After our visit to Laramie we headed west on I-80, driving across rolling hills while fighting stiff headwinds. At Green River we turned south on WY-530 for 40 miles to the Lucerne Campground in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The campground is on a peninsula that is in Utah, but the entrance is in Wyoming.
After Labor Day the park no longer takes reservations so we did not have a site reserved. But the park is fairly empty so we were able to take a nice pull-thru site with a great view of the water and 50 amp electricity.
After setting up we drove a few miles to the nearby town of Manila, UT. It’s a tiny town (pop. 300) but it does have a small grocery store (combined with a hardware store), fuel, and a couple small restaurants.
The next day we set out for a drive of about forty miles around the southern end of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to visit the Flaming Gorge Dam. We drove back to Manila and turned south on UT-44. The road quickly climbed up into beautiful rock formations.
In a few miles the winding road turned to the north, giving us outstanding views of Flaming Gorge.
As the road climbed up over the hills there were a number of places to pull over and enjoy the view from different elevations.
A few miles before the intersection with Hwy-191 we turned north and drove three miles to the Red Canyon Visitors Center. Along the way a herd of Big Horn Sheep kept their eye on us.
The Visitor Center has a great glass enclosed viewing area with a breathtaking look at the Green River as it flows through Red Canyon.
There is also a paved path that goes out to a point with more views of Red Canyon. This paved path is actually part of the Canyon Rim Trail which continues for nine miles.
We continued along UT-44 to its terminus at US-191 and turned north toward the dam. A few miles before the dam we crossed over the Cart Creek Bridge (also called the Flaming Gorge Reservoir Bridge), a 568 foot “steel through arch” span over a section of the reservoir.
A few miles from the bridge the top of the Flaming Gorge Dam came into view.
Completed in 1964, the dam is 502 feet high and 1,285 feet long and its reservoir has a capacity of more than 3.7 million acre feet, or about twice the annual flow of the upper Green River. Operated to provide long-term storage for downstream water-rights commitments, the dam is also a major source of hydroelectricity and is the main flood-control facility for the Green River system.
The dam has a nice visitor center and free tours are provided three times an hour. While our young guide needs a little polish to her presentation (former teachers are a bit critical), we did enjoy going down inside the dam and outside at its base.
A mile or so beyond the dam there is a great observation point for a view of the entire structure.
Drive about a mile further north on US-191 and there is another viewpoint with views of both the bridge and the top of the dam.
On the return drive to Manila we had to stop to take in another view of the Flaming Gorge.
Tomorrow we’ll begin to explore some of the hikes and side roads in the area. More on that later . . .