To this day, though, I still don’t like the wind; it’s my least favorite climatic event. My roommate told me that Garden City is typically windy, at least, he said, every time he’s there. The owners of the sailboats that I’ve seen out on the lake probably love this quality. I’ve never actually been sailing — some day it’ll happen, some day.
We traveled south around the lake to the east bank and found an area with no condos or summer homes, just past a marina. There was a gravel parking area that was conveniently right next to a rocky bank of the lake. This is where we decided to put in. I looked across the lake and decided the other side was approximately2-3 miles away. I’d like to repeat a concept I’ve learned before. Never rely on your eyes when it comes to judging distance in the wilderness. What I guessed was about 2-3 miles ended up being 4-5. We thought it would take us 45 minutes to an hour to get to the other side and have lunch, but it took us almost three hours. A large part of why it took us so long was because of the strong wind currents we fought the whole way there. I’m sure Bear Lake always has some degree of tide just because of its sheer size, but the waves we were paddling in were epic. Our hard-plastic sit-on-top kayaks were constantly getting swamped with water as we splashed through these sometimes 4-foot wind waves.
I personally thought the waves were a lot of fun. The wind and the current we were fighting was another story. Other than the wind, our weather couldn’t have been better. We were actually scheduled to go the week before, but canceled due to incredibly cold weather — it was actually snowing in the mountains. Last Saturday, on the other hand, the sun was shining — it was a beautiful October day.
When we made it to the other side of the lake, I estimated that we had gone about 4 1/2 miles. I had a great time, but I’ve never paddled so much before in my life. The round trip was obviously close to 9 miles, and when we got back to where we parked we were all ready for heat, dry clothes and a warm bed. Ironically, just before we made it back to shore, the wind stopped blowing and the waves died down. The water at Hyrum Lake was for the most part calm and flat, compared to Bear Lake where it was wavy and choppy. I would not suggest to first-time or beginner kayakers to paddle Bear Lake alone. However, Bear Lake is absolutely gorgeous, and I would recommend to everybody to make a point of visiting some time in the near future. I know I’m certainly going to be there again next spring and summer. To all fellow paddling or boating enthusiasts, there’s good chance you’ll see me out there paddling my heart out. So, until next time, check back for my pictures, I’m planning on having them up soon. I’ll see you out there!