Flaming Gorge Reservoir - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
Salt Lake City, UT
Submitted by: paddletothesea
Flaming Gorge is a visionary overload of color and geologic wonder. Red and orange Navaho & Windgate Sandstone monoliths drop from the sky into the deep blue reservoir. Wide-open vistas with mesas, and Douglas fir draped hillsides. Osprey, Pelicans, Great Blue Heron, and Bighorn sheep will abound. I highly recommend paddling this huge reservoir as a day trip or as long as a week or more trip. It is ideal for a weekend if that's all time allows.
If you want to paddle between narrow 1000-foot deep canyons or wide-open areas with beautiful scenery, then this is the place for you. I have spent several occasions paddling and exploring this hidden wonder over the last few years. I start my paddling trip from Salt Lake City and head east to Flaming gorge near the town of Manila Utah. I put my kayak in at Sheep Creek Bay; but there are numerous places to start your adventure.
From Sheep Creek Bay one can easily paddle an hour and find good quality campsites with great views. There are several "designated" camps, which have a boat ramp, picnic table, and a water pump. But by camping at these places you will probably be sharing the campground with other "power" boaters, as this area is a prime motorboat spot and sport fishing area. During the prime seasons such as Memorial Day, Forth of July and Labor Day, you will have an awful lot of motorboats roaring about. I would recommend paddling mid-week and either springtime or after Labor Day. The days will not be too hot for paddling and the evenings rather cool and pleasant. If you are there in the dead of summer it can be rather hot and uncomfortable.
With an hour of leaving Sheep Creek, I would recommend camping on the west side along the shore of the giant red rock cliff band that stretch north. There are numerous places where fire rings have already been established and the exposed area will keep the bugs away due to the slight breeze. The area is covered with Juniper and Pinyon Pine and your camp may be visited by a large heard of Bighorn sheep. I have had them wonder thru camp many times, not bothered by my presence. Along this beautiful shoreline you can hunt for arrowheads, which friends and I have found. I have always set up a base camp in this area and spent the following days doing day paddles to remote canyons and bays. But you would easily be able to paddle to other remote areas and set up different camps. You can paddle this reservoir either as a "thru" paddle or an "out & back". You would need a car shuttle however if you got out at a different place. It would be very easy to hitch a ride to your vehicle however if you chose to do so.
From this "Base" camp, I recommend paddling north east toward Horseshoe Canyon which is a 1000 feet deep, with the cliffs dropping even deeper into the dark water. If you follow closely next to these cliffs you can easily see down 50 feet into the water. I have often spotted huge Trout lurking along the edge in search of food. This deep canyon is beautiful and quiet. This canyon is a "NO-WAKE" zone so you wont have to deal with the big waves caused by speeding powerboats. It is very quiet here. High above, perched on ledges, you can spot Osprey and may get a chance to see them dive for fish.
Horseshoe, which is not a dead end canyon but a loop, can then be exited, and you can paddle North and east toward Linwood Bay and the town of Lucerne. There is a boat launch here if you need to end your trip at this location. This bay is rather huge with many sport fisherman and water skiers. I have stayed away from this area. I recommend heading back toward base camp. You can take a different route back by paddling around Kingfisher Island through Kingfisher Canyon. The canyon is deep and narrow with many beautiful views of the geologic rock formations. Kingfisher Island has a designated campground if you choose to camp there. These campgrounds may be totally deserted during the off-season, so it may be worth checking them out.
The nights are rather cool which makes it nice for sleeping. The skies will be full of stars as there are no distractions of light around. The following day, I like to head east toward Red Canyon taking in a side paddle up Carter Creek Canyon to a small creek that is sometimes running very high with class 1 whitewater. There is a great canoe camp back in there and usually is empty during the off-season. This is a remote and deep canyon which has huge Douglas Fir trees growing along the hillside. Getting to Carter Creek and Red Rock Canyon is about 6-7 mile paddle from the "base" camp on the west side across from Kingfisher island. You can easily paddle this in a couple of hours.
The wind can get rather heavy at times in Hideout Canyon and bay area. There is also a Boat Camp in Hideout Bay. If you have more time you could easily paddle all the way to Flaming Gorge Dam and take out there. You would have several places available to camp while enroute to the dam. The canyon is narrow thru there in spots. It is approximately 10 miles from Carter Creek to the dam with two "designated" boat camps about half way.
One could easily spend a month traveling different locations along the reservoir. Further north towards the town of Green River Wyoming is where the Reservoir starts. There is probably over 400 miles of shoreline to paddle. One could paddle this area in a canoe, but I would be more cautious due to unexpected winds. So if you're in a canoe, stay closer to shore and watch for the boat wakes. Remember the small narrow side canyons are wake free for calmer paddling.
In Manilia or Lucerne, You could get last minute supplies and a "BOATER PERMIT" which is required for your paddling on the Reservoir. They coat about $5.00 and are good for at leat 3 days. Manila has restaraunts and motels for you comfort.
A $5.00 fee is required which last for 3 days. Can be purchased at the Chevron in Manila or with the Ranger district there too. A Utah fish licience can be purchased there as well.
From Salt Lake City drive east on I-80 to Wyoming and exit off at Fort Bridger and take Hwy-43 to Manila. In Manila turn south on Hwy-44 for about 7 miles to Sheep Creek Bay boat ramp. You can also get off at Green River Wyoming and head south on Hwy-530 to Manilia or even put in just outside of Green River Wyoming (Note:Don't get confused with Green River Utah)
Coming from Colorado, head toward Vernal Utah on Hwy 191 which eventually turns into Hwy-44.
I recommend the simple map called "Flaming Gorge Reservoir" by the Fish n Map Comp. It cost about $6.00 and can be purchased anywhere in Manila.
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