To See the Best Utah Has to Offer, Look No Farther Than Navajo Lake

Tom Wharton | Special to The Tribune Navajo Lake in morning.

Yet, from the ancient forces that formed the Cedar Breaks amphitheater and Navajo Lake to more modern natural sites that include wildflower watching, star gazing and fishing, there is much to see and learn here.

For the most part, the effects of the fire, though great for thousands of acres and disastrous for property owners who lost cabins, had little effect on camping or visiting the area, which is now mostly open again for recreation.

According to Dixie National Forest information specialist Kacy Ellsworth, the only campground affected by the fire was Yankee Meadow just east of Parowan.

She said that area could be closed for between one and five years due to possible flooding, numerous hazardous trees and slick areas due to ash.

“The area is not safe for recreation,” she said. “Yankee Meadow has extensive damage.”

Other campgrounds in the area including Panguitch Lake North and South, White Bridge, Spruces, Te-Ah, Navajo Lake, Cedar Canyon, Deer Haven, Duck Creek and Cedar Breaks are open. Many fill quickly, especially on summer weekends, and reservations are suggested.

“We were really lucky,” said Shannon Eberhard, information specialist for Cedar Breaks National Monument. “The fire was six miles north of us and moved north and east. We didn’t fget affected by the smoke, though we had a good view of the flume.”

Jim Facciuto of the Panguitch Lake Resort said his facility has been open since July 3, though business is slower.

“Nothing burned here and there was no damage.” he said. “It is nice and green around us. There are spots on the other side of the lake that got burned. Fishing is great..We are trying to get it back together. It will take a little while, but we will be fine.”

Brian Head spokesman Mark Wilder said that resort was able to open with full operations on July 4th. The resort is offering regularly scheduled weekend operations Friday through Sunday with live music, food and drink, mountain biking, a family adventure trail, zip line, tubing, climbing wall and scenic chair lift rides.

What hasn’t changed is the area’s interesting geology.

Navajo Lake, for example, has an interesting story about its formation. According to VisitCedarCity.com, it formed when an ancient lava flow dammed the eastern side of the lake valley. Since it rests on a bed of limestone and drains underground through sinkholes. Some water drains towards the Pacific Ocean via Cascade Falls and the Virgin River, while the balance runs east coming out at Duck Creek.

There are lava tubes and ice caves in the area to explore and some interesting viewpoints, including some unusual looks of nearby Zion National Park.

Cedar Breaks’ amphitheater offers some of the state’s most amazing views at an elevation over 10,000 feet. It is located on the 100-mile long Hurricane Fault, which became active about 10 million years ago after Cedar Breaks was once covered by an ancient lake.

The high mountain area at Cedar Breaks is known for its displays of wildflowers than can often last through the summer. According to Eberhard, the 12th annual wildflower festival continues through Sunday and includes daily wildflower walks, and this weekend, booths for kids, crafts, sidewalk chalks, games, and flower coloring.

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Tom Wharton | Special to The Tribune Navajo Lake in morning.

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The monument, which received International Dark Sky designation this year, also holds summer star parties every Saturday evening from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Large telescopes are provided for these events.

The area is also known for good fishing at Panguitch Lake, Duck Creek Pond, Navajo Lake, Bristlecone Pond at Brian Head and Aspen Mirror Lake.

Mountain bikers can enjoy and easy 12-mile ride around Navajo Lake or lift-served mountain biking on the weekends at Brian Head.

The national forest is also popular with off-highway vehicle riders with UHV and ATV rentals available at Duck Creek Village, which features lodges, retail stores and restaurants. There is also a small lodge with boat and cabin rentals on the shores of Navajo Lake.

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