Silver Lake Flat: A Mountain Mirror

June 21, 2024

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Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

Silver Lake Flat Reservoir, above American Fork Canyon in northern Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, presents a majestic reflection of snow-capped peaks in this photograph, taken in early-morning light on June 12, 2024. The earthen embankment dam and its reservoir are named for a once mostly open area upon which they were built — a flat — and for Silver Lake, a higher alpine lake accessed via a trail. Reflection from a smooth surface such as this is called specular reflection, as experienced with a mirror in daily life, though the image is inverted. In contrast, a rougher surface generates diffuse reflection and a distorted image, or no image at all.

On the image’s left, to the south, rise the northern and eastern flanks of Mount Timpanogos, one of the range’s most prominent peaks, topping out at 11,752 feet (3582 meters) in elevation. The limestone layers that make up “Timp,” as the mountain is often called, were laid down in ancient seas 300 million years ago during the Pennsylvanian Period, and then lifted high above sea level during periods of mountain building and faulting due in part to basin and range faulting. Lower elevation Box Elder Peak area summits are to the right. Utah Valley and major communities such as Provo, Orem and Lehi, as well as Utah Lake, are on the other side of the mountains, to the west, where North America’s Basin and Range Province begins.

Utah is among the driest states. Most of the Wasatch Range’s snowpack generally melts away by mid-May. But as the photo shows, winter snow continues to cling to the mountaintops this mid-June, and most reservoirs, like Silver Lake Flat, are full, testifying to better-than-normal winter precipitation for the second year in a row — after almost two decades of persistent drought. Utah’s snowpack for the winter of 2023-2024 reached 131 percent of normal, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Utah Department of Natural Resources. During the previous winter of 2022-2023 the snowpack peaked at 216 percent or normal, a modern state record.

Silver Lake Flat Reservoir, Utah Coordinates: 40.5021, -111.6564

Related Links:
A Promising Winter in Peoa, Utah
Sunset and Specular Reflection at Great Salt Lake
Reflections on the Southern Wasatch Mountains