The writer was not comped for this trip. She was inspired to write it after visiting.
When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
It seems to me that one of the gifts of baby boomerdom is the time and ability to travel, even if just to search the gems in our own states. I travel my state of Utah on the weekends, with my little dachshund Clem, and like Steinbeck, I find, in the national parks and wild areas still abounding, the reason for being: nice people, incredible wildlife, birds, marmots, and occasionally that PLACE that simply resonates – this it IT – I am home! The Red Canyon Lodge in northeastern Utah, in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, is one of those places and it extends its own mystery with a plethora of wildlife in a setting that is unmatchable for a true lover of serenity and nature. Fishermen dream of a place like this and the lake is full of fish; paddle boats hum along the shore as bald eagles roost in the pine trees; horses clap along the beautiful trails surrounding the lake and birds, cranes and people rest against the mauve sunsets.
The area (from the Ashley National Forest guidebook):
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is about 41 miles north of Vernal. Flaming Gorge presents a vivid lesson in geology at its most dramatic and most varied. This drive presents terrific contrasts: the rugged Uinta Mountains; beautiful alpine forests; a brilliantly colored, 91-mile reservoir at the bottom of a dramatic river gorge; and high desert country to the north.
Because of difficult terrain, poor access to the Uinta Basin, and extremes in weather, this was never a popular region for agriculturally minded settlers, either Native American or white pioneer. In terms of permanent settlement, the place is simply . . . defiant. Still, throughout history it has been a favorite hunting ground for Native Americans and mountain men, a popular hideout for outlaws, and a place for early explorers to marvel. Today the area is a favorite for tourists and recreationists, and a relatively undisturbed home for wildlife. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area offers visitors two information centers, more than 600 camping and picnic sites, and more than 100 miles of trails.
The official state-designated Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway runs from Vernal north on US 191 to Greendale Junction, then takes the left (west) branch (Highway 44) to Manila. I’ve added a recommended side trip of the eastern branch, continuing north on US 191 to Dutch John, and an especially recommended drive along the Sheep Creek Geological Loop. A 150-mile drive along the eastern edge of the Uinta Mountains and along the southern rim of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, providing outstanding views of the river gorge and the High Uintas as well as roadside geology lessons.
The ONLY place to stay
The Red Canyon Lodge located in theFlaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
This singular paradise is a family owned business named the Red Canyon Lodge, and sits amidst the Recreation Area like an oasis for those of us that feel the need for a personal immersion into serenity. The lodge, with restaurant and gift shop, inhabits the edge of the property surrounded by ancient forest and quiet deer. Falling away from the central lodge, there are the smaller of the log cabins that offer room for about 2 people, and these are the Alpine cabins. The Ponderosa cabins are duplex cabins surrounding the large private lake teeming with windsong and fish, bald eagles roosting and marmots chasing their tails. Clem and I rested in the Ponderosa Cabin, with a lovely living room, a working wood stove, a small fridge and burners for cooking, and a lovely bedroom, with two beds and views of the lake tempting us to sit on the piers with our coffee and cake. Picnic tables and firepits along with seating and a luscious view of the lake and wildlife fall off the skirt of the front porch of the cabins. The best part? The private lake, scrunched beneath the shadow of Flaming Gorge marshlands, and hand-built log cabins, emerging from early morning mist.
Night explodes into dawn in the plaintive shrill of a sandhill crane, erect and arrogant, perched in shadows against a singular, moss-soaked cypress. A lone blue jay scurries across the top of the green glass lawn lake, startling the smoothness into tiny ripples, delicate circles of patterned light branching outward. The wetland marsh grass moans, bends toward the single cypress, cowering over its own silhouette, glaring audaciously back from the softly ripping water, rendered helpless by fish jumping and ducks paddling into the center of the lake. The mist lifts silently, deliciously, as tundra swans span orange tipped beaks inquiringly upward, piercing the anonymous skyline with solemn stares. You have been invited in.
The moss grass yawns and stretches against the now sun splashed panorama, as the sun skews across the clear but densely blue horizon. Warm air teams with voices, bird calls, golden rufous hummingbirds hammering their greetings and movement: black skimmers flash red and black beaks as they scan and forage; dragonflies hunt and peck and playfully interrupt the solitude of the glimmering water; hovering, then flitting, joyous in motion; rainbow and brook trout assemble in the mist and jump as the sun filters onto the lake.
A covey of red winged blackbirds flutter vibrantly toward the sun, brazen in magnificent flight. Cackles, shrills, chirping seize the morning, fill the marshlands and outwardforest line bereft of the haziness of morning mist with a singular energy and color
Morning, and you have entered the magnificent Eden of the Red Canyon Lodge.
The Red Canyon Lodge is booked all year round so if you are feeling that wanderlust that overtakes all of us at times, call in advance or ask for cancellations. We did, and we will be coming back for many years, to fish the lake, explore the canyons, enjoy the peaks and valleys surrounding this “back in time” area and to marvel at the stunning beauty of the many attractions that Flaming Gorge exhibits with no modesty and a certain exhilarating majesty.
In this, journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it…although only those who have experienced it will understand it. Steinbeck
- The Red Canyon Lodge located in theFlaming Gorge National Recreation Area, 2450 W. Red Canyon Lodge, Dutch John, UT 84023
- For reservations call: (435) 889-3759,