It spans 91 water miles and boasts 360 miles of shore line. Flaming Gorge Reservoir, south of Rock Springs and Green River, straddles the state line with about three quarters of the reservoir in Wyoming and the other quarter in Utah. It is the largest reservoir in Wyoming.
Even though we’ve had our early snowfall, there are still plenty of mild days ahead for those wanting to get away for a few days. This recreational wonderland is popular in the summer but now, as fall arrives and settles in, the crowds thin out, making the reservoir a perfect place to explore before winter sets in.
Pick your activity: boating, fishing, hiking, biking, camping, paddling or ATV riding. When the snow comes in earnest there is also cross-country skiing. Opportunities abound. For those who prefer a more laid-back visit, the scenery is stunning even from the seat of an automobile.
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area includes portions of Ashley National Forest and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The reservoir is formed by Flaming Gorge Dam that backs up water of the Green River. It was named by John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition for its brilliant red cliffs. Of course, back then there was no reservoir so now those brilliant red cliffs rise over the large expanse of water.
Numerous websites offer information on where to go and what to do, but one of the best is www.flaminggorgecountry.com. Some highlights of what to do and where to go are listed below.
FISHINGFlaming Gorge Reservoir is the place to toss a line. A 53.9 pound lake trout was caught this summer in the Utah section of the reservoir, breaking the Utah state record for that species. The state record for Wyoming is a 50 pound lake trout also caught at Flaming Gorge, but that was back in 1995 and the record still holds. Records for other species from Flaming Gorge include a brown trout at 25.81 pounds, a smallmouth bass at 5.94 pounds, a channel catfish at 28.52 pounds and a kokanee salmon at 6.31 pounds.
If catching that fish of a lifetime is your goal, the reservoir is the place to go. Anglers cast from boats and from the shore.
The Green River below the dam also provides excellent angling. This blue ribbon trout fishery abounds with rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Fishing is restricted to artificial flies or lures and catch-and-release is highly encouraged. It’s in Utah, so be sure to secure the proper license before you go.
CAMPING/LODGINGThere are 43 campgrounds spread across the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area. Most are open at least through September. Reservations are possible at some sites, while others are first come. For those looking for a more primitive setting, dispersed camping is allowed in a number of areas of the National Forest. Lodging is available in Dutch John, at Flaming Gorge Resort, Red Mountain Lodge and in the town of Manila.
HIKING/ MOUNTAIN BIKINGHiking and mountain biking opportunities abound with hundreds of miles of trails. Take a short hike to stretch your legs or put on a day pack and wander for miles via foot or bike.
The relatively flat Canyon Rim Trail, located near the Red Canyon Lookout, is 9.5 miles out-and-back with jaw-dropping vistas. For those looking for a strenuous workout, check out the Elk Park Trail. This 20-mile loop features more than 2,000 feet of climbing along a combination of double and single-track trails.
The Dowd Mountain Trail is a “must do” for mountain bikers. This 10-mile loop is a combination of single- and double-track, winding through pines and reaching its apex at the Dowd Mountain Overlook. It’s a bit of a grind to the overlook but the descent is a rolling good time.
Flaming Gorge is a prime area for just taking a drive, intermixed with photography stops and short hikes. A couple detours off the Scenic Backway drive along US Highway 191 and Utah Highway 44, as described here, are well worth the time.
Red Canyon Overlook
This detour is three miles from the highway to the overlook. Along the paved road to the overlook is Red Canyon Lodge, campgrounds, a visitor center, picnic area and two lakes. The view from the overlook is spectacular. From nearly 1,700 feet above the reservoir, the reservoir shines below – with a nearly vertical drop. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep that might be perched on the rocky cliffs or even wandering the woods along the road.
Sheep Creek Geologic Loop
The Sheep Creek Loop Scenic Byway offers a narrow and winding paved road through incredible scenery that will have you stopping and ogling at the numerous pullouts along the route. The dramatic geologic formations of the Sheep Creek Geologic Area are stunning and one of those astonishing “hidey-hole” areas that will take your breath away.