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Bear Lake Water-Quality Data Visualizations

February 4, 2022

Displaying water-quality data with depth over time at a single location has always presented a challenge. These data visualizations were developed as a response to that issue by Katherine Jones, USGS Office of Quality Assurance.

USGS boat at water-quality platform on an aqua-marine Bear Lake, Utah-Idaho with snow covered mountains in background.
This brilliant photo of an iconic aqua-marine Bear Lake on the Utah-Idaho state line was taken by Jake Seawolf on a chilly day in November 2022.

Water-quality instrumentation has been deployed on Bear Lake every spring since 2018. The instrumentation is housed on two floating platforms that are anchored at specific locations until late fall, when they must be removed before freezing air temperatures are reached. One platform has remained at a permanent location, while the other platform has rotated to various locations on the lake. Platform locations are shown below.

Satellite image of Bear Lake showing locations of permanent and rotating platform locations through the years.
Fingers wrap around cable.


Seven water-quality parameters (temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, phycocyanin, and turbidity) are measured from each platform every 4 hours at 1-meter intervals from 1 meter below the lake's surface to a location near the bottom of the lake. The data is sent through cellular service to the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) and then uploaded into the interactive data visualizations accessible from this page.  

Hydrologists records final readings for season.
Photos courtesy of Jake Seawolf.
Hydrologist prepares to lower sonde into water-quality platform well.
Hydrologist holds sonde next to large reel used to raise and lower it through the water column every four hours.
Hydrologists pull anchors on platform
Riparian grass meets Mud Lake along bank.
Mud Lake lies at the north end of Bear Lake, Idaho, and also displays spectacular color in the right light. Photo courtesy of Michael Hess.