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Pelican Lake

Pelican Lake (elevation 4800 feet) is a natural lake in the Uinta Basin southwest of Vernal, Utah. Historically, it is noted as a world class bluegill fishery. Pelican Lake has been dammed to impound and release water for irrigation, and water is diverted into the lake via the Ouray Park Canal from the Uinta River. The existing concrete dam was built in 1967, but the lake has been in use as a water storage facility for decades. Consumptive water use is limited to irrigation, and non-consumptive uses include warm water aquatic habitats, wetland habitat, and recreational uses.

Public access is unrestricted. The shoreline is managed by the BLM, the Bureau of Reclamation, and private ownership.

Pelican LakeWATERSHED:
Pelican Lake has a small, natural watershed consisting of Ouray Park, a flat agricultural area north of the lake. The park is bounded by gentle slopes that rise several hundred feet and become rolling hills. The land was originally extremely arid desert (6 - 8" annual precipitation), but diversion of water from the High Uintas have transformed the area into productive agricultural land.

The vegetation communities in the natural watershed include irrigated farmland, shadscale, greasewood, and sage-grass. The diverted watershed includes sage-grass, irrigated farmland, oak-maple, spruce-fir, aspen, pine, and alpine. The watershed receives 15-102 cm (6–40 inches) of precipitation annually. The frost-free season around the reservoir is 100-120 days per year.

The water quality of Pelican Lake is fair. The Utah State Division of Wildlife Resources reports that the bottom of Pelican Lake is covered with rooted aquatic vegetation, mostly Potamogeton and Scirpus, and the perimeter of the lake has mostly cattails and Typha, along the shore area.

The lake provides a productive warm water fishery (estimated Class II), rare in the Uintah Basin. Nationally known for trophy bluegill, this small reservoir, 1,680 surface acres when filled, also has largemouth bass (one to four pounds) and an underutilized bullhead fishery. Bluegills are easily caught and make a great kids fishery. Avid predators, bluegills are only limited by the size of their mouth so use small lures, flies, jigs and baits. Bass are also predators and their main diet is fish, crayfish and the occasional amphibian. Larger fish need a larger jig, crankbait or other lure but remember the lake is shallow so don’t attach extra weights. During the spring, try fishing open areas in and along the edges of the reeds for both species. As the summer progresses, both species will move more toward the edges and out into the deeper waters.

• Bluegill and green sunfish in the aggregate, limit 20.
• Bass limit 6; but only 1 bass larger than 15 inches.

Bluegill are shorter, deep-bodied fish, whose name comes from the dark flap over the gills. The body is olive-green with vertical bars, and some blue and orange may be present.  Bluegills can be caught by using worms or insects on a small hook, and will also take a small jig or fly.

Green Sunfish Catch-and-release record: 05/29/00; 10 1/2 in.; Jack Vincent.
Bluegill Catch-and-release record: 01/30/00; 11 1/4 in.; Lance Egan.

Green sunfish are brassy-green or blue-green on the back, sometimes with metallic-green Flecks and dusky bars on the sides. The flap over the gills is a dark color. This fish will strike at worms, bait or smaller artificial lures.

• Angling record: 2003; 0 lb. 15.5 oz.; L-10 1⁄4 in.; G–10 in.; Sean Buchanan; Glassman Pond
• Catch-and-Release record: 05/29/00; 10 1⁄2 in.; Jack Vincent; Pelican Lake


From Vernal take Highway 40 west approximately 15 miles to Junction 88.

From the junction follow SR-88 south for another 10 miles. 

At the top of the hill you can see Pelican Lake.

At the intersection at the bottom of the hill, turn right/west on 4500 South and then left/south on 14500 East.

Various farm roads provide access to other parts of the lake.

      What's in Pelican Lake?

     Largemouth Bass
      Largemouth Bass

Pelican Lake can be excellent for shorebirds, particularly in the spring, along with transient passerines during both spring and fall migration. 

As part of their global program to identify and conserve areas that are vital to birds and other biodiversity, The National Audubon Society has recognized Pelican Lake as an Important Bird Area.

Specialty birds: American White Pelican (fall); Bald Eagle (winter); Sandhill Crane (spring and fall); Lewis’s Woodpecker; Lazuli Bunting. Other key birds: Pied-billed, Horned, Eared, and Western Grebes; Double-crested Cormorant; American Bittern; Snowy Egret; Blackcrowned Night-Heron; White-faced Ibis; Turkey Vulture; Green-winged Teal; Northern Pintail; Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teals; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck (fall); Lesser Scaup (fall); Bufflehead (spring and fall); Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; Northern Harrier; Golden Eagle; Ring-necked Pheasant; Sora; Lesser Yellowlegs (spring); Willet; Spotted Sandpiper; Wilson’s Phalarope; Ring-billed and California Gulls; Forster’s and Black Terns; Common Nighthawk; Black-chinned and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds; Say’s Phoebe; Western Kingbird; Tree, Violet-green, Northern Rough-winged, and Barn Swallows; Black-billed Magpie; House and Marsh Wrens; Orange-crowned, Virginia’s, Yellow, and Yellow-rumped Warblers; Vesper, Lark, and Song Sparrows; American Goldfinch; Brewer’s Blackbird.

Fishing/ice fishing, boating, and hunting are popular activities at the lake. There is a camping area, vaulted restrooms, and a concrete boat ramp. Facilities are limited at the lake but the lake is in close proximity to Roosevelt and Vernal. In addition there is a convenience store and cafe located on the highway just to the northeast of the lake.

Waterskiing and swimming are not recommended due to the large amounts of algae and macrophytes present in the summer months. The lake is also very shallow.

• Day Limit (14)
• Primitive Camping

               Bird Watching
                    Bird Watching