Adventures in the Northeast (northeast Utah, that is)
- Posted On
- Apr 08, 2010
Story and Photos by Ruth Hines
Our family set out on a new adventure to the far northeastern corner of Utah. We had several reasons for choosing this part of our great state. Since my husband and I had enjoyed some whitewater rafting years ago, we had always wanted our children to experience this, so we signed up for a river trip on the Green River. My kids had developed an interest in fishing, but since my husband and I had no experience in this area, we decided to hire a local guide to fish on Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Our son, Michael, was in fourth grade and the students were to choose and visit a county or area in Utah then prepare and submit a report on their experience. This entire area was new to our children, and we were excited about these new experiences for our family.
We arrived in the evening at Red Canyon Lodge, a place I knew our kids would enjoy. We stayed in a very comfortable cabin near a lake where kids fish for free. It turned out that they fell in love with this fishing hole and the entire surroundings, nestled in a high altitude forest. It was beautiful and serene. Mark Wilson and the staff of Red Canyon lodge were very hospitable. One staff member even took Michael out on a paddle boat on the lake as daughter Jennifer fished off the dock (and caught two trout). Canoes were also available as well as horseback riding, biking and hiking. Plenty to keep active and curious children busy.
Just being in the out-of-doors gave them a sense of adventure. They enjoyed chasing chipmunks and lizards, catching a moth on a twig and scavenging the area for the perfect s'mores sticks. (They learned how to roast marshmallows with the "original" marshmallow roasters, since Mom forgot to bring the commercially produced ones.) As we drove down the short road to the Red Canyon Overlook we passed several Bighorn Sheep near the road. This is the closest we had been to Bighorn in the wild. Of course, we had to stop and take some photos. They didn't seem at all bothered by our presence. There is an abundance of wildlife in the area including deer, elk, and marmots. Rare raptors also make their homes here--peregrine falcons, osprey and golden eagles.
Red Canyon Overlook offers an inspirational view of this deep gorge about 4,000 feet across and the lake 1700 feet below. There were interpretive signs along the walk explaining the history and geology of the area. There were large cracks in the earth as a result of water seeping into the earth's cracks, freezing, expanding and splitting the rock. The children found this geology lesson quite interesting.
We went to Manila to see 300 teams of fishermen come in from the Villa Fishing Derby. This is a big event every May. We met Hank Gutz of Triangle "G" Fishing Service who would be our fishing guide on the lake Monday morning. He was busy weighing in the catches. After stopping by Daggett County's Government Offices for some information on the area, we drove back along the Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway, also known as the "Wildlife Through the Ages." This drive offers a variety of scenery as you pass through an area rich in a variety of wildlife and fossils. Dinosaur bones, sea shells and shark's teeth have been found here. The Sheep Creek Geological Loop is a 10 mile Scenic Backway off this road which travelers can pass through millions of years of geology in only 20 minutes. We continued on to the Flaming Gorge Dam which was built across the Green River and dedicated in 1964 by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson. The visitor's center there has lots of information on the dam and offers tours hourly. We drove across the dam by Flaming Gorge Resort and over to Dutch John. We wanted to explore the area a bit so Michael could gather information for his fourth grade report on Northeastern Utah. We enjoyed a delicious dinner back at Red Canyon Lodge and enjoyed an evening of relaxation which included roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Ahhhh!
Sunday morning we arose very early to meet at Don Hatch River Expeditions in Vernal for our whitewater trip through Split Mountain Canyon. We met Kassie who would be our guide on the river and Nick who would pilot our lunch boat. On the way to the river we stopped to view some impressive Native American petroglyphs. After donning our life vests and reviewing safety rules, we climbed in the rafts, and took up our paddles. It was a great stretch of river for the kids' first whitewater trip. The Class III rapids were thrilling for all, interspersed with calm sections to enjoy the beautiful canyon scenery. We relaxed and enjoyed a tasty deli style lunch at "Don Hatch Beach" before continuing on the remaining three to four miles. Just prior to taking out, we pulled over and enjoyed a short hike up the mountain to a cave once likely used by Butch Cassidy as a hideout. It offered a nice view of the river below and the opposite canyon wall. The afternoon was spent back at the fishing hole at Red Canyon Lodge. What a great day it was!
Monday morning began around 4:30 a.m. so we could eat and get on our way to Lucerne Valley Marina to meet Hank who would teach us a little about fishing. He took us out in his boat where the water was as smooth as glass, reflecting the beautiful red cliffs and blue skies above. We could see an osprey on its nest and watched as it took flight along the red wall of the gorge. The fishing was good, too. Each time one of the children called out, "I got one!" there was a flurry of activity to reel it in and scoop it into the net. When the children had caught their limit of Kokanee salmon we turned toward shore. Then it was time to clean the fish. Now, no one said anything about cleaning the fish—only catching them. Hank got to do that while the children looked on a bit grossed out. We thanked Hank for taking us out on his boat and teaching us about fishing. We headed for home with new knowledge of this sport and six salmon ready for the grill. All in all, it was a very satisfying morning in many ways.
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area has something for everyone--camping, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, scenic drives and exploring fossils in and around Dinosaur National Park. Water activities including fishing, boating, water sports, and rafting (half day to three-day trips) are available on smaller lakes, the reservoir and the Green River. Spend several days exploring the variety of recreation and scenery in Northeastern Utah's Flaming Gorge Country and Dinosaurland. Here are some good resources to consult for planning your trip: