The survey of the recreational resources of the Colorado River Basin involved the consideration and investigation of about 135 potential reservoir sites. (Plate 15 in pocket.) The object of the investigation was to ascertain, at least in a preliminary way, the character of the area which would be flooded or affected by the reservoir; the recreational and scientific importance of the scenic, historic, geologic, archeologic, or biologic features of the reservoir area; the effect the potential project would have on important existing features; and the potential recreational values of the reservoir area.
In most instances, project plans had not been completed for the dams and reservoirs, and in many cases the only information available at the time was the approximate location and purpose of the dam and the size of the reservoir. Hence, it was not possible to make a final appraisal of the potential recreational values of the reservoir. Generally, however, it was possible to determine whether important recreational features existed in the reservoir area and whether the potential reservoir would or could have recreational values.
In a number of cases, particularly in regard to smaller reservoirs, the recreational potentialities of the site will be increased considerably if, as the project investigations progress, it is found possible to provide a dead storage or conservation pool.
For convenience in planning the development of the water resources of the Colorado River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has divided the basin into seven main divisions suggested by physical characteristics. The same divisions are used in the following discussion.
Upper Green River Basin.In the Upper Green River Basin, the Flaming Gorge, Red Canyon, Fontenelle, and Kendall Reservoir sites appear to be of most importance for recreation. The mile-long Flaming Gorge of the Green River is unusually colorful but it is not unique or outstanding in comparison with the colorful scenery found farther down the Green River. However, the combined scenic and geologic interest of Flaming Gorge, the nearby Horseshoe Canyon, and the canyons of Sheep Creek, plus the proposed reservoir would make this section of considerable recreational value. There is certain to be a demand for recreational facilities in the vicinity of the dam and at one or two points up the reservoir to serve people traveling through the region and those living in the vicinity of Green River, Wyo.
The Red Canyon Dam site, 31 miles below Flaming Gorge, is also in the scenic country on the north side of the Uinta Mountains. With the Flaming Gorge Dam the Red Canyon Reservoir should be fairly free of silt and should offer good fishing possibilities. The sheer walls of the canyon, however, greatly limit the possible use of the reservoir for recreational purposes.
The Fontenelle and Kendall Reservoirs on the Green River in Wyoming would be primarily of local recreational interest, but would receive some tourist use because of the proximity of United States Highways 189 and 187.
Most of the other potential reservoirs lie in the open sagebrush plains and hills and would offer little in the way of recreational attractiveness because of summer drawdown and lack of cover. Burnt Lake, lying within the Bridger National Forest, is notable for its natural scenery and its nearly complete freedom from artificial development. Alteration of the water level, as has been proposed, would ruin the scenic and recreational values of the lake.
Yampa and White River Basins.The Juniper and Upper Bear Reservoir sites are conveniently located to serve the more populated sections of the basin. With some development of recreational facilities and fishing, they should be popular with the local people and those traveling through the region. The other reservoir sites are situated in sparsely populated areas and would have little effect on the recreational resources of the basin.
Uinta Basin.The two potential dam and reservoir projects, Echo Park and Split Mountain, will effect Dinosaur National Monument. These projects are discussed in Chapter IX.
The many good lakes and streams in the Uinta Mountains lessen the need for water recreational areas in the adjoining Duchesne and Ashley Valleys. However, the proposed Pelican Lake, Starvation, Stanaker and Red Creek Reservoirs should have some local recreational value. Crow Creek, in a remote location, would probably receive little use. The Hades site is on one of the main approach roads to the High Uintas Primitive Area. The proposed reservoir development would not compensate for the loss of the present recreational assets. The enlargement of Strawberry Reservoir is not likely to increase its present recreational values unless the percentage of drawdown on the enlarged reservoir is less than that of the present one.
Price and San Rafael River Basins.This section lacks natural water areas suitable for recreational use. Hence, all of the sites, except perhaps the Buckhorn which is in desert country and would be subject to complete drawdown, should be planned for recreational use by the residents of the nearby irrigated districts. The Mammoth and Joes Valley sites in the Manti National Forest at fairly high elevations appear to offer the best possibilities.
The two large potentialities in this subdivision are the Desolation and Rattlesnake Dams located in the remote and almost inaccessible canyons of the Green River. The reservoirs formed by the two dams would extend from a few miles north of Green River, Utah, almost to Ouray, Utah. The main access of the reservoirs would be from these two towns. Although the reservoir areas have only been investigated from the air, it is doubtful that the scenic or recreational values, either existing or potential, will be found important. Present information indicates that scenically this section does not compare with sections along the Green above Jensen, Utah, and below Green River, Utah. Some archeological sites of importance have been found in side canyons, indicating that an archeological survey of the reservoir areas should be made well in advance of the completion of these projects.