Motorized Vehicle Use on Lake Beds Can Lead to Citations

Motorized vehicle tracks not only damage the lakebed but can be an issue for the entire ecosystem

SALT LAKE CITY – Due to the decreasing water levels at Great Salt Lake, there has been increased attention surrounding the lake, leading to increased visitors. With an uptick in visitors to the lake, state land managers want to remind the public of the rules surrounding the use of state sovereign lands. 

Over the last few weeks, law enforcement officers have seen more visitors driving motorized vehicles on the exposed lake bed of Great Salt Lake.

For land managers, this raises serious concerns.

“Driving on the lakebed doesn’t just disturb the delicate crust, but it also has serious implications for wildlife, air quality, and the sensitive GSL ecosystem,” said Ben Stireman, Sovereign Lands Program Administrator for the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Utah Code Section 65A-2-3.2p states that anyone, without written permission, operating a motor vehicle on the bed of a navigable lake is guilty of a class B misdemeanor and is also liable for civil damages.

Driving on the lake bed also damages the delicate crust and contributes to the dust problem along the Wasatch Front during a wind event. This dust impacts the air quality for many residents and visitors of northern Utah.  

Vehicles can also get stuck in the soft mud that has not been able to harden and dry, making a recovery difficult and causing even more damage to the lake bed.  

Sovereign Lands in Utah,

Utah recognizes and declares that the beds of navigable lakes and rivers are owned by the state and are among its basic resources.  

The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands oversees the management and regulates the use of these lands for the public’s health, interest, safety, and welfare.  

The state currently manages the following as sovereign lands:

  • Great Salt Lake
  • Utah Lake
  • Jordan River
  • Bear Lake (Utah portion, special rules for driving on the lakebed apply to Bear Lake)
  • Bear River (portions)
  • Colorado River (portions)
  • Green River (portions)
  • Moab Exchange Lands