Utah’s Tooele County (pronounced too-will-uh), located just west of Salt Lake City and extending to the Nevada border, is probably best known for its arid environment. It’s home to the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Great Salt Lake Desert, and 12 mountain ranges. Yet those who enjoy spending time on the water will still find plenty of opportunities to do so in Tooele County. It includes the southwest portion of the Great Salt Lake, which provides an abundance of recreational opportunities, plus three reservoirs and various mountain streams to explore. So while you won’t find much water in the western part of the county, the eastern side is filled with opportunities for boating, birdwatching, and fishing. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your time on the water.
Exploring the Great Salt Lake by sailboat is one of the best ways to experience the salty wonder. The Great Salt Lake Marina, accessed from exit 104 of I-80, is located in the Great Salt Lake State Park, and is home to more than 250 sailboats. The Great Salt Lake State Marina was founded in 1877, making it one of the oldest yacht clubs in America. Its mission is to promote, develop and preserve recreational sailing and enjoyment of the Great Salt Lake. According to members, the sailing experience on the Great Salt Lake is unmatched. You’ll find scenic surroundings and "no else out there." The solitude—with no screaming jet boats or wave runners—is unsurpassed.
The club offers rides to inquisitive visitors, and has a variety of programs and events, including a racing program, cruising, and social events, junior and women sailing programs, and educational seminars. If you want to learn how to sail, this is the place.
Tooele County is a birder’s paradise with its wide-open vistas, habitats that range from thick sub-alpine forests to marshlands, and an arid climate that drives birds to flock together at watering holes.
A large portion of the Great Salt Lake—which is one of the most ecologically important sites in the Northern Hemisphere for seasonal avian migrations—lies in Tooele County. The remote Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, with its five major warm springs that feed a 10,000-acre marsh system and hosts as many as 6,000 wintering birds, is one of the premier birding locations in the West.
For a taste of birding in wide-open sagebrush rangelands, birders can drive "Raptor Loop," which follows Highway 36 the length of Tooele Valley before heading through Rush Valley on Highway 73 and back around to Lehi. Owls, hawks, eagles, prairie falcons, ospreys, crows and ravens can all be spotted in the area.
In the upper reaches of verdant South Willow Canyon, pines and aspens dominate, and forest birds flit from limb to limb. Delicate flycatchers, thrushes, jays, bluebirds and warblers are common, if not always visible, in the area. There are also more conspicuous hummingbirds and woodpeckers.
Tooele County features several locations where anglers can test their skill. Most reservoirs are regularly stocked throughout the summer, and there are remote streams and other waters that produce impressive fish as well. Settlement Canyon Reservoir, located just 1.3 miles from the city of Tooele, is typically planted with several thousand trout each summer. Also stocked are the Grantsville Reservoir, southwest of Grantsville, and Vernon Reservoir, just south of Vernon. Each reservoir has mature holdovers that lurk in the depths, and a few of them, some real monsters, are landed each year.
With the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area and scenic Stansbury Mountains to the west, Grantsville Reservoir is considered to be the most popular fishing spot in Tooele County. But bass fishing at Horseshoe Springs in Skull Valley and at Blue Lake south of Wendover are popular, too. Fishing in South Willow Canyon, and also at Clover Creek on Johnson’s Pass, are known to produce quality trout. Children under 14 don’t require a license, but are limited to two fish. For current information on fishing in Utah, see www.wildlife.utah.gov.
Written by Jesse Weber for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.