Sunday, February 19, 2012

Firehole Canyon, Flaming Gorge

Firehole Canyon area of Flaming Gorge.

Located about 25 miles southwest of Rock Springs, Firehole Canyon is in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, right on the shore of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. This is a great recreation spot for many reasons. Here you will find a developed campground, boat ramp, and a nice beach area for swimming. Along the 91 mile length of Flaming Gorge Reservoir there are only 3 designated swim beaches because of the fact that reservoir was formed by building a dam across a deep canyon and filling up an area with water to form a lake that is surrounded by cliffs. You can find a lot of nice spots around Flaming Gorge but this one has great amenities that are right on the water.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir began filling in 1964. This man-made body of water straddles the Utah Wyoming border but most of the reservoir is on the Wyoming side in Sweetwater County. Flaming Gorge Dam and the actual Flaming Gorge, both lie on the Utah side, set up against the north slope of the Uinta Mountains. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area surrounds the entire lake and has a visitor’s and information center in Green River, WY.  

Firehole Canyon, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
Firehole Canyon is at the North end of the reservoir not far from the towns of Rock Springs and Green River. This is a great place to go and spend the day where all of the fun things that Flaming Gorge has to offer can be enjoyed in one place. Amenities at Firehole include a developed campground with paved roads and parking, potable water, covered tables, and flush toilets. Shade is a bit scarce in this high desert environment but there are a few trees in the area. A boat launch facility is also available for those interested in waterskiing and other such aquatic activities. A picnic area is there for the day trippers, and the beach area is rather large and allows you can drive your vehicles and gear right up to the edge of the water. A $5.00 day use fee is charged for anyone who just wants to spend the day, or even a few hours enjoying Firehole Canyon.

The surrounding red and white cliffs make Firehole Canyon an interesting place to explore. Just hiking around the area can reveal all sorts of interesting things. The 19th century explorer, John Wesley Powell set out on his famous expedition through the Colorado River drainage in 1869 just north of here in what is now the town of Green River, WY. He named the actual Flaming Gorge that the Green River flowed through, and he is also the one that gave Firehole Canyon its name. North and South Chimney Rocks are visible from just about anywhere in the Firehole canyon area. The cliffs and spires are made up of Mancos Shale, Mesa Verde Sandstone, and bits of the Green River Formation.

When I go to Firehole it is usually just for the day to do some water skiing, and to ride jet skis with friends. By July the water is warm enough to take a dip and cool off. The swimming at Firehole is nice, and the beach area is great for kids since the water doesn’t get deep very quickly. Just south of Firehole the fishing can be pretty good year round. Every winter the lake will freeze and it is common to see people ice fishing. Flaming Gorge has some huge fish in many varieties; some of the lake trout that come out of the Gorge are stunningly big.

Watch for mule deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope around this area. I have never seen any wild horses in Firehole canyon but I’m sure that there is a few around somewhere since they are so prominent in other areas not far from here. Once I saw a heard of about 100 antelope just south of Firehole canyon. I don’t think I have ever seen a heard of anything wild as big as this heard of antelope was. Fishing on the lake you can catch lake trout, rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, burbot, bass, and cutthroat trout.

To get to Firehole head south on US 191 just west of Rock Springs. As you travel along this road you will climb up onto a ridge that offers great scenery on both sides of the road. A few places along this road offer pullouts where you can get out to enjoy the scenery and take a few pictures. After 13.5 miles you will turn west onto the Firehole canyon road, a sign will help you know when to turn. Follow this road back downhill as it heads into the canyon. You will know when you get to the recreation area as there are plenty of signs, and of course you will notice the reservoir. The road is paved all of the way there and the roads are open in the winter time, although the recreation area is closed.

Firehole is a fun place to visit that doesn’t require a four wheel drive to access, nor do you need a boat to have fun. This is a place that I go several times each year because it is close, scenic, and has some useful amenities.

Adventure Man

Click here for Google Earth route

The beach area.

The campground
One of the Adventure kids riding a ski board.

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