When it’s hot as hell we all like to find cool water. From our myriad of lakes and reservoirs to out rivers around the state, people love to swim, boat, paddleboard and kayak especially now that a really harsh winter has almost melted away. There’s one waterway many of us don’t think about-the Jordan River with its Jordan River Parkway connecting 45 miles from Utah Lake to the Salt Lake Fairgrounds. Yet the earliest known people in the state, from Native Tribes to Mormon pioneers knew the river intimately as a source for irrigation.
The Jordan began as a cold-water fishery with 13 native species including the Bonneville cutthroat trout, it later turned into a warm-water fishery with mostly the common carp fish swimming in its waters. It is the only outlet for the waters from Utah Lake. Sadly, the river was a catch-all for sewage from settlers and later industry waste like from the Geneva Steel smelter where Vineyard in Utah County is now located and in the 1960’s Utah Lake and the river was a stinking mess. Yet citizens cried out and sewage treatment began and with help from the Feds Clean Water Act and monies from the Superfund it got cleaner and cleaner.
Nowadays the Jordan River is much cleaner and is a destination place for many as there are now many boat ramps and parks along the waterway as well as a wonderful, paved pathway. The Jordan River Commission has a great website that shows the addresses of all the current boat ramps from Utah County to Salt Lake County. The helpful site jordanrivercommission.com offers videos about paddling along the river, hints for self-guided and group paddle trips and where to sign up for Utah Outdoors bicycle trips alongside the waterway as well as paddle trips in the water. The Commission is also going to lead guided paddles weekly during September as part of the “Get To the River Festival”.
The most recent boat ramp just opened up at Pioneer Crossing Park in West Valley at 1272 W. 3300 South (just east of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center) last week and to the joy of many suffering from the July heatwave it was great to slip into the river and enjoy a cooler temp along the banks and under the trees and brush alongside it. Alongside the ramp there is a park with a small playground and places to sit that will be expanded to an even larger park soon.
I have to laugh at people who look at Utah Lake and the Jordan River as a ‘no-go’ because the water looks polluted and is almost white in color. The water in Utah Lake sits over a white/gray clay bed which makes the waters murky. Although no one is encouraged to swim in the Jordan, you can rent kayaks through the commission to enjoy this wonderful waterway.