Home » 2003 Cross Country Road Trip

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Dam, UT

Monday, July 14, 2003 - 4:00am by Lolo
55 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


If I had to pick one activity that we as a family enjoy more than any other, it would have to be river rafting. Combine that with some world-class trout fishing, and I think we were headed for a near perfect day.

Herb and his trusty rubber boatHerb and his trusty rubber boatOur first order of business was figuring out the logistics of getting back to our RV after we finished rafting. Rather than hitchhiking back, as we have done in the past, we stopped at the Dutch John Store and arranged for an outfitter to drive our RV from the put-in point right below the dam to the take-out at Little Hole, seven miles down the river. We were just expecting to arrange for someone to pick us up at Little Hole and drive us back upriver, but this was the way they did it here. I wasn't sure if Herb was going to go for the idea of turning over our RV to total strangers, but they seemed quite professional and they did it all the time. So we left them an extra set of our keys and headed down to the put-in point just east of the dam.

Although it was a Monday, the launch was still a very busy place. We had purposely planned to do this on a weekday, because we had heard that it gets very crowded on the weekends. The 7-mile stretch of river between the Flaming Gorge Dam and Little Hole is probably one of the most popular river trips in all of Utah. Besides the wonderful fishing, there were ten Class II rapids along the way to make the trip exciting.

Boys stalking the Green River for troutBoys stalking the Green River for troutThe kids and I were quite surprised when we put our feet in the water and they practically turned numb. Wasn't this the same water that we had been swimming delightfully in yesterday at Firehole Canyon? Herb explained that the water below the dam is so cold because it comes from the deep part of the reservoir. That's why the trout fishing is so good here. Trout, unlike us, love cold water. Okay, so this was definitely going to be a fishing rather than a swimming trip.

The river was moving along quite swiftly--so swiftly, in fact, that our trip would be done in under 3 hours if we just let the raft go. That just wouldn't do, so we took as many opportunities as we could to pull over and fish. Our first stop was a large rock in the middle of the river probably less than 500 yards from the put-in. We each claimed a portion of the rock and started casting, fully expecting trout to practically jump onto our lures. Just as Herb was commenting on the poor quality of one of my less than perfect casts, in which my lure barely reached the water 15 feet in front of me, I felt a tug on my line. Herb ate his words as I pulled in our first trout of the day, a 20-inch keeper.

Tommy's first filleting of troutTommy's first filleting of troutAt that point we fully expected to pull in one trout after another, but it just wasn't happening. We could see trout, but they weren't biting. Bait would have been a nice thing, but the fishing regulations are quite strict along this stretch of the river and it's not allowed. Only artificial lures can be used and any trout between 13 and 20 inches must be thrown back, because those are the most prolific breeders. So we moved downstream to try our luck at another stretch of the river.

The scenery along the way was beautiful and since I had already caught my dinner, I was ready to just sit back and enjoy the ride and watch the rest of the family obsess over catching a trout. Finally, a few fish were pulled in, but unfortunately they were in that off-limit 13 to 20 inch range. The kids were getting pretty frustrated. They would catch a trout, hold it up to the measurement lines they had drawn in the sand--pulling a little hard on either end of the fish to stretch it as much as possible--and then throw them back in disgust. None of them was going to leave this river until they each had a fish for dinner.

It was getting a little late on the river, but finally everyone did catch a keeper (after some aggressive stretching). As we approached Little Hole, Herb was relieved to see our motor home sitting safely in the parking lot--much better than having to hitchhike back to retrieve it.

We drove back to Dutch John and got a campsite at Mustang Ridge, one of the Flaming Gorge campgrounds. Although the campground overlooked the lake, there were actually only a few sites that had a decent view. However, since it was already getting dark and all we wanted to do was fillet and cook our fish, it didn't matter much to us.

I astutely excused myself from the fish cleaning process and went inside the motor home to prepare some rice and veggies. When I went out to check their progress, I found each of the kids cleaning and filleting their own fish, hands covered with blood and fish guts. I wasn't surprised at Andrew. Ever since he was little, he had never been squeamish about dealing with fish, but Tommy was another story. Up until today, he wouldn't even remove a fish from his hook. Now he was really getting into it.

Finally the fish were cleaned and they had some very nice looking fillets. They each seasoned theirs to their own tastes, wrapped them in tin foil and put them on the grill. By the time we ate dinner that night it was close to 10:00--much too late, but nobody cared.

Moments like this don't happen every day..


Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a 91-mile long lake that was created by damming the Green River. It is surrounded by spectacular scenery--fiery red canyons and mountain ranges. Although the majority of the lake is in Wyoming, most of the campgrounds and facilities are in the Utah section of the lake. The reservoir is popular for boating, swimming, and fishing.

Below the dam, the Green River is a great place to raft. The 7-mile section of the river from the dam to Little Hole is extremely popular and has some of the best trout fishing in the West. Along this stretch there are ten Class II rapids, which makes it fun but also easy enough to navigate without a guide.

The put in is located at the end of a 1.4 mile road off of 191, 1/3 mile east of the dam. The parking area is small and is for unloading boats and passengers only. Vehicles must be parked .7 miles back up the road.

Raft rentals and shuttle services are also available at Flaming Gorge Recreation/Dutch John Service at the turnoff for Dutch John on 191.

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Dam location map in "high definition"

Javascript is required to view this map.