Rapidly rising Bear Lake may limit beachgoer options this summer

FISH HAVEN, Idaho – Bear Lake is rising, fast.

According to Claudia Cottle, executive director of Bear Lake Watch, the water level has risen 1.5 feet in less than a week, and there is still a much higher-than-normal amount of snowpack left.

“It’s coming in at about at around 3,500 (cubic feet per second),” she said. “It might be a little higher, especially on the west side where it is shallow. We’re just watching that water come closer and closer. In some places there is no exposed beach left. The water is up to the rocky areas in some places.”

Cottle said it will likely get to the point that the lake appears full.

“It won’t be the max, but it will look full,” she said. “There’s always a possibility. It’s still April, it could all blow away with hot winds. It’s happened before, but there is still a lot of snowpack in the high country.”

The higher water level will likely affect beachgoers this summer. Cottle said the lake should nearly reach the road, meaning all the lakebed normally used as beach, will be covered.

“Where people are able to access when it’s low, they won’t be able to access that,” she said. “They will be limited to public areas.”

That includes areas like Rendezvous Beach, North Beach and areas on the east side.

“There are places to go,” Cottle said. “People just need to know they have to plan a little differently and probably plan ahead.”

Cottle said the high flow from the Bear River has turned the lake brown, but she is hoping it will soon revert to its normal blue. When high water struck in 2011, the inundated lakebed vegetation turned the lake green.

“The lake did not turn blue until October 5,” she said. “That was the first day I declared Bear Lake blue again.”

Cottle said the water along the shore will be deeper than what most are used to and that parents should keep that in mind when bringing children.

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