Home » 2003 Cross Country Road Trip

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area - Fire Hole Canyon, WY

Saturday, July 12, 2003 - 10:30am by Lolo
475 miles and 8.25 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


Foolish Egyptian Family ShadowsFoolish Egyptian Family ShadowsFlaming Gorge is one of those undiscovered treasures that I hesitate to rave about because selfishly I prefer that they remain just that--undiscovered. However, since I highly doubt that my reflections are going to rock the travel industry, I'll take my chances.

In my opinion, Flaming Gorge has some of the most spectacular scenery in the West--sheer red cliffs dropping 1,300 feet down into the waters of the reservoir, fiery red canyons, intriguing chimney rock formations, etc., etc, Now here's the best part--there's practically nobody here, especially in the northern Wyoming section.

We had briefly gotten a glimpse of the southern section of Flaming Gorge two years ago on one of our cross country trips and promised ourselves that we would come back some day and spend more time here.

Where is everybody?Where is everybody?This time we were traveling west on I80 so we entered Flaming Gorge from the more remote Wyoming section. We had already been driving over 8 hours that day so our goal was to find a campground as soon as possible. The only thing I had to work with was a map that I had picked up on our previous visit here that had little pictures of tents on it marking the campgrounds. Almost all the campgrounds were on the southern end of the Reservoir about 90 miles away. The closest campground I could find was something called Fire Hole Canyon, which required driving off the main road (191) and following a winding 9-mile road down to the reservoir. We were a little nervous because we had no idea what we would find there and whether they would have room for us.

Inappropriate Dead Pelican FlagInappropriate Dead Pelican FlagWell, it couldn't have been any better. The location was spectacular and there were only 3 other campers in the place. We backed into a site which overlooked the Green River arm of the Reservoir and the canyons, directly across from a very interesting and colorful chimney rock formation. It was breathtaking. Why was nobody else here? In fact, Herb even asked the campground host that very question, to which he got a very strange response: "They'll probably be coming in on Monday." I think he's been out here alone in the hot desert sun too long. I guess this place just isn't for everyone. There is no development of any sort--no restaurants, no shopping malls, no theme parks, no movie theaters, no electric or water hookup. The only source of entertainment is mother nature and for us, that was just fine.

There wasn't much daylight left, so we quickly hopped on our bikes and followed a winding dirt road down to the river. There wasn't another soul in sight. The evening was hot and the water was warm, so we jumped in for a quick dip before biking back up to the campground.

Tom relaxing in floatTom relaxing in floatThe next morning we launched our Avon inflatable from the campground boat ramp and headed north up the river. Although the boat only has a 6 hp motor and doesn't exactly move us too fast, it's perfect for exploring. It can go in shallow water and into all kinds of nooks and crannies that a bigger powerboat would have trouble with. Also, we can just pull it up on the shore whenever we see something interesting or just want to stop for a swim.

That whole day, we saw only one other boat, but still we were far from being alone. There were cows grazing along the river, hundreds of tiny black birds flitting in and out of holes in the cliff walls, and prong-horned antelope running through the tall grass along the sandy shore. And who says there is no entertainment for kids. Do you have any idea how well cow pies skip on water? Or how fun it is to come upon the intact skeleton of an antelope and the remains of a very large pelican? Or to float on your back and watch clouds float over the rim of the canyon?

That night the boys were quite resourceful in their attempts to make a campfire. Having no firewood, they did what any self-respecting pioneer boy would do--burn cow pies. That's right, cow pies have been used as a source of fuel for more than a century. I made sure that I sat upwind from the fire. We stayed up later than usual that night to watch the full moon rise over our chimney rock. It really doesn't get much better.


Lolo and Herb at sunsetLolo and Herb at sunsetFirehole Canyon is on the eastern shore of the Wyoming portion of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a 91-mile lake created by damming the Green River. It is surrounded by spectacular scenery--fiery red canyons and mountain ranges. The reservoir is very popular for boating, swimming, and fishing.

Firehole canyon is located in a very remote, not highly visited section of the NRA. Facilities include a boat ramp, picnic area, and a 40-site campground. The campground overlooks the lake and many unique and colorful chimney-shaped rock formations, which gave Firehole Canyon its name. Each camp site also has a 3-sided stone structure around the picnic table to provide some shade from the intense summer heat.

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area - Fire Hole Canyon location map in "high definition"

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