Utah Lake in Winter

January 29, 2019

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Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren 

On a midwinter day following a series of snowstorms, it's rather fun to imagine what Utah Valley and northern Utah’s Wasatch Range might have looked like when Lake Bonneville — the name given to a Pleistocene great lakefilled Utah Valley and beyond, some 8,000 to 75,000 years ago. At least that’s what I thought (as I have, in a way, since I was a child) when I took the photograph here on January 9, 2019, from the western shore of today’s Utah Lake. It's an orphan remnant of ice-age Lake Bonneville, like Great Salt Lake 40 mi (64 km) to the northwest.

As is common in winter, Utah Lake’s surface froze during a December cold snap, with temperatures dipping well below freezing. But slightly milder temperatures and storm-driven wind and waves shattered the surface in places, as along this shore in the fast-growing residential community of Saratoga Springs, where broken ice floes have begun to accumulate. The Wasatch Mountains rise above their parent Wasatch Fault on the valley’s and the lake’s east side, which is also considered the eastern margin of North American’s Great Basin province. The mountain range is mirrored as a spectral reflection in the calm, open water.

Geologists call Utah Lake — named for the Ute Indians (as is the state of Utah) — an old lake, for it's shallow and slightly saline, although it is considered a freshwater lake. It occupies about a fourth of Utah Valley. Across the water are several cities, including Provo, Orem, American Fork and Lehi.

The snow-covered Wasatch Mountains include the prominent and elongated Mount Timpanogos (elevation 11,752 ft/3,582 m), to the right of center. “Timp,” as it's often called, is primarily composed of late Carboniferous Period limestone (from about 300 million years ago), and gets its interesting name from the Utes who lived for hundreds of years on Utah Lake’s shores — the Timpanogos, Timpanogot or Timpanogotzi tribe (among other variations). Lone Peak (11,260 ft/3,430 m), to the north, or left side of the image, is by contrast primarily quartz monzonite, a granite-like rock formed about 30 million years ago. The paths of alpine Ice Age glaciers are still evident on Lone Peak’s southern flanks, as they are elsewhere in canyons and cirques throughout the Wasatch Range.

Photo Details: Camera: NIKON D3500; Exposure Time: 0.0031s (1/320); Aperture: ƒ/9.0; ISO equivalent: 100; Focal Length (35mm): 24.