Those are Broads Fork Twin Peaks behind the larger tree and just to the right of the center of the image…they are the highest peaks in the portion of the Wasatch Mountains that form the eastern geographic boundary of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
At 9,400 feet in elevation, this is under several feet of snow right now, but this is what Bells Canyon upper reservoir looked like in August, 2013. After a moderately strenuous, four-hour hike to reach the location, there is peace to be found along the shore of this desolate, alpine lake. While there is no snow on the Salt Lake Valley floor, it will be another few months before the trails are clear enough for me to make the venture this far up into the mountains…and I can’t wait…..
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you might remember a few posts from last year that highlighted the same lake…and if you do remember those images, you might also recall that they sky was bright in its blueness and reflected wonderfully in the surface of the lake. It is amazing how different a place can appear when the clouds and lighting are so strikingly different. Coincidentally, these images below were made exactly one year later than the ones in the earlier posts…to the day.
If you’d like to visit those earlier images, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Red Pine Lake category to be taken to a continuous roll of the earlier posts and photographs.
And for those of you who are interested, Upper Red Pine Lake is at about 10,000 feet in elevation…400 feet higher than Red Pine Lake. The lakes are situated in Red Pine Canyon, one of the tributary canyons or forks that extend south from Little Cottonwood Canyon…just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA…in the Lone Peak Wilderness Area of the Wasatch National Forest. The hike from the trail-head to the upper lake is approximately four miles in length, has an elevation gain of about 2,500 feet, and may take you from 2.5 to 3.5 hours to accomplish…depending on your fitness level……….and how often you stop to make photographs….
This is something of a follow-up or companion piece to my recent post, Toward White Pine Lake. These are some of my favorite photos from this particular visit. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too….
And the last one with a human stuck in there for perspective’s sake…don’t know who you are, but thanks for being there….
The trail-head for White Pine Lake is located about 5.5 miles up into Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. This is the same trail-head used to access the Red Pine Lakes, both Lower and Upper. The drainage, or tributary canyon/fork that leads to White Pine Lake is just east of the one leading to the Red Pine Lakes. You might remember my three earlier posts on Upper Red Pine Lake. You can refresh your memory by clicking here, here, and here to revisit those posts. The trail to White Pine Lake is just over four miles in length and has an elevation gain of a little more than 2,300 ft…the lake is situated at around 10,000 ft.
In his book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, Charles L. Keller tells us that lumber operations were conducted in this area from the mid-1860’s until about 1881…the area was referred to as the White Pine Fork of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
I haven’t found precise dates for it, but mining operations were also conducted in the area, with work possibly continuing into the early to mid 1900’s. I offer the date of the early 1900’s because I have found a bit of narrow-gauge rail along the shore of White Pine Lake that was similar to other rail that I found at a different location in Big Cottonwood Canyon that had a production city and date on it…but I’m really guessing here….
Can you find the two people in the below photograph? They’re about one-third of the way up and just to the right of the large rock in the center of the bottom edge of the photo.
Keller references mining operations in Little Cottonwood Canyon proper, mostly around the area of Alta, but does note several times that miners referred to their claims in the White Pine Fork. I have found an article by David A. John which details the reported amounts of precious metals taken from the ground in the Central Wasatch Mountain area, but again, nothing specifically noting what was taken out of White Pine Fork and over what period. It also notes that mining operations were conducted in the Wasatch area for over 100 years, beginning in 1862, a date that Keller has also used for the advent of mining activities in the region. The highlighted article above also details exploration and drilling activities for molybdenum in White Pine Fork during the 1960’s and 1970’s, but again, doesn’t mention anything about specific mining operations for the metal.
There is a solitary figure of a man in the below photograph…about one-third of the way up from the bottom, toward the right of center….
This mass of snow-covered hill (on the left) in the photo below is called “Red Baldy,” if I’m not mistaken…and most of the snow was melted on this front surface by the time I was leaving the lake.
Another shot to help with scale, there are two people in the below photograph, right at the juncture where the trail curves slightly back to the left near the bottom edge….
The water-level appears to be somewhere between 20 and 25 feet below the water-mark on the side of the basin. I haven’t included it in this post, but I have a photograph of a man standing on the shore and the line of the water- mark seems to be about four times higher than he is tall.
Even though the water is much lower, it still provides a beautiful reflection….
I spent a couple of hours searching for anything that could shed some light on the history of the dam, but could only find one very brief reference to it being built in 1920…and then nothing else. The topic isn’t covered in Keller’s book, as it intentionally details the history of the three-canyon area only up to the first decade or so of the 1900’s. Where he does step further into the next century, it appears to be auxiliary information related to the culmination or end-points of topics that have been covered extensively.
Just out of frame at the bottom right-hand corner of the below photo is the grate that covers the exit portal/drain in the wall of the dam. The water-level appears to be just below the bottom edge of the drain…so I don’t know if the water had been released from the lake, or if it was truly that low because of the much lighter snowfall this past winter. I’ve shared photographs of other lakes with greatly diminished water-levels this year, including The Great Salt Lake…so I’d guess that this one is lower for the same reason.
This last photograph is from my post White Pine Lake in September from 2011. You can see by this photo that the water-level was much higher at the time. If you’d like to see more images of the lake from that earlier visit, simply click on the highlighted name to follow the link back to the post. The difference in the lake’s appearance between the two years is incredible.
Please watch for a following post titled, “White Pine Lake Reflections”…coming soon….
You might remember a similar photo from a recent post…. Sometimes things look as beautiful, yet strikingly different, in black and white…they simply do.
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….
We had started our Saturday morning exploring downtown, looking at murals and talking about what they meant, my little one and I. After getting a bite to eat, he asked if we could take a drive into the mountains…magical words to my mountain-yearning soul. We drove to the end of Big Cottonwood Canyon and pulled over at Guardsman Pass…where the road turns to dirt for a mile or so and then leads to Park City. We have been on the road before, but had never stopped there for longer than a few minutes…and I had never hiked the trails leading away from the pull-out, either. My little one asked if we could go for a hike…and as we didn’t have a back-pack with snacks and water, I told him that we would just go for a little bit of a walk, but nothing too long. We were on the trail for maybe ten minutes when we saw water sparkling ahead of us. As I had never been there before, I didn’t know what lake or body of water it might be. Earlier in the week, I had mentioned that we might go to Silver Lake, down in American Fork Canyon…and as coincidence would have it, the little lake we found also happened to be named Silver Lake…rather, it was one of three small lakes/ponds that are part of what is labeled as “Silver Islets” on our map of the three main canyons in our Wasatch Front.
I don’t remember the sensation or feeling of having been there before, when I was actually there and lakeside, but when I look back at these pictures, I can’t help feeling that I’ve seen this place somewhere in my past. Upon further reflection, though, what comes to mind are images that I remember seeing in my mind’s eye when I read E. Annie Proulx’s, “The Shipping News.” The rocky shorelines of White Pine Lake remind me of what I imagined the coastline of Newfoundland to look like. Anyway…it was a cloudy day and the dark blue-green and steel of the water seem to offer a beautiful complement to the steel and white and gray of the cloudy mountain sky…and vice versa…or something like that.