For the three of you who don’t enjoy fresh water lakes, you’re on the wrong website. For the rest of you, it’s easy to see why lakes are so enjoyable in the summer (swimming, boating, fishing—the list goes on and on).
But what can you do at a lake when it’s frozen, specifically Utah Lake? It’s a good question. Fortunately for you, I have answers. And I’m confident once you’ve read them, you’ll have ideas of your own I hope you’ll share in the comments.
But before I move on, you’re gonna need to make sure the lake is frozen enough to enjoy. How do you know when it’s safe enough to walk on? “If you fall through, it’s not frozen enough,” says Chris Keleher, of the Utah Department of Natural Resources and Utah Lake enthusiast. “Seriously though, if it has been in the teens at night and calm for several days, the lake is usually frozen enough to enjoy. Just be cautious and use good judgment.”
Another helpful hint is to monitor any cracks in the ice. Ideally they should look about four to six inches or deeper, although people have skated on three inch thick ice. Also, dark, fresh ice is safest. And remember that occasional rumbling and cracking are normal.
With that out of the way, don’t let a little cold weather stop you from the following:
Ice skating. The most obvious activity is also the most timeless. No need to pay for an indoor or small outdoor rink. When the ice is like in the above photo,” says Keleher, “Utah Lake is the biggest skating rink around.”
Broom hockey. If you have actual hockey gear, by all means have at it. But for the rest of us, noting that Utah is not the midwest, broom hockey is a fun team-based activity to enjoy on the frozen water, with or without skates.
Ice fishing. Although I don’t think it sounds like “fun,” Utah Lake is a great place to snag white bass and crappie in the winter. But you better hurry! “The season is starting to slow down,” says Ty Hunter, park manager at Utah Lake State Park. Click here for updated fishing reports.
Photography. I’m no expert. But a frozen lake may very well be more beautiful and majestic than a thawed lake. Take this photo, for example. Or these. All stunning. So why not catalog and capture your own impressive views of the lake?
Wildlife observation. Not all birds fly south for winter. So take a pair of binoculars and listen to the sounds. Admittedly, you won’t encounter flocks of species in the winter. But with the refreshing silence, you’ll immediately know when you encounter something of interest. And you’ll be reminded of how delicate life can be. (Click here for area birds)
Enjoy the silence. Unlike the mountains, which residents know and love, Utah Lake is a quick five minute jaunt from society. And it’s just as quiet as it is in the mountains. Particularly during the winter.
Hiking. Exercising in a gym is miserable. Why not do the same around Utah Lake in the winter? Although I’ve skied and sailed the lake many times, it wasn’t until my first run out to the Lake two winters ago that I fell in love. Run. Walk. Hike. Whatever. Just enjoy.
Weather watching. Before you roll your eyes, know this: weather conditions at lakes are something fierce. Weather conditions at frozen lakes can be even fiercer, so it’s easier and more impressive to observe. Case in point: Fog banks, ice crystals, sunsets, and ice floes, all of which make their appearance this time of year.
Dog sledding, etc. If all else fails, get creative. “When we lived in Provo, our family spent a lot of time on Utah Lake when it was iced over,” reminisces Keleher. “It’s a nice place to get away, take a hike, let the dogs run, etc. When my son was little, we’d put a harness on our bigger dog and let him pull our son all over the lake in a sledding tube.” Good times.
Honorable mention: Winter camping with minimal services (portable toilet only).
Readers: What do you like to do at Utah Lake when it’s frozen?