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East Canyon prepares for summer action

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff
A wake-boarder launches off an East Canyon wave Monday. The recreation area is going through a total renovation.
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After taking the East Canyon exit off of I-80, a driver will find abundant opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in solitude. From Little Dell to East Canyon Reservoir, the area seems almost hidden from society.

"It’s kind of tucked away," said Jared Hayes, East Canyon Park Ranger. "People say, ‘This is our tucked away hiding place.’"

East Canyon is actually closer to Salt Lake than other reservoirs nearby, but the size of the lake, Hayes says, is the reason people don’t visit as much.

"We’re the closest state park to Salt Lake City but we’re so small that not a lot of people know about us," Hayes said. He added, that although fewer people visit, East Canyon still fills up on the weekends.

Brad, a Salt Lake resident, took advantage of the isolation Monday morning by casting his fly rod on Little Dell.

"There’s big cutthroat trout here," Brad said, "and I usually have this place all to myself. There’s also really big brook trout in this lake, they’re few and far between but they’re in here."

Highway 66 and 65, that traverse the area from Henefer to Parley’s Canyon, are also used extensively by cyclists and bikers.

"There’s a ton of bikers that bike up around here." Hayes said. "Motorcyclist and cyclists, they come up and around the park, it’s another scenic drive for a lot of motorcyclists."

For hikers, trails line the highway that leads to East Canyon. One such is the Mormon Trail.

"It goes out to Mormon Flats; it’s a group site where old Mormon fortifications were built where the pioneers settled. It’s a real hike, about four and a half miles," Hayes said.

East Canyon is currently in the first phase of a total renovation project. Previously, the recreation area was without flushing toilets, showers, full hookups and a concession area. That will change by the end of the summer, if everything goes according to plan.

The north end of the lake is close to completion, there are hookups available and each camping site had its own shelter. The new concession area will be available for refreshments and rentals. East Canyon is currently working on a new entrance road and a new office building. It is planned that the south end of the park will be completed by the end of the year.

Recreationists will find a wide concrete launching ramp, paved parking area, modern restrooms, showers, fish cleaning station and a 31-unit campground with a large overflow area. Two spacious, covered pavilions with electricity are available for groups.

"We’re going to be getting renting out boats and jet skis. Everything in the campground is new. We’ve never had flushable toilets or showers or pavilions, everything is brand new," Hayes said.

Hayes said they will have a campost at the park where seasonal volunteers will maintain the campgrounds for visitors and collect fees.

Once the campgrounds opened Memorial Day, Hayes said, people started visiting more often. It is a place, he said, that people can come in the summer to get away from the heat of the lower valleys and enjoy the outdoors in more of an intimate setting.

The fishing at East Canyon is taking off, according to Hayes.

"The new big thing is, someone planted smallmouth bass, and they’ve really taken off up here. The rainbows are nice size, anywhere from 14 to 18 inches. There is also crappie in here, which were illegally planted, they are also doing well," he said.

Hayes said the deep rocky bottom of the reservoir is the reason for the healthy fish habitat. The trout benefit from the deeper cooler water and the bass flourish in the shallows. Outside of the reservoir, however, much of the land is private so anglers need to take caution when fishing the streams around the lake.

"The bass have done really well, it’s so deep and rocky, so we get both of two worlds," he said. "The wildlife is amazing. During the wintertime you can drive up here and catch a couple hundred head of dear, see elk and moose."

Camping fees are $14 and day use fees are $5. For information about fees, reservations, and regulations, contact East Canyon State Park, 5535 South Highway 66, Morgan, Utah, (801) 829-6866.


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