5 Ways The Trendy Flaming Gorge Reservoir Competes Lake Powell
Get Out There is a new column for people with itchy feet written by Paste employee Blake Snow. While strange now, it’s still worth traveling – especially to these open borders.
When I first visited the Flaming Gorge, I had no intention of going by boat. After traveling through the nearby Dinosaur National Monument, my family drove two hours north to the Red Canyon Overlook to climb the rim and admire the 1,400 foot cliffs.
Then in the middle of the afternoon we saw a handful of ski boats far below, enjoying the “glassy” conditions on the huge lake. “We have to come back to boot this,” I said to my wife.
We did it this summer. After years of enjoying Lake Powell on the other end of Utah, we now have a new favorite place that is much more “socially distant” but just as fun as the more popular Powell. Here’s why:
Like Lake Powell, Flaming Gorge is home to towering red cliffs and playful waters. Just as you can see in the attached photo, its cliffs are studded with beautiful green pine trees. These are not only cool to look at, but also provide much-needed shade in the summer months, which the former cannot keep up with. Which brings me to my next point …
On the much more scenic and recreational side of Utah’s Flaming Gorge (the rest is in Wyoming), you’ll find two large marinas and over half a dozen designated campsites. Some of the more secluded spots include secluded Kingfisher Island and Jarvis Canyon, which will get you away from the crowds at other campsites. You will need a boat to get to these and others, but that means even more solitude.
Over the course of five days, my family enjoyed wakesurfing, fishing, swimming, tubing and cliff jumping right from our campsite. Rafting, hiking and mountain biking are also offered. Aside from a single afternoon (due to the wind) the water never got choppy so we could go boating for long periods of time. As part of a National Dark Sky Area, stargazing is also excellent. While we craned our necks over campfires, we saw elongated shooting stars and the Milky Way every night.
“Flaming Gorge is the kind of place you think might be overrun, but it’s not,” an official recently told me. Although visitor numbers are two to three times higher than a few years ago, this is nowhere near the crowded plains that Lake Powell can often endure. In addition, the heights of the Flaming Gorge seldom exceed the 80s, thanks to its 6,000 feet, and the water never gets as warm as Powell in summer, which robs the lake of its refreshing nature.
The early American explorer John Wesley Powell played a significant role in the modern discovery of the Flaming Gorge and its namesake Lake Powell. The guy was attracted to natural beauty. If I’m being honest with myself, you should experience both lakes at least once on your motorboat trips through the great American West. But with the outdoor crowds increasing dramatically in a post-pandemic world, Flaming Gorge is far more compelling and almost as beautiful as the houseboat capital of the world.
Blake Snow contributes as a dedicated writer and columnist for offbeat publications and Fortune 500 companies. He lives in Provo, Utah, with a growing family and their Bullador Beagle.