A Visitor’s Guide to Mud Lake, Idaho

Are you looking for a unique outdoor adventure that’s not yet on the radar of other travelers? If so, consider a visit to Mud Lake, on the northern edge of Bear Lake, Idaho. This lesser-known lake may not have much to offer in the way of amenities, but it still offers plenty for those interested in fish and game activities.

If you want to get off the beaten path, Mud Lake, Idaho, is only a short drive from your Bear Lake vacation home.

About Mud Lake, Idaho

Photo Credit: Justin Crook Photography

Mud Lake, Idaho, is a waterbody part of the larger Dingle Marsh wetland system located immediately north of Bear Lake. The Dingle Marsh wetland system, also known as Dingle Swamp, is an 18,000-acre protected refuge. Both Mud Lake and the more popular Bear Lake were once part of a large prehistoric lake that filled the entire valley.

It’s important to note that the majority of the southern half of Mud Lake is closed to entry, as it’s a highly protected part of the refuge. Check the National Park Service’s map to know exactly where you can and can’t go.

Why is it called Mud Lake?

The name “Mud Lake” might not sound appealing at first glance, but it perfectly captures the natural allure of this biologically diverse area of marshland. Mud Lake and its surroundings present a thriving ecosystem with a rich diversity of wildlife. It’s essentially a playground for several types of waterfowl, fish, and various mammals, like jackrabbits, foxes, and coyotes.

Bear Lake’s marshy wetlands

Photo Credit: Chase-Karli Willden

Mud Lake isn’t just unique because of its ecological diversity but also because of its geographical positioning. Mud Lake sits comfortably right on the northern rim of beautiful Bear Lake, creating a striking contrast between the crystal-clear waters of Bear Lake, the marshy wetlands surrounding Mud Lake, and the entirety of the Dingle Swamp.

Why explore Mud Lake?

If you’re visiting Bear Lake in the summer and have a little extra time, exploring the northern part of the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge can be a fun adventure into the more unpolished parts of the area. Mud Lake and the whole Dingle Marsh area have a unique ecosystem and present fantastic opportunities for wildlife spotting, particularly birdwatching!

The Best Time to Visit Mud Lake, Idaho

Mud Lake and the surrounding marshlands can be visited year-round. However, the best time to visit Mud Lake is between early spring and late fall, when temperatures are warmer, and the wildlife is particularly active. Winter can also be an interesting time to visit Mud Lake as mule deer spend their winters here, along with bald eagles and rough-legged hawks.

Driving around Mud Lake in winter can be difficult as many roads become impassable due to icy and snowy conditions. However, this does present opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Things to do in Mud Lake, Idaho

While Mud Lake doesn’t offer all the amenities of its three-hour south neighbor Bear Lake, you certainly won’t find yourself bored! These are some of the classic activities around the lake.


Photo Credit: Vinod C L

Mud Lake is truly a paradise for birdwatchers. You can spot Canada geese, northern pintails, and mallards by early springtime.

As temperatures warm up by April and May, even more birds arrive, including Sandhill Cranes preparing to make their nests, Franklin’s gulls, white-faced ibis, herons, egrets, and grebes. There are also several species of ducks, including redheads, canvasbacks, and lesser scaup.

Through spring and summer, all of these species of birds make the marshlands their nesting sites. In late fall and winter, almost all birds prepare to leave as more precipitation comes to the area, and the marshlands start to freeze.

Birding is one of the best reasons to come to Mud Lake, Idaho. To have the best birding experience, bring binoculars and a bird field guide to help you identify the species you see. If you wish to take any photos, bring a long-lens camera. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll also want to bring plenty of insect repellent, as it gets buggy here.


Photo Credit: Alexander Lukatskiy

With a valid Idaho fishing license, anglers are allowed to enjoy fishing in Mud Lake’s marshy waters. It’s also not uncommon to fish just north of the Lifton Pumping Station. Check out the Idaho Fishing Planner for more information about current bag limits, special restrictions, and what people are catching.

Hike and Explore the Nearby Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Photo Credit: Margaret.Wiktor

The best opportunities for exploring lie to the far north of Mud Lake, in the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge. Just south of the Salt Meadow Unit are wildlife viewing facilities and ample opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and even horseback riding. If you do wish to hike, keep in mind that many of the trails and roads are only open until January 15th. You can also snowshoe on the trails and roads during that time.


Photo Credit: digidreamgrafix

Motorized and non-motorized boats are permitted in specific boating areas from September 20th to January 15th. Boat rentals are plentiful around Bear Lake. The canoe trail, which presents a fantastic opportunity for wildlife spotting, is open from July 1st to September 20th.



Hunting is permitted in certain areas surrounding Mud Lake, Idaho. However, only geese, ducks, snipe, mergansers, cottontails, gray partridge, coots, and sage grouse can be hunted. All other species are protected by the refuge.

It’s Time for a Mud Lake Adventure

Mud Lake’s rugged uniqueness is an amazing place to balance Bear Lake’s polished beauty. A Bear Lake vacation home is the perfect home base to explore the biologically diverse wetland surrounding the lake. Book your Bear Lake vacation rental today!

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