Flaming Gorge, UT: Pivoting Away from California’s Wildfires

A quickly revised travel plan sent us through Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, with its immense watery playground, candy-colored cliffs, towering 1,000 foot walls, and non-existent crowds.

But before that, we were in Island Park, Idaho, just a few miles from the state lines of both Montana and Wyoming.  Perhaps you’re noticing the jacket, scarf, and goosebumps … 

… as an unseasonal snowstorm brought out the icicles in all of us!

Our last week in Idaho was filled with indecision … should we stay, or should we go?  To California, that is.  Our long-planned itinerary had us pointed in the direction of the worst wildfires in history for the second month of this trip.  

The smoke map sealed the deal … southern Utah was looking better by the minute.   Shortly thereafter, the California cancellations starting pouring in.  South Lake Tahoe — campground closed.  Sequoia National Park — hundreds of square miles scorched.  Kings Canyon National Park — closed completely.  Good thing our home has wheels! 

Our favorite hike along the Henrys Fork Snake River, where the water color, river grasses, and algae combined to make a Monet watercolor painting.  (I point out in case my high school English teacher is reading this, that the proper spelling of Henrys does not include an apostrophe.)

Hawks swooped around us as we explored, no doubt eyeing Sprinkles as a tasty little snack.

We kayaked the Big Springs National Water Trail, but quickly realized (too late) that it was too fast-moving to be able to return upriver to our vehicle.  What to do??!! Oh well … nothing we COULD do but decide to enjoy an easy 2.5 hour float and then hitchhike back to our car. 

Mesa Falls is an impressive set of waterfalls in the area.  The Upper Falls can be viewed via a series of multiple staircases.

The Lower Falls can be seen via a 2-mile hike and then a steep downhill trail.

The Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, about 15 miles away, had wolves, bears and otters just the way I like ’em … safely contained.  Having run into bears in the wild, it is much more fun to admire them without fear of death. 

My favorite animal!!!!  Their playfulness is something to aspire to.

Make no mistake, this area is ranchin’ country … you can tell by the wide open views ….

…and also by the playground equipment!

Heading for Utah, we overnighted behind a convenience store in this Wyoming farm field, just long enough to catch the Arizona Cardinals on TV in their season opener.  Hey, we’ve got priorities!

Cardinals > Travel

Who needs tailgating, when you have RVgating?

Continuing onward, Flaming Gorge is half in southern Wyoming, half in northern Utah, and completely in the middle of nowhere.

It was named in 1869 by the famous explorer John Wesley Powell, who wrote in his diary, “…a brilliant red gorge is seen … we have named in Flaming Gorge.”

Flaming Gorge is NOT, I repeat not, named for the truck that was on fire as we rounded the corner on one of the high mountain passes leading to the rim of the gorge.  Yikes!

Long and narrow, this lake is 91 miles in total with multiple drive-in and boat-in campgrounds, and some of the best trout fishing in the country.  They estimate there are 15,000 trout per river mile here!

We wanted to rent a pontoon boat to do some sightseeing.  They told us, just go to the dinosaur in the rowboat.  Ummmmm …. excuse me?  Did you just say to go to a dinosaur in a rowboat?

Yep, that’s the marina office.  You can boat from Lucerne Valley Marina to the Cedar Springs Marina and back (only about 13 miles of the 91 total) in about 5 hours.

You can tell that there is a LOT of water to enjoy here by the tiny white boat in the super-wide river below.  With all the twists and turns and spurs to explore, this place is a nautical dream come true!

Not naming names, but a certain somebody didn’t enjoy much scenery, snoozing away on the deck for the majority of the trip.  Of course, she woke up when the picnic lunch came out!

A large herd of pronghorn antelope (probably 200 or more) live in the campground and saunter throughout at all hours, winding their way through the trailers and RV’s, driving Sprinkles crazy.

Wildfire smoke has made the area a little hazy, but given conditions elsewhere in the West, we certainly can’t complain.  

Flaming Gorge has been “gorge-ous” (get it?), but we are continuing south to Utah on our hastily devised new route. Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ … there are more adventures to be had, wildfires or not!

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