Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area lies in the northeast corner of Utah, crossing into the southwest corner of Wyoming. The dam and main visitor center, in the southeast section of the national recreation area, are 41 miles north of Vernal (210 miles east of Salt Lake City via U.S. 40).
From Vernal and other points south, take U.S. 191 north to its intersection with Utah 44 at the southern edge of the reservoir. U.S. 191 goes up the east side of the reservoir, leading to the dam and the community of Dutch John; Utah 44 goes around the reservoir on the west side, eventually ending at the village of Manila. Both of these towns offer accommodations, restaurants, fuel, and other services.
From I-80 in Wyoming, follow U.S. 191 south around the reservoir's east side to the dam; or Wyo. 530 and Utah highways 43 and 44 to Manila and the west and south sides of the reservoir.
The recreation area is administered by the Ashley National Forest. For information, contact the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, P.O. Box 279, Manila, UT 84046 (tel. 435/784-3445; www.fs.fed.us/r4/ashley). The Intermountain Natural History Association, 1291 E. U.S. 40, Vernal, UT 84078 (tel. 800/845-3466; www.inhaweb.com), sells maps, books, and other publications.
The Flaming Gorge Dam Visitor Center (tel. 435/885-3135), along U.S. 191 on the east side of the recreation area, is open daily 8am to 6pm in summer, 9am to 5pm spring and fall, and is open weekends only November through March. You can get information on the geology, history, flora, and fauna of the area; the construction of the dam; and facilities and recreation possibilities. Free dam tours lasting 45 minutes to an hour are conducted from 9am to 3pm in summer only.
Fees & Regulations
Entry to the recreation area is $5 for 1 day or $15 for up to 7 days. Administered by the U.S. Forest Service, regulations here are based mostly on common sense, and are aimed at preserving water quality and protecting the forest and historic sites. Utah and Wyoming fishing and boating regulations apply in those states' sections of the recreation area, and the appropriate fishing licenses are required. Dogs are allowed on hiking trails but are not permitted in buildings and should be leashed at all times.
Seasons/Avoiding the Crowds
As one would expect, summer is the busy season at this major boating destination, when both the air and water are at their warmest. This is the best time to come for watersports, and with elevations from 5,600 to over 8,000 feet, it never gets as hot here as it does in many other parts of Utah. Although summer is the busiest time of year, this remains a relatively undiscovered destination, and you will likely have no trouble finding campsites, lodging, or boat rentals. Hikers will enjoy the area in fall. During the cold, snowy winter, this is a popular snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice-fishing destination.