Utah Lakes and Rivers

Utah lakes and rivers give you some of the most gorgeous places in this already gorgeous state! Places for dreaming, picnicking, fishing, camping, and all sorts of recreation. Some of these spots even provide riverside or lakeside Rustic Cabins to enjoy these pristine waters for some heartening refreshment.

With purchases made via links on our site, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Details at our Advertising Policy

Many, if not most lakes are created from the Flow of Rivers. Or their tributary streams.

We'll roam through the state of Utah to discover how the lakes and rivers of Utah connect. Where the Important Lakes are, how the rivers flow into them, how they help each other. And how they may need our help, as well!

Major Utah Lakes and Rivers + Map


Rivers in Utah

Utah has quite a few significant rivers. The primary rivers which run through & within Utah are:1

Colorado River - Not only for Utah, but substantially important for all Southwestern states. The Colorado cuts across the southeast corner of the state. It's a source of irrigation & recreation.

The trouble is it's suffering from effects of population growth demands and Drought.

Colorado River in the canyon, below the Dead Horse Rim Viewpoint at the State Park.View of the Colorado From Dead Horse Point in the Same-Named State Park, Near Moab UT
Very easy pathway from parking lot to platform overlook.

Green River - A crucial tributary of the Colorado River, the Green can be considered the Utah river with the consistently strongest flow.

What's terrific is along with fantastic scenery, is a bit of an upgrade for your camping, by planning a stay at the Utah State Park With a Cabin along its shore.

green river view in UtahGreen River From West Side of the White Rim Road

Bear River - Unique in that it's final, eventual outlet isn't the ocean.

Its course winds through many miles, originating in Utah's Uinta Mountains northern slopes. Then twisting through Wyoming & Idaho, before returning to Utah, flowing into the Great Salt Lake.2 

Along the path influencing & interacting with numerous Utah lakes and river tributaries.

Sevier River - Utah's longest river that runs a course staying entirely within the state of Utah. Its endpoint is to finally flow into Sevier Lake.

But the river's waters are heavily sourced for agriculture, affecting those Sevier Lake levels. How? You'll find out soon!

Sevier River  near Leamington UtahSevier River in Leamington Utah Area

White River - With headwaters in the White River National Forest, it's solid with the confluence of its North & South Forks, east of Meeker Colorado.

Over the Utah border west of Bonanza UT, it flows into the Green River south of Ouray. It's a favorite for boating.

San Juan River - Known for its fabulous fishing, it flows somewhat parallel to the southeastern Arizona border.

Price River - In the central east part of Utah, it flows into the Green River.

The best time is spring when snowmelt makes for fun kayaking & canoe trips.

Utah Major Lakes

Black Friday* is Here!


*Minimum 30% discount available on new accommodation bookings at participating properties indicated by the “Black Friday Deals” badge on the search results and room selection pages. Bookings must be made before 09:00 am CET on 01/12/22 for stays with check-in from 17/11/22 and check-out on or before 31/12/23. Discount applies to the cost of room only (excluding any additional fees or taxes). If you make any changes to your booking you may lose your discount and be liable for the full amount. Discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotions. Room rates labelled “Partner Offer” are excluded from this promotion. This offer is provided by the participating property and subject to availability.

Many of Utah's significant rivers help in forming Utah's major lakes. Plus there are tributaries to these rivers that also contribute to the waters of Utah's Best Lakes.

LAKE POWELL - Formed from the Colorado River & its tributaries. Those already mentioned, such as the San Juan River, & the Green River with its own tributary, the White River. Other substantial feeders are the Escalante River & the Dirty Devil River. All these, and their own headwaters and connecting streams add waters to this notable lake/reservoir created with the Glen Canyon Dam.3

Lake Powell with the cliffs reflecting in the still waters.Lake Powell, Utah
View at Alstrom Point

ORIGINS - Before the lake's creation, the man for who it's named, John Wesley Powell, described the river canyon's sunset: "The vermillion and rosy hues, the green and gray tints..."3

WATER STORAGE -  The dam's diversion gates went into action March 13, 1963 to begin gathering lake waters. Construction costs: $300 million, 18 deaths, 348 serious injuries. Max water capacity: 27 million acre-feet. Usage demands for city needs & agriculture have been increasing. Lots of evaporation occurs from surface waters.3 Plus the Western states' current drought is severely adding to its decreasing level.

LAKE ACTIVITIES - Many opportunities for recreation are throughout its shores. Particularly good to check out is Glen Canyon Recreation Area, where they keeps tabs on water levels, closures, etc.

UTAH LAKE - Noteworthy because it had been a natural Utah Lake. Even being among the largest of the non-man-made lakes in the West. In 1901 a dam with a pumping plant was placed to control water into Jordan River. That changed the original natural character of Utah Lake.4,5

At 15 miles wide, 22 miles long, it's only about 10 average feet deep. Pretty shallow. Which is a source of its problems. Wind stirs it up easily, making a muddy appearance. Giving it a reputation as polluted.

This has been a controversy. A few algal blooms have occurred & PCB leakage from a steel plant has been happening over time, leaching into soils sourced by groundwater.

Utah Environmental Quality recommends children & pregnant women refrain from eating lake fish.4

  • The Jordan River is sourced at Utah Lake. Flowing outward from there, it ends at the Great Salt Lake. It's the only outflow for Utah Lake. 
  • Many areas for recreation are on its shores including marinas, beaches, and a State Park.

WILLARD BAY LAKE - A reservoir north of Ogden.

All kinds of boating, swimming, camping, marinas, wildlife sightings, & more! Excellent recreation via Willard Bay State Park.

GREAT SALT LAKE - Unmistakable & unique, for sure, among all Utah lakes and rivers. There's no larger salt water lake in all the Western Hemisphere!

It's more salty than the ocean, about 12% salinity, making swimming & floating seem effortless!

For recreation there's boating, swimming & two state parks. Many opportunities for hiking & wildlife sighting.

It's shallow throughout, averaging about 20' deep. But as a historic remnant of ancient 20,000 sq. mi. Lake Bonneville, it's just 75 by 35 miles.6

Located a little northwest of Salt Lake City.

The Great Salt Lake with cattails along the foreshore, and mountains on the far shore.The Great Salt Lake of Utah

SEVIER LAKE - Another vestige of the original (and huge), ancient Lake Bonneville.

The first Sevier Lake historic notation was made in 1872, with an observed 188 surface acres. Also noted as very salty.

It was pretty shallow, at its deepest, about 15 ft.

What has happened here at Sevier Lake?

By the late 70s it looked very different from the early days. The essential flow into the Sevier had always been sourced from its namesake river.

Plus some tributaries, like the San Pitch River, Brine Creek, and Otter Creek; as well as reservoirs, like Rocky Ford, as its purposed inflow.

But because so much of these river & tributary flows are used for irrigation and other community needs, by the time it gets to the "lakeshore" (plus considering drought conditions) - take a look!

STRAWBERRY RESERVOIR - A very large Utah lake impounding waters of the Strawberry River. Called the most popular fishing lake in the state. Well known for catches of large rainbow & cutthroat trout.

There are numerous campgrounds, a few marinas & some Day Use areas. 

Directions: From Heber, take Hwy.40S.

However, note this:

  • Lands surrounding the Strawberry Lake & River of Utah have been through some devastating fires. It's encouraged overwhelming growth of invasive lowland sagebrush. 
  • Among other plans, Wildlife Management began restoration methods to reduce this species, along with other species like "invading pinyon and juniper trees." They used "herbicide or mechanical treatment of nonnative invasive species such as cheatgrass... [plus] rehabilitation of burned areas..."8
  • They're addressing aquatic lake plants troubled by various ecological & geographic conditions. They're implementing policies for improvement, which among other things, help natural water flows & proactively protect riparian sites.8
  • This additionally aids fish habitat, which will have individual policies. For instance, they're "placing in-stream structures (J-hooks, cross vanes, etc.)."8
  • If Fishing, there are strict rules for Strawberry Reservoir:
  1. 15 listed fish that if caught, must immediately be released.
  2. Know cutthroat trout identification & promptly release any caught between 15-22" - you're asked to please release other sizes also.
  3. No fileting/prepping trout or salmon at catching or in transit.
  4. Know salmon & trout limits.
  5. In general, be aware of all Utah Lakes And Rivers Fishing regulations.9

BEAR LAKE - Less than 50% is in Utah, the remaining lake water areas cross north into Idaho. Generous in size, with gorgeously turquois blue waters from dissolved limestone.

The same-named state park is one suggested access, with an excellent campground. Swimming (Cisco or Rendezvous Beach), boating, fishing (in fact some exclusive types of fish in here!), even scuba.

The marina is helpful.

A lake with a small reedy peninsula jutting out and the far shore mountains with intermittent fluffy clouds.Bear Lake - It's Gotta Be a Lake Destination!

Get to Bear Lake:

Out of Wyoming, take Rt.30W to Laketown.

Or out of Brigham City, take Hwy.89 towards Logan, take right following 89 in Logan, (note, it now follows the Logan River awhile), finally arriving at Garden City adjacent to Bear Lake.

You may want to see these also...

See References For Utah Lakes and Rivers>

Some Directional Information on This Page May be sourced from Map data ©Google