I have not been able to learn much about the history of Bells Canyon and its reservoirs, lower and upper. The canyon is not even listed in the index of the book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, that details the history of logging, mining, and hydro-electric efforts in the three Wasatch Mountain canyons that border metropolitan Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. There’s probably a good reason for that, too, given that this canyon is south of the most southern of those three canyons, Little Cottonwood, and does not connect to it by any means.
What I do know, however, is that the lower reservoir is only a 15-20 minute hike from the trailhead…and it takes right around five hours to reach this upper reservoir. The trail is somewhere between four and five miles in length and gains right around 4,000 feet in elevation from start to finish.
I only recently discovered (on-line, before making the hike) that there was a dam at the upper reservoir…and even more recently (after arriving at the lake), learned that this dam has also been breached, similar to the dams at the Sister Lakes in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Construction and modification of those dams occurred between 1908-1934 and they were breached in 1972. While conducting a little more research for this post, I did find a digitized picture of the dam being built in 1914…and I’m still looking for more….
If the Bells Canyon reservoirs were built for the same reasons that the Sister Lakes were dammed, it was so that the water from the snow-melt could be held until it was needed for irrigation and other purposes later in the year when the mountain streams were running low.
I made this hike a couple of weeks ago by myself, but on this particular occasion, Son #3 was able to join me and helped provide some perspective for the scenery in the photographs.
My son is right about six feet tall…which means that the water lines on those two trees are about 10-12 feet above the ground…which means that the water in this lake has been significantly deeper than it was on the day of our visit.
Above is another shot provided for perspective’s sake…there’s a man next to the boulder in the lower right corner of the picture….
And below is a last photo provided specifically for perspective, there are two figures sitting on the left side of the opening in the damn. I shot this one from the mountainside on the opposite side of the lake, so it may lose a bit of its resolution if you attempt to zoom-in too closely on the figures.
The below photograph shows a much wider perspective of the northward view, taken from the same location.
And you’ve seen me before….
This was the last view of the lake before we rounded the bend in the trail, dropped down behind the retaining wall of the dam, and could no longer see it….