Red Canyon: Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, Cart Creek Bridge

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South of Flaming Gorge, Route 44 crosses over a plateau that’s quite boring.  Just when you think you’ve seen the most dramatic scenery the Gorge has to offer, there’s a turnoff from the main road, leading to Red Canyon.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir winds its way through a tall, narrow canyon, on its way through the gorge.  It’s the kind of dramatic scene that can’t be done justice with a mere picture (especially on a cloudy day, which calmed the intensity of the red canyon walls.

With a little Photoshop magic, I brought out some of those colors.  I’m betting it’s this intense, or better, on a sunny day.

The Red Canyon viewpoint is a couple of miles off the main road, past a small resort and store.  There’s a short trail at the end of the road which leads to several good views looking west, north…

… and to the east.  The only thing that’s hard to look at here…

… is the visitor’s center.  I took a picture of it, because I’m fairly certain it’s the ugliest building I have ever seen.  It does, however, have a great view from the inside:

Plus, you can pick up a souvenir here.  On the way back to Route 44, I stopped at the small store next to the lodge, which had more touristy treasures.

Red Canyon is 1,700 feet, or about a third of a mile deep, and about 4,000 feet wide.  It was first explored by non-Native Americans in 1825, when General William Ashley followed the Green River as part of a fur-trapping and exploration trip.

Just beyond the turnoff to Red Canyon, Route 44 runs into US 191.  Make a left and head north.

Cart Creek Bridge & Flaming Gorge Dam – Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, Utah

Before you reach the Flaming Gorge Dam, there’s another structure that demands your attention. The Cart Creek Bridge crosses one of the creeks that feeds the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

You’re not supposed to walk across the arched suspension bridge, so you’ll have to be content with the view from either end.

Technically, Cart Creek Bridge crosses Cart Creek Bay, which is part of the reservoir.  The bridge was built in 1962, before the completion of the Flaming Gorge Dam (in 1964), so for just two years Cart Creek Bridge actually crossed Cart Creek.

From Cart Creek Bridge, US 191 travels along the edge of the reservoir for about a mile, before you reach Flaming Gorge Dam.

US 191 runs along the top of the dam.  Before you cross, there’s a big parking area and visitor’s center…

… complete with a real-life example of the dam’s power-generating turbines.

This is a Francis Turbine Wheel.  It was installed in the Flaming Gorge Power Plant 1963, and removed from service in 2005.  During that time, this turbine and its generator produced 7.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to power a million homes for an entire year.

If you have time, you can take a tour of the dam, starting at the visitor’s center.  You’ll have to pass through a security checkpoint for the tour, but not to enter the visitor’s center (take a hint, Glen Canyon Dam!)

You will find the best view of the dam after you’ve crossed it.  There’s a turnoff for a viewpoint that gives you this perspective.

Here are some dam facts: the Flaming Gorge Dam is 502 feet high, and contains just slightly less than a million cubic yards of concrete. When the reservoir is full, the dam holds back 4.67 cubic kilometers of water.†
Anglers: expect to find rainbow trout, Kokanee salmon, and smallmouth bass in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.  All are stocked regularly.  Brown trout and channel catfish are occasionally stocked. You might also snag a lake trout.  Even though they’re not stocked, some do wander down the Green River and end up in the reservoir. †

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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