The parking lot was already mostly full when my son and I arrived at the trailhead, but that was okay, as we/I prefer to park just off the road in the canyon…it’s easier to leave that way…hours later when the hordes of people are milling about with their comings and goings…. Aside from simply driving up into the canyon, one of the first wonderful things about this particular trail is the bridge crossing over the Big Cottonwood Canyon stream. Whatever the month or season of the year, it’s an almost magical, soul-moving experience to stand on the bridge or next to the rushing stream, watching the water make its way down-canyon. This photo shows the crush of the snow-melt…those billions of flakes that have returned to their primal form, filtered through the mountain’s soils and rocks and the vegetation’s roots…and now come at last to the stream-bed where they will be carried away and out into the city below.
Can you hear it…the rushing liquid surge that sounds like a a storm of wind in the high trees…can you feel the chilled air rushing with it down the canyon and into your face…enveloping your body…marveling your mind…soothing your soul…?
It had been more than three years since I had hiked this path, and being honest with myself, I had forgotten how steep the trail was at times…had forgotten how the faces looked of the people struggling up it as I had come down it on my many returns over the years…. It was the roughest hike I had made in quite some time…and one that didn’t use to be such a challenge.
Wonderful life in its simpler forms…the magic of a coming transformation found along the trail.
We’re not there yet, but this is one of the first glimpses of Sundial Peak as viewed from down the canyon…with the brilliant greens of the new summer growth, the patches of snow still extant on the east-facing slopes of the surrounding mountains, and the white trail of the stream that I know is running in its fullness as it drains from Lake Lillian.
Still on the approach, we can see Dromedary Peak to the right and the “Play Doh” like red rock in the foreground whose surfaces were smoothed by the passing of ancient glaciers many millions of years ago….
Looking over those smooth red rocks and back down the canyon in the photo below.
Getting even closer now, preparing for the final ascent up to the flat land before the lake…with a couple of hikers for near perspective.
I never made it up to the top of Sundial Peak during my years of living in the Salt Lake valley, but it was always something I wanted to do…something that I thought I would get to do on some weekend jaunt up there when those mountains were in my every-day…when they were a steadfast part of my eastward view.
The clouds were alive and moving with the strong breezes and winds that blew through our morning up at the lakes…constantly causing shadows to move over the water and mountain peaks….
Below is the view further to the west of the above images…where we can see the breached dam a the far end of Lake Blanche…
…and we know that the water continues down to Lake Florence and Lake Lillian…seen below in their descending order…stair-steps of cascading wonder….
We didn’t have sufficient time to explore for hours and hours like we did the first time my son and I made the trip up here in 2011…but the reward at the end of our hike up there was rich enough in itself to have made the entire effort worthwhile.
Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak in memory form.
Thank you for being here….
One could probably say that I’ve been guilty of overdoing things with my posts on Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak, so I’ll keep this one to a bare minimum and only post one photo from my most recent trip…although it’s been more than three years since I have been able to make the hike up there, so I should probably lay it on thick and post something like 20 or more photos…. Anyway, here’s the postcard image with the little people included so you can appreciate the grandness of the place….
If you’re relatively new to the blog, you can start here in viewing other posts on the lake and it’s surrounding area…or you can scroll down a little bit past this post, find the “Search” widgit, and enter “Lake Blanche” or “Sundial Peak” into that feature to be presented with a veritable list of options for seeing more of the place.
You might remember the lake from last year when I did the posts on the Sister Lakes of the Wasatch Mountains. You can click on “Sister Lakes – Lake Florence” to learn more about this lake. The earlier post also has links to the other Sister Lakes if you’re interested in the more complete history of the area.
This is an early-June, 2013 photograph of one of the iconic mountains that provide a backdrop to the Sister Lakes in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Found at the terminus of the drainage or tributary canyon, Mill B South, it is a frequent site and common reference when trying to orient one’s self while hiking in this area of Big Cottonwood Canyon. If you’d like to see other images of Dromedary Peak, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and type its name in the search widget to be provided with a list of other posts that contain photos from other seasons.
This particular location is found just down from the drainage at the lower and west end of Lake Lillian, one of the Sister Lakes in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah.
A few months ago, I hiked up Porter Fork from its trail-head in Millcreek Canyon, essentially did the loop or horseshoe-shaped trail around Mt. Raymond, and then went down Bowman Fork back to its trail-head in Millcreek Canyon. Near the base of Mt. Raymond, which is technically on the north side of Big Cottonwood Canyon and faces south, you can see into the other drainages or tributary canyons that lie perpendicular and head in a southerly direction from Big Cottonwood Canyon, which runs east and west; I hope all of that makes sense. At any rate, you can see Twin Peaks (11,330/11,328 ft) near the top center of this image…the drainage that is down and slightly to the left of the peaks is Broads Fork…and if you take the ridge-line to the left, you might notice Dromedary Peak (11,107 ft) as the last prominence…which you might remember is just above and to the right/west of Lake Blanche and the other Sister Lakes…and lie in the drainage called, Mill B South. When I’m out hiking, I always find it fascinating to encounter new views or perspectives of the places I’ve visited in the mountains and canyons…such wonderful and beautiful places…..
To see more images of Twin Peaks, Broads Fork, Dromedary Peak, and Lake Blanche, you can scroll down and utilize the “Search” feature near the end of the page to locate several posts about those subjects.
I think it rather looks like a pencil drawing…but this is the image, essentially right out of the camera…I have only cropped and framed it…not messed with the color in the least. If you’d like a summer comparison, you can click these words to be taken back to an earlier post that shared images from July, 2012.
This is one of the last photos from my trips up to the Sister Lakes this past summer…haven’t made it up there yet to capture images of the place under three and four feet of snow….
I was searching through my photo files a little while ago and came across this image of a couple on the hills over Lake Florence in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. While this image is strikingly different, it reminded me of a post by Adrian Chillbrook at his site, Cornwall – A Photographic Journey. Adrian shared this photo of a couple standing at the top of Helman Tor for a weekly photo challenge with the topic of “silhouette.” The beauty and drama of color and light in his photograph are characteristic of much of Adrian’s work…if you haven’t visited him already, I hope you’ll do so…spend some time traveling over Adrian’s island home of Cornwall…participating in the beauty that he has captured for us in photo-form.
This is the third and final post in the Sister Lakes series. It’s a bit longer than the earlier posts, too, as it has a handful of photos from July of 2011 that demonstrate a higher water level and another few photos dedicated to the dam, which I feel is a significant part of the related landscape. If you’d like to visit the posts on Lake Blanche and Lake Florence, you can click on their highlighted names and be taken back to them. In those earlier posts, I described how these naturally formed lakes were dammed back in the early 1900’s so that their water resources could be preserved and then released to the Salt Lake Valley as they were needed during the later summer seasons for irrigation and other purposes. The dams were breached in 1972, once again allowing the water from the winter seasons’ snow-melt to flow down into the valley unabated…where coincidentally, much of it is then captured from the waters of the Big Cottonwood Stream and used by the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. The portion that isn’t used is allowed to flow into the Jordan River, which then flows into the Great Salt Lake at the far north-west corner of the Salt Lake Valley.
The first image is actually the drainage from Lake Florence that leads into Lake Lillian…so this is the drainage or waterway leading from the higher lake down into the lower one. I’ve mentioned in the comment section on the Lake Florence post that, while these are not man-made lakes, they were modified with dams and outlets that caused the snow-melt waters to be captured and then diverted from the higher lakes directly to the lower lakes, and then down into the natural drainage (stream) that leads all the way back down into Big Cottonwood Canyon from this tributary canyon, Mill B South. Before the dams were built, the water from the snow-melt simply drained from the surrounding mountain-sides and was captured in the lakes…as the level of the water rose above the natural rims of the lakes, it simply overflowed into channels that it had made over time…and naturally made its way from one lake to the next and then down into the larger drainage that led down into the canyon. If you haven’t yet visited the other posts, understand that Lake Blanche is the largest lake and at the highest elevation of the three. Its waters flow downhill, maybe 200 yards, and into the medium-sized Lake Florence…and then a little further down in elevation, and probably less than 100 yards, to the smaller Lake Lillian.
One of the most appealing characteristics of Lake Lillian, in my opinion, is the setting in which it is found…right up next to the magnificent rocks of the ridge below Dromedary Peak, in the above photo. I’ve spent several hours hiking around the lake on different occasions and absolutely love being there…it’s a visual feast of colors and textures…. If you were to be standing at the side of the lake (and facing the lake) in the above photo and simply turn a little to the left, you would behold the view in the below photograph. The massive rock on the left side of the photo is the side-view of Sundial Peak…which you can see more extensively in the Lake Blanche post.
I took the below photograph while standing directly beneath the three dark trees near the left-center of the above photo…so between the two images, we’re able to see the perspectives afforded from each side of the lake…if a round-ish lake can be said to have two sides, that is….
The prominence of Sundial Peak seems to lend itself to being in more images than one might intend…the above photo was taken to the right-side of Lake Lillian, directly below Dromedary Peak and looking toward the east, which is back toward Sundial Peak…and the below image is from the north shore of the lake and looking south-east…again at the magnificent Sundial Peak….
The below photo was taken below and outside of the dam, looking down the drainage and back out into Big Cottonwood Canyon. When there is more water in the lake, this area is a bit of a chute and creates an impressive waterfall…which you can see in the fifth photo below….
The next four photographs were taken in July, 2011…exactly one year earlier than the other photos…and after a winter season that had record amounts of snowfall for our Wasatch Mountains. Aside from the difference provided by the presence of the snow, you can tell that the level of the water is significantly higher than it is in the other photos.
The water was right at the breach-point in the dam…and flowing wonderfully from the lake, creating crazy waterfalls on the other side….
Compare the water level in the above photo to what you can see in the fourth photo below…that’s quite a difference.
This is only one section of the magnificent falls created by the abundance of water flowing from the lake….
The last set of photos is of the dam itself. As I mentioned in the first paragraph of the post, I feel that it is a significant element in the visual presentation of Lake Lillian’s landscape. While it is obviously not a naturally occurring feature, it was crafted of native stone and still contains the textures and colors of the surrounding rocks and mountains.
My son is right about six feet tall…which means that the wall is probably more than 20 feet at its highest point…which we would find out-of-frame and to the left of the above photo.
So…the water is down, what…10-12 feet or more from the same time last year…?
The below photograph shows only a portion of the top and back-side of the dam…and you can also see a bit of Sundial Peak in the upper left-hand corner…and Dromedary Peak is a little beyond the upper right-hand corner….
And lastly, a significant portion of the back-side of the dam…with Sundial Peak in the background, of course…as it is nearly and wonderfully unavoidable when making photos in the area. I believe I mentioned it in the other two posts, as well, but the dams on the Sister Lakes were built and modified over the period of 1905-1934…. You can see different layers of rock in the above photos, maybe indicating separate phases of construction/modification. I would imagine that a significant portion of the dam was removed from the back-side when it was breached in 1972…or it has been carried away by the flowing waters of the past 40 years….
When I look at the front of the dam, I think it’s amazing that men built this by hand over 100 years ago…and when I look at the back-side of the dam, I think it’s freaking incredible…what an architectural and engineering feat…no, it’s not one of the pyramids of Egypt, but it’s still pretty fantastic.
I know this post was a bit long…but I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing in my adventures among the Sister Lakes in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. If you’re interested, the canyon itself is just south and east of Salt Lake City proper and is part of the Wasatch Mountains that comprise the eastern border of the greater Salt Lake Valley. It takes about a 4-5 mile drive into the canyon to come to the “Mill B South” trail-head, and then another roughly three miles of hiking (2-2.5 hours) with an elevation gain of about 2,600 ft to reach Lake Blanche. It only takes a few minutes to reach Lake Florence and Lake Lillian once you’ve reached Lake Blanche. Again, if you’d like to view the earlier two posts, you can click on the highlighted names of the lakes in the previous sentence to do so. Thank you for visiting…and for spending a bit of your time with me….
You might remember from my earlier post about Lake Blanche that there are three sister lakes situated in what has been referred to as the Hidden Valley…at the end of a drainage or tributary canyon, Mill B South, which extends off of Big Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
I think I’ve probably already provided as much of the interesting history of the area as I might, so the remainder of this post and the following one on Lake Lillian will be simply sharing the natural beauty of the area. You might recognize Dromedary Peak in the photo above from another earlier post…as you can see here, it provides an appealing backdrop for Lake Florence…and Lake Lillian, as well.
The above photograph shows another side of Sundial Peak, which you might have seen in a couple of other posts, but probably most significantly in the Lake Blanche post referred to earlier. The rocky and beautifully treed ridge above is what you would find between Lakes Blanche and Florence…and in the below photo (taken in July, 2011), you see the waterfall/drainage that leads from L. Blanche to L. Florence. With the greatly diminished snowfall this past winter season, there was very little water flowing between the lakes this year.
The next three photos are very similar, but demonstrate slightly different perspectives of Lake Florence and the rocky backdrop of Dromedary Peak. You might notice a couple of people toward the right side of the second photo below…I don’t know who those folks are, but they had camped at the location overnight and help to add a bit of dimension to the beautiful orange/red rocks that form a portion of the bowl for the lake.
As I mentioned in the Lake Blanche post, dams were built on each of the lakes to preserve a certain amount of water per year…water that was collected from the snow-melt that occurred each spring. The dams were built over a period of several years, started in 1905…completed in 1934…and then breached in 1972 when they were deemed no longer necessary.
If you look closely, you can see a small portion of Lake Lillian…right behind the skinny finger of a dead tree immediately to the left of the dam…on the far left side of the above photo.
For those who are interested, the trail that leads to the Sister Lakes is approximately three miles/4.8 km in length and has an elevation gain of about 2,600 ft/792 meters, with Lake Blanche being at about 8,900 ft/2,713 m and Lake Florence, 200 yards/183 meters to the west at 120 feet/37 meters lower. Sundial Peak is measured at 10,320 ft/3,146 m, Dromedary Peak is at 11,107 ft/3,385 m. The entire Sister Lakes area falls within several thousands of acres that are designated as the Twin Peaks Wilderness Area, which is part of the Wasatch National Forest.
Aside from the beautiful reflection of the ridge in the above photo, you can also see where the waterfall is missing (mentioned in regard to photo #3) in the rocky cleft near the middle of the image.
Wildflowers on the little ridge behind the dam on the far west side of the lake…I checked six on-line resources and can’t identify them properly, but I’m guessing that they’re from somewhere in the Sunflower family….
Similar images, above and below, but from different perspectives….
I’ve included this last photo from July, 2011, so you can see Lake Florence with a bit more water in it…and with a nice snow-patched mountain back-drop…you can also see Lake Lillian in the background.
I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting Lake Florence in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. The next post in the series will focus on Lake Lillian, the smallest of the Sister Lakes in the Hidden Valley area of Mill B South, in Big Cottonwood Canyon….
The Sister Lakes are situated near the end of a drainage or tributary canyon that is referred to as “Mill B South” in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The canyon is one of three prominent canyons in the Wasatch Mountains that provide the eastern boundary of the Salt Lake Valley…and all of the canyons are part of the Wasatch National Forest.
On a technical note, all of the photographs in the post were taken between about 10:00 and 12:30 on two bright, sunny days that were about two weeks apart. I don’t have any filters for my camera, so you’ll notice that most of the clouds are a bit over-exposed. I had thought that there was an adjustment to +/- the exposures, but…I was mistaken. At any rate, I processed each of the photos with Picasa in an attempt to lessen the effect of the harsh light, sharpen the images, and to bring the colors back to what they were when I saw them that morning…and as you’ll see, also gave one or two of them a different finish. I hope you enjoy them.
The below image is of Sundial Peak over Lake Blanche….
The drainage has had this name since 1855 when construction of the saw mill was undertaken. It is my understanding that this mill, and other mills so named with letters of the alphabet, was initially owned by the Big Cottonwood Lumber Company…which was owned by one of Brigham Young’s sons and a few other people. As each mill was built in the canyon, it was given the next letter in the alphabet…but that doesn’t mean that they proceeded in alphabetical order as they progressed upwards in the canyon. The image in the below photo is from just left of Sundial Peak…I suppose that would be to the east.
If anyone is interested enough to search for Big Cottonwood Canyon on Google Earth, you will be able to find Mill B South on the right-hand side of the very distinct “S” in the road that is about 4-5 miles up into the canyon.
If you find that “S” in the road, just to the right of it will be a parking lot…on the upper (east) side of the parking lot, you will find the trailhead for Lake Blanche. On the lower (west) side, you will find the trailhead for Broads Fork…which you might remember from two posts back in July. The area in the below photo is to the right, or west, of Sundial Peak…and that little hump you can see near the middle is actually Dromedary Peak.
If you’re not familiar with the settling of the Salt Lake City area, I’ll provide very briefly that Brigham Young and his Mormon followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in roughly July, 1847. I say roughly, because some folks arrived shortly before he did and many others continued to arrive for years afterward…from all parts of the country…and many parts of the globe.
The below photo shows the area a little more to the right of Dromedary Peak, and from a different perspective than the above shot. And yes, that wall is a dam that was breached after several years of the lake(s) being used as reservoirs for the Salt Lake Valley’s water supply. More on that subject in a bit….
After the pioneers and other settlers ravaged the forests in Millcreek Canyon, which is much closer to the early city center, they moved south and into Big Cottonwood Canyon to harvest what they might of the ancient forest that lived there, untouched by anything other than Nature’s hand. Some of the journals and notes from those loggers and saw-mill operators document pine and fir trees with diameters of three and four, and up to six feet across…huge trees.
If you’d like some perspective with the below photo, there are two people close to that igloo-shaped rock that is about 1/3 of the way up from the lower left corner…and again, this is the area to the left of Sundial Peak.
So…the area at the end of the Mill B South drainage has been called Hidden Valley…and in that valley are three lakes (referred to as the Three Sisters), Lake Blanche, Lake Florence, and Lake Lillian. The first lake that you come to at the end of approximately three miles of hiking is L. Blanche…and a few more minutes of hiking will take you to the other two lakes that I will feature in the next two posts in this series. The Hidden Valley has been a favored recreational hiking area since at least the 1880s. Two artist friends who frequented the area named L. Blanche after a mutual friend and the other two lakes after their daughters.
By the way, all of the historical information provided in this and the next two posts can be found in Charles L. Keller’s book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket.
The above and below photos were taken from the far side of the lake, from the shoreline just inside of the wall by the dam.
You have no doubt noticed the wall/dam in the fifth and ninth photos…and will see additional dams in photos for the other lakes that will be featured in this series. In 1905, the Brown and Sanford Irrigation Company applied to the US Forest Service to appropriate a certain amount of water from the drainage stream in Mill B South Fork. It took three years for the approval to be granted and another two years for the dam to be completed. Two years later, the company applied to raise the wall and double the storage capacity of the reservoir…. Evidently, this was quite an undertaking and the company had to apply to the forest service officials repeatedly to grant more and more time to complete the project. When the irrigation company had exhausted the time that the official could legally grant, they had to bring the issue to federal court…twice, each time being granted another four years’ time to complete the project. Finally, in 1934, the dam was finished.
Before the original wall/dam was built, when the snow-melt waters overwhelmed the natural holding capacity of the lake’s basin, the water spilled from its edges and eventually found its way into the stream that leads down the drainage and into the larger Big Cottonwood Canyon Stream. When the dam was being built, the engineers provided a spillway course that led from L. Blanche to L. Florence, and then to L. Lillian…that caused each lake/reservoir to be filled before the excess was directed into the drainage that led down the canyon. Over the years, Salt Lake City purchased the water rights from the federal government…and eventually the reservoirs were no longer needed to store surplus waters…and the dams were breached…that was in 1972.
My son actually made this next photo (below) with his cell-phone….
And just for fun, the next two photos are from July of 2011…they show a water level that is much higher than this year, due to record snow-fall in the mountains during the winter of 2010-2011.
Next in the series is Lake Florence…maybe you’ve seen enough of Sundial Peak by now….
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.
The earlier two posts, On the wall, and On the wall, too, were taken 13 months after this picture. This one is from July, 2011…after a winter/spring with record snowfall in our Wasatch Mountains…and the two earlier photographs were from August, 2012…after a winter/spring with much less snow.
Just for fun, I found this website that maintains snowfall records for Alta, Utah (at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon, at 8,530 ft elevation)…which is just over the ridge and up the road a couple of miles from where this picture was taken at Lake Lillian, at approximately 8,900 feet elevation, in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The snow season of November, 2010 to April, 2011 had 723.5 inches of the white stuff and the snow season of November, 2011 to April, 2012 had 390.5 inches. I guess that explains why there was still so much snow on the mountains in July, 2011, as opposed to no snow at the same location this year.
The wall-walker in this photo is Son #2…it was Son #3 in the two earlier posts.