Western Traveler

Upper Stillwater Reservoir, Utah

Utah can claim about as much outdoor recreational variety as anywhere in the world; desert, canyons and multiple mountain ranges.  One of my favorite areas lies in the northeastern part of the state, the Uintas.  Known for incredible high-country lakes, awesome hunting grounds and beautiful alpine scenery, the Uintas have something for everyone, unless you’re looking for big cities.

Upper Stillwater #1

My friends the Campbell’s and I decided to go camping at a very nice area called the Upper Stillwater Reservoir, about 38 miles from Duschesne, Utah.  They had been there before and were sure that I’d find it a great place to “kick back” and enjoy the peace and quiet.  As always, they were right on the money.

Upper Stillwater #3

We stayed at the Rock Creek Campground, just below the dam.  At an altitude of 8,000 feet above sea level, it offers 32 sites which can accommodate tents and RV’s.  In terms of facilities it has; picnic tables, fire rings, tent and RV pads, flush toilets and drinking and trash collection.  There is no dump station on-site, but you can roll down the road for a mere 3 miles and use the one at the Yellow Pine Campground.

The reservoir was built in 1987 with the construction of a rolled concrete dam which is a favorite among engineers.  It is part of the Central Utah Project, which was developed to utilize the water from the Colorado Plateau.  At the time of our visit the dam was being serviced and as such the water level was extremely low.

Upper Stillwater #2

Uses include, but are not limited to: recreation, flood control and fish & wildlife management.  The reservoir elevation sits at 8,176 feet with the watershed being the Uinta Mountains, though it is estimated that much of the water is diverted to the Wasatch Front, primarily for crop irrigation.  The highest point in the region is Ostler Peak which is an impressive site at 12,717 feet above sea level.

Our visit to Stillwater turned out be quite the adventure on our late evening hike.  We thought it would be fun to explore the Red Creek Trail before dark.  The trail is right outside the campground and closely follows the side of the steep mountain.  Though it’s fairly level, it is VERY narrow, and that’s where the adventure comes in.  We (Myself, Jeff, Rachelle and their two black labs Jesse & Jackson) were tooling along when we heard voices and “mooing”.  It turned out that some not-too-bright tourists were herding a bunch of cattle right at us.  Did I mention that this trail was VERY narrow with a sheer drop on one side?  You get the picture.

Upper Stillwater #4

When the cattle rounded the bend, there we were, all sharing a 2-foot wide trail.  The Sherriff (Jackson) went into full protective mode and let out a massive bark which startled the oncoming bovines considerably.  One actually jumped off the cliff (don’t know for-sure how it fared, though I think it did survive based on much noise from below, post rolling cow).  This slowed the herd sufficiently giving us time to climb into positions of relative safety.  The cows passed and so did we.  This, though memorable, has to go into the record book as the most traumatic hike to date, I sincerely hope nothing ever replaces it for that dubious honor.

Upper Stillwater #5

We enjoyed a semi-pleasant evening by a campfire, re-living the events of recent hours.  The next day after breaking camp, Jeff & Shelly allowed the me luxury of hiking back down the gravel road so I could take tons of photos of the scenery.  The drive back to Salt Lake City spoiled us with beautiful high-country farmland.  We all wished we could live in such a place.

Upper Stillwater #6

Upper Stillwater #7

If you decide to head up to Stillwater, check out their website at: Upper Stillwater Reservoir.  You can also call them at (435) 738-2482.

Last modified on: June 13th 2013.
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