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    Flaming Gorge, unforgettable views between Utah and Wyoming

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    When you are in the mood for open-air emotions, the West is never wrong. Today we talk about the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, located in an area between the north-eastern part of Utah and the south-western part of Wyoming, “embraced” by the Ashley National Forest in an area of ​​almost 170 square kilometers, at an average altitude of 1.850 meters. The full name is a bit long and is usually abbreviated to “Flaming Gorge”.

    The area is similar in shape to an inverted T, with the southern part being in the Utah. Breathtaking sceneries abound here, stratified rocks, canyons, hills, trees that frame clear and fishy waters, glimpses of azure, blue and green in contrast to the red veins of the rocks. In this place nature is sovereign, even if man has "put a little of himself" into it, creating an impressive work for the common good and to make these spaces even more usable.


    • A bit of history
    • When and why to visit Flaming Gorge
      • The fauna of the Flaming Gorge
    • The Flaming Gorge section in Utah
      • Panoramic points and trails not to be missed
      • Un pit stop a Manila
      • Accommodations on the Utah side of Flaming Gorge
      • Activities and events in the area
      • Recommended excursion in the surrounding area: Vernal
    • The Flaming Gorge section in Wyoming
      • Green River, a strategic town
      • Recommended nearby excursion: Rock Springs
    • How to travel to Flaming Gorge

    A bit of history

    But before getting into nature, let's take a short step back in time. In the spring of 1869, John Wesley Powell and nine other men boarded small wooden boats in the Wyoming town of Green River (not to be confused with the Utah town of the same name) and from there set out to explore the Green and Colorado Rivers. . At the end of May they completed their journey and decided to baptize the area they explored with the name of Flaming Gorge ("Flaming throat") after having seen the sunlight accentuate the red color of the rocky walls of the river and have been fascinated by it.

    In 1958 the area near the village of Dutch John along Highway 191 underwent a huge change when a massive dam 392 meters long and 154 meters high (14 of which are under water where the foundations have been well "anchored"). The work created the great lake Flaming Gorge and at the same time the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, 145 kilometers long, which then following the course of the Green River crosses "vertically" into Wyoming, where the narrow canyons give way to prairies, plateaus and desert expanses perhaps less striking but equally and absolutely to be discovered, especially for those who love to go on a boat.

    When visiting this large reserve it might be a good idea to rent a houseboat (houseboat) because, if you can, the best way to enjoy the beauty of this place is through navigation.

    When and why to visit Flaming Gorge

    In the summer the moderate temperature guarantees a pleasant alternative to the heat of flat areas. This is also "officially" the ideal place for those who practice fishing and want to live it with satisfaction, especially if it is trout and some types of salmon; it is also a paradise for those who love to practice water sports such as rafting, canoeing, kaiaking, parasailing, jet skiing, water skiing or simply for those who want to enjoy their boat, take a swim and admire a dream scenery.

    In the Flaming Gorge area there are three Marinas and several campsites including some accessible only by boat, for an extreme contact with nature. The Flaming Gorge area is also recommended for those who love to enjoy the spaces on a mountain bike. But that's not all: water and sky are a perfect combination and here the conditions of the celestial vault are ideal for astronomy enthusiasts for which a single wow will not be enough to observe the Milky Way and a spectacular full moon that creates magnificent plays of color on the water.

    We will cross the counties of Daggett (UT) and Sweetwater (WY) and on the residential level we will meet small villages. Here reigns the tranquility at the highest levels; this is the right place for those who want to disconnect from the hectic life of the metropolis.

    Do you need a tested and ready-to-use itinerary for your itinerary? Take a look at our ebooks American Dream Routes, available on computer, tablet and smartphone, and complete with day by day itinerary, interactive maps, suggestions on where to stay and much more!

    The fauna of the Flaming Gorge

    We also listened to the stories of those who know about fauna in quest’area. L’Golden Eagle (Golden Eagle) is a large predatory bird with broad wings and dark brown feathers. Its swaying flight is elegant and enchanted us. They then explained to us that two mammals originating from North America live here: the mule deer (Mule Deer), with big ears just like a mule and the rocky mountain sheep (Bighorn Sheep) recognizable by its large horns which can weigh up to 14 pounds. L'goat antelope (Pronghorn) instead is native to the central-western area of ​​North America and despite the name it has no ties with the antelopes but with the giraffe family.

    The Flaming Gorge section in Utah

    After the stops in Yellowstone and Jackson Hole during our Wyoming tour, we descend along Highway 191 which takes us to 1.960 meters of altitude in the Utah, in the small urban area of Dutch John, one of the few villages in Flaming Gorge. He has a strange name that has very little of a western (like "John the Dutchman") but we like it. Here you will find all the essential services for a community as well as sports, marine and fishing supply stores. Dutch John is also the name of the area to which a large part of what is located in this area south of Flaming Gorge belongs geographically. And our real tour starts here.

    We continue along the 191 and in about ten minutes (seven kilometers) we reach the Flaming Gorge Dam Visitor Center passing on the imposing dam of the same name that blocks the waters of the Green River (a tributary of the Colorado River) and creates an immense reserve. What a show! The Red Rock Mountains they frame this grandiose structure that powers the nearby hydroelectric plant. Not recommended for those suffering from vertigo, the construction is grandiose and we cannot avoid thinking about the containing force to which it is subjected.

    Il Visitor Center (5959 Flaming Gorge Dam, Dutch John) is operational from mid-April to mid-October from 9 to 17. The sun continues to accompany us along the 191; it only takes a few minutes to cover the four kilometers that lead us to Cart Creek Bridge, the bridge with a steel arch (not pedestrian) that crosses the reserve. We recommend that you stop the car for a few moments near the ramp and walk to the edge of the water in order to have a view of the bridge also from below and photograph it from a different angle.

    When Highway 191 meets Highway 183 we turn right to the neighboring one Cedar Springs Marina, where you can camp and stay overnight in the immediate vicinity, rent boats and take guided tours focused on fishing. While we are here we are advised to drop by Snag Bar & Grill (2685 N. Cedar Springs Rd.) And order something in its bar and grill; once we arrive on site we understand why: it is a floating structure! The view of the lake is beautiful and worth a visit but it should be remembered that the restaurant is open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 22.

    Along the path that separates us from the scenarios we have planned (and which we will illustrate shortly), we stop at the Swett Ranch National Historic Site (Hwy 191, Rt.158 and Rt.158A), the reproduction of the ranch built by a certain Mr. Oscar Swett in 1909. Summer tours are run by volunteers who entertain guests by "impersonating" the daily life of the early 900s, when it was not at all easy to survive in a remote part of the west.

    This farm, included in the National Register of Historic Sites, It includes a five-room building, two sheds, a mill, a meat warehouse, a cellar, a barn, a barn and a bathroom later added outside the house. When you are visiting, you may see some of the cattle roaming freely on the ranch. We enjoyed the visit to the ranch and its history is interesting, but now we want to open spaces: this is what we discovered.

    Panoramic points and trails not to be missed

    Let's follow our "lineup" with the first three panoramic points in which to stop:

    • il Canyon Rim Overlook (Hwy 44, Rt.095 e FR373, coordinate N.40° 53’ 05.17” W.109° 32’ 47.34”)
    • il Red Canyon Visitor Center (1475 Red Canyon Rd. alias route 095, coordinate N.40° 53’ 30.10” W.109° 33’ 37.35”)
    • il Dowd Mountain Overlook & pic-nic site (Hwy 44 poi 94, coordinate N.40° 53’ 49.50” W.109° 37’ 32.27”)

    All three offer a view of the Red Canyon 76 meters deep and on the calm waters of Lake Flaming Gorge. A masterpiece of nature is in front of us; we see the plateaus, the canyons with the rocks tinged with red and the flowing Green river. This imposing but silent panorama "asks" us for contemplation and deserves it all.

    Even if the morphology of the rocks is similar, in these sites every corner, every overlook offers a dream image, a sort of unique and unrepeatable painting with the contrasts of red, the blue of the sky and the green of the forest. And even if at home we have prepared the itinerary and studied many images, from the moment you arrive here everything changes; the spaces, the three-dimensionality, the plays of light create a magical effect and the landscape comes to life, envelops us: it is pure emotion.

    • From Dowd Mountain Overlook a path of almost 18 kilometers, perfect for lovers of hiking and cycling, which allows you to experience an even more direct relationship with the beauty of the Red Canyon and the lake. On clear days, the perspective extends as far as Wyoming.
    • from Sheep Creek Overlook (Rt.503, Manila, coordinates N.40 ° 54 '28.87 "w.109 ° 41' 54.48") you can enjoy a postcard view (with particular light effects at sunrise and sunset), probably one of the most exploited of the place, precisely because it is one of the most evocative: the Navajo Cliffs with splendid reddish stratifications and the plateau further away, slightly inclined, which seems to emerge from the water. Really a lovely picture, a symbol of the spectacularity of Flaming Gorge.
    • And then there is Kingfisher Island, an island accessible only by boat, where you can camp in a Spartan way perfectly in harmony with nature. The nearest docking ramp is Sheep Creek (less than 5 miles). Many keen fishermen come to indulge their favorite hobby here and also enjoy the scents and sounds of nature (singing birds, jumping fish, croaking frogs) as well as its silences.
    • Horseshoe Canyon it is a spectacular horseshoe-shaped gorge very appreciated from above for its conformity but still ideal for boating and fishing.

    Un pit stop a Manila

    Still along Highway 44 we are now close to Wyoming, not far away. We have traveled about 60 kilometers since we left the east end at Dutch John and now, near the small village of Manila (chief town of Daggett County at 1.935 meters above sea level), we meet the Lucerne Valley Marina (1 Lucerne Valley Recreation Rd.) Where houseboats and water cottages can be rented, water activities can be enjoyed and there are boat ramps. This Marina with Yacht Club it is in an oasis of serenity and beauty.

    We recommend the cuisine of the Lucerne Valley Marina in Manila Lakeside Grill (5570 E. Lucerne Rd., Manila) with burgers, fish tacos, salads and ice cream. The restaurant is open from Thursday to Sunday from mid-May to early September and it is worth enjoying the homemade breakfast. Next to the Marina is the Lucerne Campground (5570 E. Lucerne Valley Recreation Rd.) Operational from late April to mid-September. This large campsite, with the only drawback of being poorly shaded, is located directly on the banks of the reserve. The structure consists of tents and positions for campers and is equipped with a swimming pool, general store, covered picnic tables and ramp for boats.

    Accommodations on the Utah side of Flaming Gorge

    A Dutch John you could sleep in one of these lodges:

    • Il Flaming Gorge Resort (1100 E. Flaming Gorge Meadows, Dutch John) is a pet friendly accommodation with rooms and suites of simple structure and wood finish. There is a restaurant, picnic area, gift store and general store on site. There are also two campsites within easy reach of the property.
    • Il Red Canyon Lodge (2450 Red Canyon Rd., Dutch John) is located in the forest at the foot of the scenic overlook and features cozy wooden cottages located on a private lake. The environment is rustic and surrounded by a lot of nature in which it is also allowed to bring small pets. The cottages have a mini kitchen, two beds, sitting room, bathroom and covered porch. It is an oasis of peace and for this reason there are no TV and telephone. It is possible to use the wi-fi only in the main building. There is a restaurant on site and horse riding is possible in the area.

    All accommodations available in Dutch John

    A Manila we point out the following structures:

    • 11 kilometers from the Marina is the Vacation Inn (250 UT-43), a family-run accommodation that can accommodate "four-legged friends". The rooms in simple rustic style have a mini kitchen and a panoramic porch.
    • Il Rocky Ridge Outpost (750 W. South Valley Rd.) Near Manila guarantees a true western style experience with wooden cabins, yurts and teepees. Great for an overnight stay in the area. There are also ponds for swimming and rowing.
    • We also point out the historic chain of campsites KOA (320 W. Hgwy 43) present here with a small structure open from mid-April until early November which has cottages and pitches for campers and tents in an environment in the shade of poplars. From here you can enjoy views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Flaming Gorge. The campsite has an outdoor swimming pool that can be used from Memorial Day in May until Labor Day in September, wi-fi and a children's play area. Small pets are accepted if brought on a leash.

    Activities and events in the area

    We can define Trout Creek Flies (1155 Little Hole Rd., Dutch John) an experience. It is a reality that must be discovered and experienced in a place where it is important to be in symbiosis with nature. Among other things, a staff with thirty years of experience and a lot of passion for fishing (and not only) welcomes and follows visitors to live unique experiences. It is possible to practice rafting and guided excursions on horseback. The Browning’s restaurant and Lodging comfortable in wooden cabins equipped with all comforts as well as a shop with the necessary for sports activities, complete the picture of this inviting and excellent level structure.

    We report the Freedom festival in Dutch John village in early July with live music, a car show and fireworks. The town is small but the event is of great appeal and is well publicized. It is also advisable not to get lost i fireworks in early September in Manila. Further information can be found at Flaming Gorge Chamber of Commerce (95 N. 1st West – Manila).

    Recommended excursion in the surrounding area: Vernal

    In Utah, a few kilometers south of Flaming Gorge, we point out the town of

    Dinosaurs once roamed the area that is now a "national monument" and the particular Quarry hall was designed to house a large rock inside which remains of the Jurassic giants are still visibly embedded. Other bones were assembled to reconstruct complete skeletons. The hall can be reached by shuttle or by own means. Highly recommended. And if you are in the Vernal area in July when the Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo (Western Park Arena 300E. 200S.), Don't miss it; it's a big event in the city. More information about the city can be obtained at Uintah County Travel Board (152 E. & 100 N. – Vernal).

    Where to sleep in Vernal?

    Overnight at Quality Inn Vernal (1684 West Hwy 40) with its rustic lobby is a good choice. The rooms are equipped with refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker. Pets are welcome in the rooms dedicated to them. The hotel has a restaurant, fitness center, business center, heated indoor pool, free wi-fi and hot breakfast included in the price.

    All available accommodations in Vernal

    Recommended restaurants

    • Il 7-11 Ranch restaurant  (77 E. Main St.) is the oldest restaurant in the country serving American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner at affordable prices in a wood-furnished setting.
    • North Mexican, South Texan and New Mexico cuisine is savored from Cafe Rio Mexican Grill (1205 W. Hgwy 40) offering freshly prepared dishes with fresh ingredients.

    The Flaming Gorge section in Wyoming

    Firehole Canyon

    And here we are in Wyoming. Our visit continues in the state where the Flaming Gorge section represents the largest water reserve. Here the scenarios change but the show continues.

    • La Green River Basin Scenic Byway it is the scenic road along the Lake Flaming Gorge that with the gradual receding of the mountains gives way to desert and more open panoramas. Here you can meet mule deer, antelope and wild horses. The loop takes about three hours and can be covered all year round.
    • Buckboard Marina (on Hgwy 530, McKinnon), built in 1969, is located 40 kilometers south of the town of Green River. It has a campsite and, very importantly, even here you can practice "top" fishing. Then if you have a boat it is worth going to the cliffs Buckboard cliffs. The facilities inside the Marina are modern and functional, designed for fun and comfort: a shop, a boat rental, a gas station, toilets, a repair shop for boats and vehicles, ramps with access for the disabled and the possibility of requesting the assistance of a tour guide. From the Marina there is a nice distant view of Buckboard Bay and the Uinta Mountains.
    • Firehole Canyon is a unique area at the top of Flaming Gorge. The rocks of the North and South Chimney Rocks stand out, high pinnacles, remains of ancient volcanic activity. There is no doubt that here we are faced with an example of "spectacular isolation" that can be enjoyed both from land and from the water. Here too, however, there are some comforts: a campsite (Forest Rd. 106, McKinnon), a picnic area, a docking ramp and toilets.

    We reiterate that the section in Wyoming is also of great impact and we like it, but we must keep in mind for a future trip the affirmation of the local experts and that is that its potential is expressed to the maximum by river.

    Green River, a strategic town

    Route 530 has Green River it can be the starting or ending point of the visit to the reserve. The town is the county seat of Sweetwater with about 13.000 inhabitants at an altitude of 1.860 meters. In our case it represented the end of the visit since we organized ourselves in such a way as to start the actual tour from Dutch John's village in Utah, go up to Green River (WY) and continue in southeastern Wyoming up to to reach Denver in Colorado.

    The urban agglomeration of Green River is not that great but it is excellent for staying overnight, for refreshments, for travel needs and in our opinion for some interesting photographic spots. In June the Flaming Gorge Days with a parade, concerts, outdoor activities, children's entertainment, basketball, volleyball, soccer and running competitions.

    Where to sleep in Green River?

    Hampton Inn & Suites (1055 Wild Horse Canyon Rd.) Is a good choice for an overnight stay. It is located in a scenic area surrounded by mountains (the photo spot we referred to). The rooms and suites are spacious, equipped with wi-fi and a coffee machine. There is also a microwave and mini fridge in some rooms. The hotel features an outdoor pool, business center, fitness room, free hot breakfast, and is pet friendly.

    All accommodations available in Green River

    Recommended restaurants

    We recommend the American chain Subway (375 Uinta Dr.) for a quick "customizable" sandwich to be consumed inside the structure or to take with you. A recently opened venue is The Hitching Post Restaurant & Saloon (580 E. Flaming Gorge Way) serving typical local dishes. As evidenced by the name, in the restaurant there is also a characteristic saloon.

    Recommended nearby excursion: Rock Springs

    Pilot Butte

    Thirty kilometers east of Green River, Rock Springs it is the fourth most populous city in the state. It is located at 2.080 meters above sea level and has about 24.000 inhabitants. It has a lovely historic downtown but beyond that, anyone who loves the outdoors should keep it in mind for the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop, a 38-kilometer dirt track to the top of White Mountain, a hike very close to Flaming Gorge that begins on Highway 191 west of the city heading south.

    In an environment of high desert, hilly and with rock formations, in a landscape that conveys the sense of infinity, pure far west, you can admire wild horses and very easily also desert moose, coyotes, hawks and eagles. And at the end of the tour, since the city is close, why not take a walk along the Main Street and then taste the local cuisine? Since 1991 St. Fe South West Grill (1635 Elk St.) offers Southwestern cuisine and the Happy Hour Special is celebrated from 18pm to 20pm.

    Between the end of May and the beginning of June theInternational Day, an event featuring local, regional and international performances (e.g. from Ireland, Japan, Poland, the Caribbean), food, children's activities and craft displays. All this serves to celebrate the uniqueness of this small city where 56 different nationalities coexist.

    Where to sleep in Rock Springs?

    Our tip for an overnight stay here is Homewood Suites (60 Winston Dr.) with spacious suites featuring full kitchens, living rooms and free wi-fi in a facility that features a swimming pool, fitness room, business center.

    All accommodations available in Rock Springs

    How to travel to Flaming Gorge

    Usually, Flaming Gorge meets during the tours between Yellowstone e Denver or on the US-191 to / from the parks of Utah: in this case it is a perfect intermediate stop to break the long journey from north or south and vice versa.

    To reach the Flaming Gorge area by flight we recommend theairport international di Salt Brine City, Utah (776 N. Terminal Dr.) about a 4 hour drive and that Denver International, Colorado (8500 Pena Blvd.) at approximately 5,30 hours. In addition to a traditional car rental, these large spaces can be enjoyed by motorbike and camper van, an alternative that we strongly recommend from personal experience.

    The United States gives us many corners of paradise; for lovers of nature and open spaces there is really spoiled for choice. We like to emphasize that we do not stop only in the most famous places because in doing so we discover areas that are a little less known, for example like our destination today, but of an equally spectacular beauty. And for all that the States offer, it is necessary to make many trips ... ... and we don't mind this at all! Today we have ideally brought you to Flaming Gorge, a place of peace and enchantment, a stop that should not be missing on your next tours.

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