Today we drove the beautiful Flaming Gorge–Uintas National Scenic Byway (US-191 and SR-44), which is punctuated by signs noting the billion years of geologic history embedded in the layers of surrounding rock: home to fossilized squid, graveyard of the dinosaurs, petrified forests, and sand dunes. This recreation area in southwestern Wyoming and eastern Utah comprises some 201,000 acres of scenic land, which surrounds the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The reservoir, fed by the waters of the Green River, is 91 miles long with approximately 375 miles of shoreline ranging from low flats to cliffs more than 1,500 feet high.
Petroglyphs have been found, giving evidence that American Indians lived in, or passed through, the area hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived. To these natives, the Green River was known as the Seeds-ka-dee-a, the Crow Indian word meaning prairie hen.
Prior to 1848, part of the Flaming Gorge area in Wyoming belonged to Mexico, but was annexed to the United States after the Mexican War. Other parts of the area have been claimed, at one time or another, by France, Spain, Britain, Mexico, the early state of California and the Mormon state of Deseret.
John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Army major and professor, mapped the area initially and named Flaming Gorge and other land features on his way down the Green and Colorado Rivers. On May 29, 1869, Major Powell began the last great exploration of unknown territory in what later became the continental United States. The explorers made their way down the Green River past Flaming Gorge, which they named, to the confluence with the Colorado and into the Grand Canyon. Almost starving to death in the process, they somehow survived the Colorado River and made it back to civilization.
The entire region is fascinating to both the amateur and serious geologist. The sedimentary rock formations of the Flaming Gorge area resemble layers of a cake, one stratum upon another. The formations accumulated from silt and mud on the bottom of a great fresh-water lake, which occupied much of what is now Wyoming during the early Tertiary period, some 40 million years ago. Fossils of flora and fauna from these prehistoric times are frequently found in the area.
Flaming Gorge has become nationally known as the "fishing hot spot" of America. The reservoir offers quality trout fishing year 'round. A fishing license from either Wyoming or Utah is required, and a special-use stamp is available for fishing both states. Flaming Gorge is one of the best lake trout waters in the US, with fish occasionally going over 40 pounds. The Utah record lake trout (51 lb 8 oz) was caught at Flaming Gorge in 1988, and there may yet be a bigger one swimming in the reservoir now. Flaming Gorge also produced Utah's record brown trout (33 lb 10 oz) and rainbow trout (26 lb 2 oz). Now that's what I call fishing!
Huge boat launching ramps, located close to campgrounds, are provided at convenient access points along both sides of the reservoir. Boat rentals, marina supplies and food are available at Buckboard Crossing and Lucerne Valley. Kaleidoscopic better defines the awesome coloration of this desert/reservoir area, for it is truly a land of living color with the many rock formations sculptured through the centuries by wind and water, changing colors and perspective with the varying sun.
One of the most awe-inspiring scenes in the region is Firehole Canyon, south of Rock Springs off US Highway 191. The canyon features chimneys and pinnacles reflecting in the blue water of the reservoir. The view of the reservoir & the dam is great at the turnout & they do offer a tour of the dam, but today we weren't able to take the time as we were traveling to Casper later in the day. So after a brief stop we continued on traveling more of the loop.
My favorite stop of the day was the Red Canyon Vista. As you head down 191 south you eventually have to make a decision on whether to turn left to head to Vernal, Utah, or to turn right for a short distance to view the Red Canyon overlook. I highly recommend turning right for Red Canyon, even if you have to turn around 30 minutes later. Highways, Wyo 530, US 191 and Utah State Highway 44, connect to offer a complete loop from Interstate 80. So, if you are staying in Green River or Rock Springs you'll continue on down Wyo 530 instead of returning to 191 South.
The Red Canyon Vista is found a short distance from the highway on a spur road seven miles south of the Wyoming border. You then travel a one way road back 3 miles & take a short walk for this fabulous view. Well worth it! I got some of my favorite pics of the day here. We saw a small elk on our way back out & a small doe a few minutes later. I was sorry that Larry wasn't able to walk this with me but it was just too far on his crutches. So he'll be viewing the pics I took at the same time you do! Hope you enjoy them. See you on down the road...