Mud Lake—Spotlight City

Abundant Water in the Desert

By Trish Petersen

My husband Justin is a lifelong Mud Laker and when we were married in 1994, I swore I would never live in such a forsaken desert of sagebrush and jackrabbits.

I had grown up in the beautiful Teton Valley. I had relatives who lived in the Mud Lake area, which is how I had gathered all I knew about the place: sagebrush and jackrabbits.

Over the years, my husband’s ninety-two-year-old grandmother, Mona, told me many times, “When I moved here from Burton (near Rexburg) in 1960, I thought it was the end of the earth.”

When we moved to Mud Lake twenty-seven years ago I agreed with her, before I had any idea of the fascinating and marvelous things I would encounter here.

The very name Mud Lake makes one curious about the place. Most people have never heard of it, let alone know where it is. I still tell people it’s in the middle of nowhere, but that isn’t exactly true.

The community lies on Highway 33 about forty-five minutes northwest of Idaho Falls, between Rexburg and Howe.

Anyone who drives that route will pass through it, although few will stop. Mud Lake is not only the name of an incorporated city with a population of about 320 but also of a vast area around it.

If you’ve heard the name, most likely it’s from controversial rabbit drives that occurred here in the early 1980s. Millions of jackrabbits ruined and depleted the crops of local farmers.

Although that may be familiar to you, did you also know there’s a lake with the same name as the city?

This lake has been central to my personal story of the place. All these years I’ve been fortunate to live a mile from Mud Lake, which itself is about five miles northeast of town, and I’ve been blessed to witness the splendor, beauty, and songs of the peregrine falcons, sandhill cranes, swans, geese, ducks, and other migratory birds on the lake.

From my front porch, I watch the deer and moose, bald eagles, owls, and hawks that frequent the big willow trees.

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Trish Petersen

About Trish Petersen

Trish Petersen serves on the board of the Mud Lake Historical Society and Museum as the program director, overseeing all museum activities. She has a love of all things history, including researching and learning about her ancestors. Trish resides in the area with her husband and family.

8 Responses to Mud Lake—Spotlight City

  1. Christian Skidmore - Reply


    It is a Beautiful place to live. I have moved away several times but always returned. I raised my family here and now they are raising their families here. We live in a special community and I love what it has done for my family and I.

  2. Betsy Staley - Reply


    It’s interesting that you did not mention Mildred Staley who spent her life gathering and compiling the stories for the book Mud Lake Memories. I think she deserves some credit as it was her life work and the book would not exist without her efforts and most of these stories would be lost.

  3. Sherry Locascio - Reply


    Trish, you have captured the heart and soul of our small community! What a blessing to be a part of Mud Lake!

  4. Arvella Case - Reply


    Loved reading this history, would like to receive more history. Thank you so much.

  5. Annette Bunce - Reply


    We loved our 22 years in Mud Lake. The people are genuine & become lifetime friends. Thank you for the background. It is ever changing for the good.

  6. Yvonne Allen - Reply


    We felt privileged to raise our family in the Mud Lake area. Truly this article captures the spirit of Mud Lake, and informed me of many facts I didn’t know, even after living in the area almost 30 years! Thanks to Trish and the Historical Society for their work in gathering and preserving the history of Mud Lake–and to all the determined pioneers who planted and cultivated this great and unique community!

  7. Joanne Stewart Bingham - Reply


    My name is Joanne Stewart Bingham
    My mother and Dad bought the Oasis Bar and Cafe in1944. What a change when we moved from Los Angeles, calif. from a cute home to Mud Lake.
    My mother was a Westergard from Idaho Falls and was homesick to come home
    My father bought the Oasis on a fishing trip to the area.
    I went to grade school in Terreton and went to Idaho Falls to high school
    My father died of a heart attack at the young age of 46 and we sold our place in 1953.

  8. Charles R. Higgins - Reply


    My grandfather and grandmother, Charles and Lottie Rickman, owned a ranch near or in Mud Lake. As near as I can remember, it was across the canal from the Chastain’s. They raised draft horses along with a lot of alfalfa. In addition, they had the typical farm animals most farmers would have, milk cows, chickens, etc They even separated their cow’s milk for cream.. My mother, Elva Rickman, lived on that ranch/farm until she married my dad.

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