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Descriptions of
Eastern Utah Areas:
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DESCRIPTIONS OF EASTERN UTAH
BIRDING AREAS:
1 - 10

Below are descriptions of:
[1]  Blacks Fork
[2]  China Meadows
[3]  Hoop Lake
[4]  Sheep Creek Geological Trail
[5]  Red Canyon Overlook and Greens Lakes
[6]  Swett Ranch
[7]  Flaming Gorge Dam
[8]  Little Hole
[9]  Browns Park
[10]  Aspen Nature Trail


  [1]  Blacks Fork
In general, when traveling south from Wyoming onto the north slope of the Uinta Mountains in Utah the habitats change from low elevation to high elevation. Thus, the habitats change from sagebrush steppe to mountain shrub to aspen to lodgepole pine to mixed conifers. These vegetation types intermix depending on slope, aspect, and moisture. This intermixing adds to the diversity of the area. North-south roads usually follow stream corridors, along a riparian zone rich in bird life. Look for woodpeckers, flycatchers, warblers, Chipping Sparrow and Song Sparrow in aspen and riparian areas. At higher elevations look for Clark's Nutcracker, Pine Grosbeak, Gray Jay, Hermit Thrush, White-crowned Sparrow and more. If backpacking into the alpine area, Black Rosy-Finch and White-tailed Ptarmigan are a remote possibility.

There are several options for birders along the Blacks Fork, one is to bird the road from the turnoff west of Robertson (Wyoming) to the East Blacks Fork Trailhead and return. The second is to bird to the Trailhead, then return to FR-073 and travel east to China Meadows (site #2). The third is to drive to the East Blacks Fork Trailhead and backpack into the high country for a multiple-day wilderness adventure.

HABITATS: Varied from sagebrush to spruce-fir as elevation increases. Aspen groves and riparian corridors support the highest density of birds.

FEATURED BIRDS: Golden Eagle, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Gray Jay, Hermit Thrush, and Lincoln's Sparrow.

SEASON: Summer.

LOCATION: From Mountain View, Wyoming, take WY-410 south for 12 miles to Blacks Fork Road (5 miles west of Robertson). Then drive south on Blacks Fork Road for 12 miles to Meeks Cabin Reservoir, then another 12 miles to East Blacks Fork campground and trailhead. FR-073 west to China Meadows junctions with the Blacks Fork Road 4 miles south of Meeks Cabin Reservoir.

GPS COORDINATES: Trailhead at end of road, 40 52' 08"N, 110 32' 38"W

LAND OWNERSHIP: Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

NOTES: Restrooms and campgrounds are available.

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  [2]  China Meadows
The vegetation gradient from low to high elevation is similar to the Blacks Fork area (site #1), however, large wet meadows plus China Lake, Marsh Lake, and Bridger Lake make this area unique. In addition to the featured birds, look for Green-winged Teal, Northern Harrier, Common Nighthawk, Gray Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Pipit, Cassin's Finch, Pine Siskin, and more. Birding is good along the road and at the campgrounds and picnic areas. Hiking and backpacking into the high country can start at the China Meadows Trailhead and go up East Smiths Fork.

HABITATS: Primarily wet meadow, open water, riparian, and aspen.

FEATURED BIRDS: Spotted Sandpiper, Hairy Woodpecker, Western Tanager, Mountain Bluebird, and Lincoln's Sparrow.

SEASON: Summer

LOCATION: From Mountain View, Wyoming, go south for 7 miles on WY-410 until the road turns west (right) then go straight on WY-246 south for 8 miles to the Forest Boundary. State Line Reservoir is 6 more miles on FR-013, then 2 miles to the Bridger Lake turnoff and 3 miles to China Meadows.

GPS COORDINATES: China Meadows Trailhead, 40 55' 16"N, 110 24' 12"W.

LAND OWNERSHIP: Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

NOTES: Restrooms available at campgrounds and picnic areas.

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  [3]  Hoop Lake
The Hoop Lake area offers an opportunity for a shorter trip to bird the north slope of the Uinta Mountains. Hoop Lake Campground is only 10 miles from the paved WY-414 road (at Lonetree). The road, FR-078, goes along Beaver Creek from Lonetree and birding is good. The aspen stands around Hoop Lake also provide good birding. The road to Hoop Lake is mostly through sagebrush and mountain shrub, with mountain mahogany dominating. The lodgepole pine type begins just about at Hoop Lake. There are several trails near Hoop Lake that can provide any distance of hiking desired. Approximately 3 miles east of Hoop Lake is the Burnt Fork Trailhead and a trail heading up Burnt Fork. Thirteen miles west of Hoop Lake is the Henrys Fork Trailhead. The Henrys Fork Trail goes to the headwaters of Henrys Fork in the Dollar Lake area. It is a 10 mile hike (one way), but provides an opportunity to view White-tailed Ptarmigan and other high elevation birds. In this area, the highest probability for ptarmigan viewing is in the Upper Henrys Fork Basin or Painter Basin. We suggest acquiring more detailed Forest Service maps if exploring the back country.

HABITATS: Sagebrush steppe, riparian, and aspen, unless backpacking to the alpine.

FEATURED BIRDS: Lincoln's Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, Williamson's Sapsucker, and American Three-toed Woodpecker.

SEASON: Summer

LOCATION: Drive 21 miles of Mountain View on WY-414 to just east of the old town site of Lonetree, Wyoming. Just east of Lonetree, FR-078 heads south (from WY-414) and is marked for Hoop Lake and Hole-in-the-Rock. Lonetree to Hoop Lake Campground is 10 miles.

GPS COORDINATES: Hoop Lake, 40 55' 27"N, 110 07' 27"W.

LAND OWNERSHIP: Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

NOTES: Restroom and campgrounds available.

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  [4]  Sheep Creek Geological Trail
Sheep Creek and the Sheep Creek Geological Trail provide great birding areas, but are known primarily for the complex geology. Lower Sheep Creek is highlighted in "nature watch" promotion materials for the colorful spawning kokanee salmon during September and October. However, we highlight the loop for its great birding area traversing several habitat types. The lower elevation at the north end of the drive offers the most bird diversity and numbers, but the high-elevation habitats near the south end offer good opportunities for birds preferring higher elevations. From the north, FR-218 travels along Sheep Creek, then climbs into the higher Uinta Mountains before re-connecting with UT-44. Suggested birding spots include the riparian habitat at Carmel Campground, the trees at Palisades Memorial Park picnic area, and the pullout at the sign indicating the boundary of the Sheep Creek Geological Area. The last spot is for shrub species like Green-tailed Towhee and to scan the nearby rugged mountains for soaring raptors and elusive bighorn sheep. The drive is 14 miles long between the north and south junction with UT-44.

The Sheep Creek Nature Trail is located on UT-44 at Sheep Creek, across from the turnoff to the Sheep Creek Geological Loop. The nature trail is one of 17 sites highlighted for the Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway with its theme of "wildlife through the ages." The trail consists of a viewing bridge for kokanee salmon (September-October), a .5 mile nature loop that begins along the stream and then returns through riparian vegetation. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) holds a kokanee salmon day in mid-September to watch the bright red fish spawn in the creek. Bighorn Sheep are often viewed during this event.

The drive is along the "old" highway route. In June of 1965 a flash flood destroyed much of Sheep Creek and killed several people at a campground. The highway (UT-44) was then relocated. The area is now a rich riparian type with very little evidence of the flood. There are many roads in the area for additional exploration. From the south portion of FR-218, there are signs indicating roads to Spirit Lake (21 miles), Ute Lookout (4 miles), Sheep Creek Lake (10 miles) and more.

With the diversity of habitats, birders should look for Gray Catbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Dusky Flycatcher, Swainson's Thrush, and Orange-crowned Warbler along riparian areas. Look for Blue Grouse, Lazuli Bunting, Brewer's Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, and Sage Thrasher when moving through the shrub type, then Pinyon Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Gray Flycatcher, Cooper's Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Western Tanager, and Steller's Jay when at the higher forested elevations.

HABITATS: Steep canyon walls, riparian vegetation, up to aspen (elevation varies from 6,300 to 7,800 feet).

FEATURED BIRDS: Peregrine Falcon, Blue Grouse, Cooper's Hawk, Lewis's Woodpecker, American Dipper, and Black-headed Grosbeak.

SEASON: Summer as road is closed in winter.

LOCATION: From Manila, drive 7 miles south on UT-44 and then turn west onto Sheep Creek Geological Loop. In 14 miles, the road re-connects with UT-44.

GPS COORDINATES: Palisades Memorial Park, 40 54' 28"N, 109 47' 57"W; FR-218/UT-44 south junction, 40 53' 17N, 109 42' 25"W.

LAND OWNERSHIP: Ashley National Forest.

NOTES: Restroom and picnic facilities along Sheep Creek.

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  [5]  Red Canyon Overlook and Greens Lakes
The junction on UT-44 to the Red Canyon Overlook is well signed. After turning north from UT-44, drive slowly and look for birds. The Red Canyon Lodge is bird friendly and supports many hummingbird feeders. Just past the entrance to the lodge is a parking area and nature trail at West Greens Lake. Look for the entrance to the lodge on the east side of the road and the entrance to the nature trail on the west side of the road. On Greens Lake, look for Pied-billed Grebe, Spotted Sandpiper, Mallard, and more.

A short distance further along the road is the parking area for the Red Canyon Overlook and visitor center. The overlook, and trails in the vicinity, provide spectacular views of Flaming Gorge Reservoir and offers opportunities to view Osprey, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk and more. Birders interested in other "nature watch" species will enjoy bighorn sheep, cottontail rabbits, chipmunks, ground squirrels, and flowers. With a spotting scope, bighorn sheep can occasionally be seen on Bear Top Mountain across the reservoir and this area is also the location of a Peregrine Falcon hacking site.

Several campgrounds are in the area. In addition, there is a network of well marked trails. The trails provide good birding opportunities and connect the campgrounds and visitor center.

HABITATS: Open water, canyon, and ponderosa pine forest.

FEATURED BIRDS: Peregrine Falcon, Blue Grouse, Clark's Nutcracker, Rock Wren, and several waterfowl species (Greens Lakes).

SEASON: Summer.

LOCATION: From UT-44 a well marked paved road goes north to Greens Lakes and Red Canyon Overlook. This road is approximately 5 miles west of the US-191/UT-44 junction (Greendale Junction) on UT-44.

GPS COORDINATES: Red Canyon Lodge at East Greens Lake, 40 52' 25"N, 109 32' 27"W; Red Canyon Visitor Center, 40 53' 30"N, 109 33' 37"W.

LAND OWNERSHIP: Private and Ashley National Forest.

NOTES: The Red Canyon Lodge includes a restaurant, cabins, and many other recreational activities. More information can be found at www.redcanyonlodge.com.

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  [6]  Swett Ranch
Swett Ranch is maintained by the Forest Service as a Historical site. Walking through the aspen groves, meadows, and ponderosa pine stands around the historical buildings can be productive for birds. The site is also very scenic.

HABITATS: Aspen, ponderosa pine, and open meadows.

FEATURED BIRDS: Hairy Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird and Mountain Chickadee.

SEASON: Summer.

LOCATION: From the US-191/UT-44 junction (Greendale Junction), continue on US-191 for 0.5 miles then take FR-158 left (west) for 1.5 miles to ranch. Greendale Junction is 36 miles north of Vernal.

GPS COORDINATES: 40 52' 41"N, 109 29' 18"W

LAND OWNERSHIP: Ashley National Forest.

NOTES: Restrooms available.

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  [7]  Flaming Gorge Dam
Flaming Gorge Reservoir hosts one of the largest inland colonies of nesting Osprey. The area around the visitor center near the dam is an excellent place to view these magnificent birds. Nests can be seen on the islands, along the shoreline, and on man-made structures on the bridge and dam. At Flaming Gorge, most of the Osprey nests are on rock pinnacles. UDWR personnel lead Osprey watch sessions during the summer. Information concerning observation points above and below the dam is available at the visitor center, or on signs in the area.

An optional side trip near the dam is a road to ponderosa pine habitat along Pipe Creek. The gravel road heads southeast just east of the impressive Cart Creek Bridge and before reaching the dam. Look for Clark's Nutcracker, Pygmy Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red Crossbill, and Steller's Jay.

Below the dam is a 7.5 mile trail following the Green River from the Dam to Little Hole (site #8). Another option for viewing this stretch of the Green River is by floating the river. In addition to many species of birds, river otters are frequently seen along the river. Specific information for float trips down the Green River can be obtained at the visitor center.

HABITATS: Open water, cliffs, and river riparian.

FEATURED BIRDS: Osprey.

SEASON: Summer.

LOCATION: From the US-191/UT-44 junction (Greendale Junction), continue on US-191 for approximately 6 miles to the dam site and visitor center. Greendale Junction is 36 miles north of Vernal.

GPS COORDINATES: 40 54' 52"N, 109 25' 19"W.

LAND OWNERSHIP: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

NOTES: Information and restrooms are at the visitor center.

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  [8]  Little Hole
Formerly, the drive from Dutch John to the Little Hole boat ramp was through pinyon-juniper woodlands. However a recent fire has left the area covered with tree skeletons, but the herbaceous vegetation is plentiful and birds are abundant. Look for Lark Sparrow, Mountain Bluebird, Mourning Dove and more. The Dripping Spring Campground is among the dead trees and exposed to the hot sun in the current post-fire period. Prior to the fire, several bird monitoring transects went through the pinyon-juniper woodlands. Regularly recorded birds included Gray Flycatcher, Mountain Bluebird, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Red Crossbill, White-breasted Nuthatch and Clark's Nutcracker. Presumably, these can still be observed in the patches of unburned woodlands.

The overlook just before dropping down to Little Hole is a good place for a short stop as it over looks the Green River and is above a patch of pinyon-juniper that escaped the fire. The trees at the picnic area at Little Hole were also protected from the fire and now form a small oasis of green attracting many species of birds. When I visited, the boat ramp hosts provided bird feeders which were very active with birds. Using the feeders (late June) were Rufous Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Pine Siskin, Bullock's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Scrub-Jay, and Lazuli Bunting and more.

Boat ramps below Flaming Gorge Dam and at Little Hole are popular jumping off places for rafters floating the Green River. There are several "river only" accessible camp sites along the river. In addition to birds, river otters are often observed along this section of the Green River. A walking trail from Little Hole to the Flaming Gorge dam through Red Canyon offers opportunities for Osprey, White-throated Swift, Spotted Sandpiper, Spotted Towhee, Clark's Nutcracker, Pinyon Jay, and more.

HABITATS: Pinyon-juniper, riparian, wetlands and running water.

FEATURED BIRDS: Osprey, Spotted Sandpiper, Rufous Hummingbird (late summer and fall), Bullock's Oriole, Western Scrub-Jay, and Bald Eagle (winter).

SEASON: Yearlong but best from early spring to late fall.

LOCATION: From US-191, take FR-075 east to Little Hole boat ramp on the Green River. FR-075 is paved and leaves US-191 on the north side of Dutch John. Little Hole is approximately a 6-mile drive.

GPS COORDINATES: 40 54' 41"N, 109 18' 44"W

LAND OWNERSHIP: BLM and Ashley National Forest.

NOTES: At the US-191/FR-075 junction is a filling station, restaurant, and store with raft rentals and other recreational supplies. Rentals are also available at the Dutch John Airport. Commercially guided floats from Little Hole to Jarvie Historical Ranch (site #9) are available. Little Hole has restroom facilities.

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  [9]  Browns Park
The drive to Browns Park is a longer drive than most other birding hotspots in the area, but well worth a daylong trip. The road to Clay Basin and Browns Park is a mix of pavement and well maintained gravel roads. From US-191 the road goes into Wyoming then back into Utah. Browns Park was made famous by Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, the Bassett sisters, and Tom Horn. Before the days of roads and fences, bison and pronghorns migrated to this wintering area from as far away as the Teton Mountains. Elk and mule deer still winter in the area. The sagebrush benches, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and river riparian habitat types provide a rich diversity of habitats for upland and riparian birds. In addition, a national wildlife refuge and state wildlife management areas span the Utah/Colorado border creating year long birding opportunities. Look for several species of ducks, mergansers, raptors, shorebirds, swallows, hummingbirds, warblers and sparrows. Specifically, look for Yellow-breasted Chats in summer, Rufous Hummingbirds in late summer, and wintering Bald Eagles. The trip will be enhanced with views of river otter, moose, deer, elk, pronghorn, and a rich variety of smaller wildlife.

HABITATS: Marsh, riparian, sagebrush, and Pinyon-juniper.

FEATURED BIRDS: Yellow-breasted Chat, Rufous Hummingbird, and Bald Eagle (Winter).

SEASON: Spring, summer, and fall.

LOCATION: Drive north on US-191 from Dutch John to near the Utah/Wyoming border. The road to the east is marked with signs to Clay Basin and Browns Park. It is approximately 20 miles to the John Jarvie Historical Ranch site.

GPS COORDINATES: At the fork in the road where one fork goes to Browns Park NWR and one to Jarvie Historical Ranch, 40 54' 13"N, 109 08' 46"W.

LAND OWNERSHIP: Bottoms mostly UDWR and Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge; the Jarvie Historical Ranch is managed by BLM.

NOTES: Restrooms at Jarvie Ranch site. The road can be hazardous during wet weather.

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  [10]  Aspen Nature Trail
The aspen nature trail, a Scenic Byway site, is a short 0.5 mile round trip walk from a parking lot to a beaver pond. It is a good place for a "stretch" stop when traveling on US-191. Birds include Tree Swallow, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Chipping Sparrow and more.

A similar aspen-pine-meadow area is accessible 5 miles north of Aspen Nature Trail at a trailhead for the Uinta Highline Trail. There is a parking area (no facilities) where the trail crosses an unimproved road (FR-062). GPS coordinates of this trailhead are 40 47' 36"N, 109 28' 35"W.

The Diamond Mountain Road is also good for birding and an area to locate Red Crossbill. The Diamond Mountain Road is signed and heads east just south of the Aspen Nature Trail parking area.

HABITATS: Aspen, lodgepole pine, riparian, pond.

FEATURED BIRDS: Downy Woodpecker and Dark-eyed Junco.

SEASON: Summer

LOCATION: The parking area is just east of US-191 and just north of the Diamond Mountain Road (milepost 225). This area is 24 miles north of Vernal.

GPS COORDINATES: 40 43' 35"N, 109 28' 06"W

LAND OWNERSHIP: Ashley National Forest.

NOTES: Restroom.

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Birding
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Descriptions of
Eastern Utah Areas:
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