When it's hot as hell, we all like to find cool water. From Utah's myriad lakes and reservoirs to our many creeks and rivers, people love to swim, boat, paddleboard and kayak.
There's one waterway many take for granted: the Jordan River, with its 45-mile parkway connecting Utah Lake to the Legacy Parkway. 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 swimming in its waters. It's the only outlet for the waters of Utah Lake.
Sadly, the river became a catchall for sewage and industrial waste, like that from the Geneva Steel smelter where the town of Vineyard in Utah County is now located.
In the 1960s, Utah Lake and the river were a stinking mess. Citizens cried out, and sewage treatment was undertaken with help from the feds' Clean Water Act and monies from the Superfund.
Nowadays, with its boat ramps and riverside parks as well as a paved pathway stretching the length of the Salt Lake Valley, the Jordan River has become a destination for many.
The Jordan River Commission's website (jordanrivercommission.com) shows all the current boat ramps, helpful river paddling videos, hints for self-guided and group paddle trips and a sign-up for Utah Outdoors bicycle trips alongside the waterway as well as river paddle trips. The commission also plans to lead guided paddles weekly in September as part of the "Get to the River Festival."
The most recent boat-ramp opening took place in July 2023 at Pioneer Crossing Park in West Valley at 1272 W. 3300 South (just east of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center). Those suffering from the July heatwave can find relief paddling on the river where they enjoy cooler temps along the banks and under the trees and brush alongside it. Near the new ramp is a park with a small playground and places to sit. It will soon be expanded to an even larger park.
I have to laugh at those who look at the Jordan River as a "no-go" because the water looks polluted. The water in Utah Lake sits over a white/gray clay bed, which makes the river waters murky. Although no one is encouraged to swim in Jordan, you can rent kayaks through the commission to enjoy this wonderful waterway.