Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Includes Yellowtail Dam, Bighorn Lake, Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Recreation Area is a very popular destination for visitors seeking water sport and outdoor adventures. Formed by the damming of the Green River with the Flaming Gorge Dam. The world-renowned Flaming Gorge is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and is part of the Ashley National Forest.
Fishing, swimming, boating, windsurfing, canoeing, camping, hiking and rock climbing are just some of the outdoor activities that this popular area provides its visitors. Most of the 91 mile long Flaming Gorge Lake lies in Wyoming, whereas the most southern section of this massive lake lies in Utah. Undeniably, the most scenic portion of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is in Utah, where the lake is surrounded by towering red cliffs. Established in 1968, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area contains 207,363 acres of water and land, where the majority of the lake is in Wyoming, and a portion of the lake in Utah.
The East Side: Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway (U.S. Highway 191)
Reaching the lake from the mountainous east side is not as easy as the west side. The main road that parallels Flaming Gorge Lake is U.S. 191, but this 100 mile long roadway runs about 15 miles east of the lake. However, this route is far more scenic than the west road (Wyoming 530) as it climbs to an elevation
of 8,000 feet above sea level, and crosses an incredible landscape of valleys and peaks, with a lot of dirt roads that take you into the remote surrounding countryside.
This 100 mile section of U.S. Highway 191 is known as "The Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway", and it takes you into incredible "red rock country" of a high desert. You will enjoy incredible rock formations and mountainous landscape, but keep in mind you will not see the lake from this highway except in just a few spots.
There are two major overlooks along the Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway, which are the Firehole Overlook and Clay Basin Overlook. Near the Firehole Overlook, there is a maintained road that takes visitors down to the shore of the lake known as Firehole Canyon access point. There is a boat launch here and well as access to Road 33.
Road 33 (RD 33) does follow the east shore for a majority of the lake and provides some access points, but it is unpaved and a 4 wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
Aside from the viewpoint just north of Flaming Gorge Dam, the only other place you can see the lake from U.S. Highway 191 (Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway) is near Spring Creek. At Spring Creek, there is a fairly well maintained 4 mile track that takes you to the lake.
The Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway provides visitors with a wonderful opportunity to experience first-hand a high country desert landscape. The colors, the landscape, the vegetation and the wildlife are classic examples of the West's "high plateau country".
The West Side of Flaming Gorge: Less Scenic But Easier Access
Buckboard Marina, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
Please keep in mind there are very few facilities around Flaming Gorge along the Wyoming section, and the landscape is is high desert with low brush covered hills that slope down to the water. From the west, the main north-south road is Wyoming 530, and this route parallels the lake a few miles from the shore.
The most commonly used routes to get to the lake from Wyoming 530 is FR 006 and FR 164/150. Both routes are quite steep in certain sections, but for the most part the roads are in good condition. As these roads approach the west shore, you will encounter several branches that take visitors to nice beaches where you can park right by the lake.
There are a few National Recreation Area campgrounds located along the west shore, at Lucerne Marina and Buckboard Crossing Marina.
South End of Flaming Gorge
Sheep Creek Bay Area, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
No doubt the most scenic portion of Flaming Gorge Lake is located on the south end. This is where Flaming Gorge Lake becomes enclosed by towering steep red cliffs on both sides. West of Flaming Gorge Lake runs Wyoming 530, and once it crosses the Utah border, it becomes Utah State Route 44. Along this road there is quite famous scenic spot to take photos as the road winds around Sheep Creek Bay.
Red Canyon Visitor Center
East of Sheep Creek Bay, Utah State Route 44 then travels away from the lake and climbs into a forested area.
After several miles, there is a short side road that leads to the Red Canyon Visitor Center, which is built directly on the edge of a 1,000 foot cliff overlooking Flaming Gorge Lake. In fact, there is a portion of the viewing room that hangs OVER the cliff!
From this remarkable visitor center, there are several hiking trails that take you along the rim of the canyon. Between the Red Canyon Visitor Center and the Flaming Gorge Dam, there are several picnic areas and campsites.
View from Red Canyon Overlook, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area has 43 campgrounds that are home to over 700 individual campsites and 27 group sites located throughout the 360 miles of shoreline along this 91 mile long lake. (See Map)
Flaming Gorge Dam
U.S. Highway 191 crosses directly over the top of Flaming Gorge Dam, about 500 feet above the river. This famous dam was completed in 1964 and crosses a narrow section of Red Canyon.
There are guided tours available, as well as self-guided tours, and there are several beaches along the lake just west of the dam.
The best vantage point is on a side road to the north, and this road then continues downward to an access point along the Green River directly below the dam. The view of the Green River from the top of the dam is quite impressive.
About the Green River
The Green River originates in the Wind River Mountain Range of central Wyoming near the continental divide, and by the time it joins the Colorado River and eventually reaches the Gulf of California, it will have passed through six major areas of interest, the first being Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The others are Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands, Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon and Lake Mead.
Red Canyon, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.