Flaming Gorge Reservoir: Paddling in Paradise

Flaming Gorge is a paddler's paradise.
Flaming Gorge is a paddler's paradise. Louis Arevalo
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With more than 360 miles of shoreline, the 91-mile-long Flaming Gorge Reservoir a popular paddling destination in Utah. Launching a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard into its deep blue water can lead to an unforgettable experience.

What Makes It Great

Flaming Gorge has multiple launching points, some developed and others primitive, that will give you access to numerous paddling routes. You can choose to head out for multi-day trips, camping in primitive sites on the shore, or take day trips from the inlets and marinas. Most of the marinas and lodges surrounding the lake offer hourly rentals of kayaks and stand up paddleboards making things very convenient.

What You’ll Remember

Paddling into the narrow sandstone canyons you will see why the area was named Flaming Gorge. In the late hours of the day the sun glares off the crimson cliffs above. There are numerous spots along the lake’s shore that you can park your vessel to have lunch, swim, or just take in the scenery.

The Kingfisher Island Loop begins at the Sheep Creek Boat Ramp. This six-mile outing will take you along the southern shoreline where big horn sheep are known to hang out. Turning right into the narrow passage between the shore and Kingfisher Island will give you amazing views of towering bluffs above the vibrant water. Make your way counterclockwise around the island then retrace your course back to the boat ramp.

A kayak rests on the shore of Cart Creek Canyon in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah.
A kayak rests on the shore of Cart Creek Canyon in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah. Louis Arevalo

Dutch John Draw is a quiet side canyon that is home to a few smaller canyons just waiting to be explored. Beginning at the Mustang Ridge Boat Ramp you will head east following the north shoreline. After one mile the draw will open to the north. You can explore the finger canyons and then pull over for a swim at Sunny Cove Beach. Reverse your course to return to the Mustang Ridge Boat Ramp. This venture is about four miles and falls entirely within a wake-free zone.

Cart Creek is another great outing that will take you beneath an arched suspension bridge and into a wake-free zone. Start at Cedar Springs Marina and head east along the rocky south shoreline. After a mile you will turn right, south, and head under the bridge. Head up the narrow Cart Creek Canyon. The fishing in this area can be great, so pack a rod. Reverse the course to return to Cedar Springs Marina for a four- to five-mile trip.

Who’s Going to Love It

Kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are fast growing sports. Paddling on the reservoir is a skill that is easily learned and allows you to explore at your own speed. All the excursions above are open to beginners with some level of fitness. For young explorers try a tandem kayak and have them share paddling responsibilities with an adult. If you love water, viewing wildlife, and exploration, paddling the lake is definitely for you.

A kayak makes its way across Cart Creek Canyon, Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah.
A kayak makes its way across Cart Creek Canyon, Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah. Louis Arevalo

Parking, Directions, and Regulations

The Flaming Gorge Recreation Area falls within a National Forest Fee area. Purchase multi-day passes at numerous locations along the way and at all boat launches. You are not required to wear a personal floatation device (PFD) while paddling, but you are required to have one on board.

Cedar Springs Marina is five miles south of Dutch John on Highway 191. Mustang Ridge Boat Ramp is five miles from Dutch John. Head north on 191 from Dutch John turnoff for two miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 184 and follow for three miles to the boat ramp.

Sheep Creek Boat Launch is 30 miles from Dutch John. Head south on Highway 191 from Dutch John for nine miles. Turn right onto UT Road 44 and travel 20 miles to the Sheep Creek Boat Launch Rd. Turn right and follow .5 miles to the ramp.

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