Flaming Gorge Reservoir: Busting SUP Myths

By Melinda Rhodes
March 10, 2021

Discover the truth about paddleboarding on this scenic, state-straddling body of water with walls of fi-yah.

Water you doing today? Stand-up paddleboarding is a great way to explore the outdoors. It’s an easy and affordable sport to learn, uniting Utahns of all ages. Even your dog loves to get in on the action. As with all things popular, however, there are a lot of myths surrounding the sport. You may think you know everything there is to know about paddleboarding in Utah (and in general, smartypants), but we’re here to turn some of those crazy notions SUPside down.

MYTH: SUP only works your arms.

In the immortal, over-hashtagged words of Lego Skier Bro, “#Pumping up your #paddleboard is #probably the best #workout of #paddleboarding.” Most people laugh at this, thinking no truer words have ever been posted on social media. (10 PSI. 11 PSI. 12 … 12 … still 12. Why isn’t this *insert your favorite expletive here* gauge moving!?) But once you’re out on the water? Paddleboarding is a full-body workout.

Maintaining your balance engages almost every muscle from head to toe, though it doesn’t feel that way. It’s especially good for your torso. Use your core in conjunction with your arms to pull yourself to the paddle. This enables you to go farther, faster and gives you a better workout.

Flaming Gorge offers more opportunities to get exercise, including tranquil waters where you can park your plank and sneak in some SUP yoga or go swimming, surrounded by outrageously orange cliffs perfect for pullups or quick climbs.

MYTH: Southern Utah has the warmest water and the best scenery.

Sure. If you go out on an alpine lake with a surface elevation hovering around 10,000 feet (reflecting on you, Mirror Lake), the water inevitably makes your teeth chatter. But the surface of Flaming Gorge sits at 6,040. The water temp hits the 80s in the summer months. It’s like a bathtub. Only bigger. And better. And with real ducks, not the rubber kind.

Flaming Gorge also has red rock that rivals that down south. On the multi-day Red Canyon paddle trail, the geology transitions from walls of fi-yah to cliffs of ashy charcoal — beige and grey rock twisted together. Add a diverse bouquet of plant life and this section of northeastern Utah looks like the love child of the Uintas and St. George. Translation: Flaming Gorge dam is pretty damn spectacular.

MYTH: Only fish can be found at Flaming Gorge.

The reservoir has a reputation for trophy-sized trout. But there’s plenty of other wildlife (including those non-rubber duckies previously mentioned) in the area. Have you ever watched a line of ducklings turn on their turbo to keep up with mom? Absolute adorbs. Herds of bighorn sheep are often visible on the Kingfisher Island Loop, a 6-miler perfect for beginners that follows the shoreline. Osprey soar overhead practically everywhere you go. Moose and mule deer meander around lakes that feed into the reservoir. Yellow-bellied marmots sun themselves on large rocks like VSCO girls at the pool … only less annoying. And otters play along the edge of the water in quiet coves of the lake as well as along the banks of the Green River.

MYTH: There are too many motors to have a serene SUP sesh.

Think you’re going to be listening to the constant caterwaul of boats and avoiding waves kicked up by rowdy jet skis all day? Not so. Flaming Gorge looks like an aquatic scribble on the rugged landscape, with lots of peaceful nooks and crannies to explore. The Dutch John Draw trail is famous for its “fingers” and the entirety of this 4-miler is in a wakeless zone. You can put your paddleboard in or take it out practically anywhere along the shoreline of this massive manmade lake. Or, stick to paved launch points like the one at Cedar Springs Marina which is the beginning of the Cart Creek trail, a 5-mile out-and-back venturing into a narrow, quiet canyon.

THAT’S A FACT, JACK: Flaming Gorge is a paddler’s paradise.

Whether you’re a novice looking for calm waters or a seasoned SUPer who enjoys the challenge of the Green River’s mild rapids, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area has something for everyone. Many Flaming Gorge marinas and lodges also offer kayak and

paddleboard rentals (no pumping on your part!), as well as route recommendations. You can paddle in a new place every time you come to the reservoir and make each trip an adventure. No wonder it’s considered one of the best places to paddleboard in Utah.

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