For many visitors, Bear Lake is famous for its pristine blue waters in the summers and miles of snowmobile trails in the winter. However, this area also has wonders that are not as easily seen unless you lace up your hiking boots and venture off the paved roads.
Bloomington Lake is one such wonder. The main lake is situated near the crest of the mountains above Bloomington. The lake itself is at an elevation of 8,200 feet above sea level. At some point in the history of the Bear River Mountains, glaciers covered the peaks, steepening the headwalls of the canyons, deepening the stream canyons, sharpening peaks, and creating several lakes.
One of the easiest glacial features for most people to recognize is called a cirque. Cirques are formed by constant plucking action of the glacier, which eventually steepens the back of the basin while rounding out the floor. Frequently, small moraine dams or bedrock walls will hold back water in the bottom of the basin to form a tiny lake. Such is the case with Blooming Lake.
The first official exploration of the lake came in August of 1905, although people had probably visited this natural wonder on their own before that time. The group, headed by the Bear Lake County Assessor, traveled by horse and buggy and then walked in the last half mile.
After camping overnight just above the lake, the group spent the day swimming, playing and exploring. At one point, homemade ice cream was produced from the snow that was still plentiful in the glacier near where they had camped. For some unexplained reason, this lake had never been officially named, even though it was known to be the headwaters of beautiful Bloomington Creek. It had been referred to as Little Bonneville Lake, Cold Lake, and High Lake, but no name had ever stuck.
Those in this first official exploration group decided it was time to christen the lake. Some say they took a bottle of water, pushed a raft into the lake, and while ceremonially pouring the water, christened it Bloomington Lake.
Although different groups have tried to plant trout in the lake, few if any of the planted fish have ever survived. This could be due to the lack of food or to the extremely cold water temperatures. Bloomington Lake is the only high mountain lake in southeast Idaho. Although some have attempted to reach the parking area in their cars, the occasional muffler abandoned by the side of the road, which locals tease is slowly paving the way, convinces most to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle with plenty of ground clearance.
After a short trip up Bloomington Canyon Road, visitors park in a designated area and begin the quarter-mile hike to this tiny body of water.
The hike begins up a fairly steep hill, continues across a flat area, and up and down several more rolling areas before reaching a small lake. Although some may believe this beautiful water to be Bloomington Lake, it is only a prelude to the real event.
Those who travel quickly will reach the main lake faster than others, but they will miss much of the beauty inherent in the area. A short stop every few yards will allow lowlanders not only to catch their breath in this thinner atmosphere, but also to hear the grunting frosts that make this alpine lake their home.
Wildflowers abound, but their tiny petals can be easily missed by speed and demons. Although mosquitoes buzz constantly, looking for a meal and bothering every warm-blooded animal that comes into their range, without these small vampires the hundreds of dragonflies might go hungry.
As with all of nature, the beauty can be seen by those who slow down and allow themselves the time to experience it.
For first-time visitors, the awesome sight of the crystal-clear waters mirroring the steeply slanted glacier is one you’ll never forget. Due to the high elevation, the lake is often inaccessible until mid- to late-June, but throughout July and August the cooler temperatures refresh even the most sunburned hiker.
The glacier never fully melts, and in several places cold water cascades into the icy lake. The water is so still that you can actually watch the cutthroat trout chase insects around the log-strewn lake bottom. Those with ideas of taking a dip to cool off after their high mountain hike soon change their minds after feeling the shock of the 40-degree water.
Bring some water to drink, mosquito repellent, and plenty of color film when you make this journey. It will take more than a couple of hours to complete your tour, but it will be among your most vivid memories for the rest of your life.