Pioneers Made Their Initial Boat Trip on Utah Lake in 1847.
The presence of warlike Utes in Utah Valley helped convince the Mormon pioneers to settle in Salt Lake Valley in 1847. However, the newcomers did not lose interest in Utah Valley and its large freshwater lake.
On July 26, just two days after Brigham Young’s entrance into the Great Basin, he ordered workmen to construct a boat, Young planned to use this craft to explore the Great Salt Lake, the Jordan River, and Utah Lake (where men intended to try their luck at fishing).
The pioneer shipbuilders began work on a lightweight, flat bottomed skiff. This type of boat could easily be transported and could sail in shallow water. Workmen finished the boat on August 11. The very next day a small group of five anxious men loaded the skiff onto a wagon and started south to Utah Lake to explore and fish.
When these explorers reached the Point of the Mountain, they looked down its steep southern slope and decided not to go any further. The men were reasonably sure they could get the wagon and boat down the hill, but they worried that they could not get it back to the summit. The disappointed men launched the boat in the Jordan River and floated back to Salt Lake City.
It was the end of November after they had finished sowing their wheat that the pioneers made a second effort to launch the boat on Utah Lake. Parley P. Pratt and John S. Higbee led this expedition, and they took sufficient oxen to pull the boat up steep hills. It was December 1, 1847, when this group launched the first Mormon boat on Utah Lake.
The men explored the west side of the lake where there were fewer Indians and tried their fishing nets with limited success. They caught only a few trout. After spending several days on the lake, the men returned to Salt Lake Valley. Luckily, they avoided a confrontation with the Indians.
This marker is #35 in a series, see the others on this page.
Two young men from Provo, Hewitt Strong and Elmer Smith, spent much of their free time hunting, fishing, swimming, and boating on Utah Lake. They dreamed of operating a large showboat on the lake. In 1931, they accumulated enough money to begin turning their dream into a reality.
The two men selected a flat construction site near the Provo River south of where Utah Lake State Park now stands. They bought lumber, assembled their hand tools, and with the help of their friends, began construction of a flat bottomed boat ninety feet long and twenty-two feet wide. The large craft could operate in water twelve or fourteen inches deep.
Twin Buick straight-eight engines propelled the boat, and a gas generator provided electricity. The boat contained a spacious, enclosed dance floor and stage, a kitchen, and two bathrooms, which drained into the lake. Above the dance floor stood a large, open observation deck.
The S.S. (Smith-Strong) Sho-Boat provided numerous chartered cruises. Many of these customers ate catered dinners and enjoyed various types of entertainment on-board. A regular Sunday cruise took customers to Bird Island near the south end of the lake. The kitchen served hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, soft drinks, candy, and gum.
Insurance costs gradually increased through the years, and the owners worried about how much longer their craft would last. In 1946, they beached the big craft near it’s construction site, and the long career of the Sho-Boat came to an end.
A Curious Craft Once Skimmed the Ice on Utah Lake.
A homemade sleigh-boat once skimmed across the frozen surface of Utah Lake. Hewitt Strong and Elmer Smith, two young, mechanically inclined enthusiasts of Utah Lake, constructed the strange 18-foot-long craft. It consisted of a canvas-covered frame forming a helicopter-like body that was mounted on a sturdy set of steel runners. A glass windshield gave the driver a clear view of the course ahead and two small, round porthole-like windows gave passengers (the craft could carry give or six people) a glimpse of the frozen lake.
An 80-horsepower LeRhone airplane engine and propeller mounted on an elevated stand in front of the body provided the means of locomotion. The pilot steered the craft by using a third, movable runner and a large rudder that resembled the tail of an airplane. There was one major problem that made trips more exciting: the vehicle had no brakes.
The men took the curious craft for its first trip on Utah Lake in January, 1924. It reached speeds of approximately 60 miles per hour. The builders anticipated that under optimum conditions with no snow and smooth ice, it could achieve eighty miles per hour. Strong and Smith made four more trips to the frozen lake that year. When the roads were covered with snow, they drove their creation to the shore and onto the frozen surface of the lake. This doubtless scared many horses and startled many people they happened to pass on the way to the lake.
A reporter for the Deseret News covered one of their trips to the lake. When he asked Hewitt the name of the strange vehicle, the young Provo man replied, “Damned if I know.” From that response, the reporter christened the craft the Dami-phi-no,” and the name stuck. During the summer, the owners attached pontoons to the rails and sailed their creation on open water.
After several seasons, the novelty of the curious craft, as well as its canvas, wore thin, and the men to the “Dami-phi-no” in mothballs, awaiting its inevitable salvage.
Utah Lake was one of the natural resources that attracted Mormon pioneers to the Great Basin. The lake’s waters provided a home for thirteen species of fish, the most commercially useful of which were the Bonneville cutthroat trout, several types of sucker, and the chub. Most of the native species are now gone, and the fish so numerous in the lake today, including the carp, have been introduced by man.
Just thirty years after settlement in 1849, over-fishing and poor conservation had drastically reduced the number of trout, the lake’s most desirable fish. Those interested in fishing began looking for a good game and commercial fish to replace it. Newspaper articles told how people in Europe had successfully raised carp. Fish farmers touted carp as a good table fish and a profitable cash crop.
Carp were imported to North America in 1870, and the recent completion of the transcontinental railroad made it possible to ship the fish inland. Carp came to Utah in 1881. The next year, three men introduced carp to Utah County, and carp fingerlings soon found their way into Utah Lake where they flourished.
Unfortunately, the fish have been detrimental to the lake’s ecology. Carp have rooted out or eaten the plants that once grew on the bottom of the lake. This reduced the cover where young game fish could hide. Fewer plants also make it easier for wave action to stir up the sediment on the bottom of the lake and make the water murky. Bodily wastes from the vast number of carp increase the nutrients in the water and encourage the growth of algae on the lake’s surface during hot weather.
A concerted effort over the years to decrease the number of carp in the lake uses large nets to remove them. The ecology of the lake improves with less carp. Keeping them under control is an ongoing program.
During the 1940s, ice skating flourished on what was then called the Provo Boat Harbor (Utah Lake State Park). Before there was a harbor, however, there were very few safe places to skate on the lake.
In an effort to keep skaters out of harm’s way, Provo City and the federal government’s Works Progress Administration cooperated to open an ice skating rink in the old baseball park that once stood on the land now occupied by the Provo City Recreation Center.
In November, 1938, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts of America, and BYU’s Associated Men Students sponsored activities to help raise money for the construction of the temporary rink. The Jaycees sponsored a work day where leveling and banking were completed, and men flooded the rink, which measures approximately 400 by 600 feet.
Men sprinkled water on the rink every night for the remainder of the cold season. Laborers hung roughly 2,000 square yards of canvas over the ice to help protect it from the sun. Warm weather delayed the opening of the rink, but authorities finally sanctioned a limited opening of the outside facility to “children only” on December 14, 1938, and 300 kids attended. Ballpark lights illuminated the rink at night.
Children monopolized the rink until a grand opening on January 3, 1939. Provo City gathered Christmas trees and placed them around the ice to make the rink look “realistic.” So many patrons attended that evening schedules were divided into an early session for those age 12 and under, and a later session for those over 12. A public address system provided music for the skaters.
Children under 15 years old were admitted free. All others paid 10 cents. Skaters could check their shoes for an additional 5 cents. These fees helped pay for lighting and sprinkling expenses. The rink closed on February 23, 1939. It opened again for the next two winters and then was discontinued when safe skating became available on the partially completed Provo Boat Harbor. During its short history, over 23,000 skaters used the rink in North Park.
Utah Lake is a shallow freshwater lake in the U.S. state of Utah. It lies in Utah Valley, surrounded by the Provo-Orem metropolitan area. The lake’s only river outlet, the Jordan River, is a tributary of the Great Salt Lake. Evaporation accounts for 42% of the outflow of the lake, which leaves the lake slightly saline. The elevation of the lake is legally at 4,489 feet above sea level. If the lake elevation goes any higher, the pumps and gates on the Jordan River are left open.(From Wikipedia)
Lincoln Beach is a Utah County Park. It’s along the Southern side of Utah Lake near Palmyra and West Mountain. Lake Road takes you around to Genola.
The history of the area known as Lincoln Beach following the settlement of Utah Valley is somewhat enigmatic. Prior to the arrival of the pioneer settlers, Lincoln Beach was a frequent haunt of Native American Indians who harvested fish from these shores. Some of their petroglyphs can still be found in the hills above us. What other puzzle pieces we do have lead us to believe that it was named after former President Abraham Lincoln. Furthermore, there have been a series of business ventures over the years attempting to transform this rocky shoreline into a lakeside resort offering hot water health spas, swimming pools, dance halls, and refreshment areas. While these were popular attractions, it was probably Lincoln Beach’s distance from the population centers of the Valley that led to their demise. With little more than horse and buggy, Lincoln Beach was a long, dusty ride for most.
Lincoln Beach’s modern history is said to begin around 1889 when John Hallet took settlement money from a mining accident and invested in the construction of a home and dance hall on a site a few hundred yards north of here. The remains of that original block house can still be seen. A few years later owing to his physical handicaps, Hallet leased the dance hall to Eric Nielson, a local orchestra leader. That arrangement, which lasted about two years, ended when Hallet sold his resort to Hyrum Argyle. Argyle’s vision and finances built a six or seven room motel for overnight guests, plus a swimming pool and a bath house. Using the naturally occurring hot springs, Argyle’s resort boasted a number of fun attractions, but again, its location apparently did not bring the people in. Argyle eventually relocated many of the resort’s buildings, such as the dance hall, to his home in Lake Shore where paying customers had less of a distance to travel.
In 1915, a Spanish Fork resident by the name of Henry Fernstein (or Fernsten) began developing anew the Lincoln Beach area. He poured his money into a cement swimming pool and piped in the lake’s hot springs water. Dressing rooms were added, the other amenities reopened, trees were planted and Lincoln Beach would again blossom, however, Fernstein disappeared without a trace with work left undone.
Through the years, Lincoln Beach has remained a part of Utah County’s history, and not always in the most favorable light. Due to this areas unique geology, let’s just say a number of people have drowned. During the winter months when Utah Lake often freezes, the ice surrounding the hot springs and Rock Island (Bird Island) is deceptively thin, plus some of the lake’s deepest points are not far from this shore.
Now, another era is beginning. Utah County Parks with the assistance and cooperation of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has invested a good portion of its resources into making this Utah Lake shore attractive once again. Although a large scale resort similar to the dreams of days gone by is unlikely, Utah County hopes to insure that the memories here live on and that new ones can be made for those who choose to visit.
Photos Top to Bottom: Jack Mitchell and friends count their day’s catch of fish. The Fernstein sons near Dad’s resort and posing at the cement pool. Hot springs can be seen pouring into the cement pool. At left: The Argyles. Far left: The remains of Hallets original 1889 stone walled home. Photos courtesy of Mattie Barney Cornaby.
Utah Lake’s history could be traced back tens of thousands of years when, according to archeological evidence, our little body of water here was part of the great Bonneville Lake, a giant inland sea.
Today, we’ve been left with an offspring of that prehistoric body of water. Fed by several tributaries as well as subterranean sources, Utah Lake may be showing its age. There are those experts that claim Utah Lake is nearing the end of its mortality. There are other experts that say Utah Lake still has many years left.
That there have been changes in the ecology of the lake since the arrival of the pioneer settlers is not disputable. The lake’s fish population has certainly changed with some species either endangered or no longer found, while other varieties have flourished since their introduction by man. Utah Lake’s chemistry may also be different than that first encountered by Parley P. Pratt in the late 1840’s.
Can Utah Lake still be an asset to Utah County and its diverse population? That you are reading this would seem to say “yes”.
And you are not alone. Several local government and private entities are evaluating and developing plans that will make Utah Lake more attractive and more user friendly. A plan as comprehensive as those being considered will take some time to put in place. It is the hope of Utah County government though that some day soon, we, together with a new generation, will be able to more fully enjoy this lake and all it has to offer.
Utah Lake boasts a surface area of approximately 133 square miles, or a hundred thousand surface acres. It is a shallow water lake with a maximum depth of about 16 feet, but an average depth of around 10 feet. Utah Lake offers marinas, boat launches, fishing, skiing, and serves as trail heads for both the Provo and Jordan River parkways.
Utah Lake has been a source of food and recreation for as long as man has inhabited this region. Some fish varieties include catfish, bass, bluegill, carp, walleye, and an occasional trout.
Several resorts once dotted the shoreline of Utah Lake including here at Lincoln Beach. There were others near Provo and where Saratoga Springs now thrives. Around 1891, a regular boat trip for both passenger and freight service was established between Provo and the Tintic area. Early valley residents recognized that Utah Lake holds many opportunities. And now with fresh eyes, it is hoped that these might be revisited.