There has to be a good story behind a name like Starvation Lake, right? There are several stories, and most of them revolve around the harsh winters and lack of food that the people who once lived here had to endure. Engineers dammed the Starvation River in 1970. The dam did not exactly make the desert bloom, but it did create a very cool recreation area.
Located just two hours southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah, Fred Hayes State Park at Starvation will let you get your fill of outdoor adventure. In warm weather, lake activities are very popular, and this huge reservoir has lots of water. It's not unheard of to catch a 10-pound fish while you're here. When the snow starts falling, grab your snowshoes and hit one of the park’s many hiking trails. Other activities, like wildlife viewing, are popular twelve months a year. Fred Hayes State Park at Starvation also has excellent RV camping facilities. Full hookup sites are available, and RV campers can choose a mountain view or lake view campsite.
Starvation State Park is about two hours east of Salt Lake City and Provo, just off U.S. Highway 80. For the most part, Highway 80 is a two-lane road with lots of sudden curves. Some of them are rather sharp, especially between the Strawberry Reservoir and Fruitland. But there is little traffic and the desolate landscape provides excellent visibility, so you should have no problem navigating Highway 80 in your motorhome. Nearby Duchesne City is a tiny town, but it does have a grocery store, auto parts store, and a few convenience stores.
Outside of the large upper parking areas, large vehicle parking is only sporadically available in the park. But unless you go to one of the isolated, primitive campsites, pretty much everything is within walking distance. Most of the developed area of the park is between the two main RV campgrounds.
If you are into surf and sand this is the campground for your since it's almost literally at the water’s edge. The Beach Campground features 24 sites; 18 of them have electric, water, and sewer hookups, while six and electric and water only. Each site has a fire pit for cooking and/or small bonfires. Most of these sites have sheltered picnic tables as well. Campground amenities include a restroom and shower area. The RV dump station is near the Mountain View Campground.
This campground is a little higher up and a little further inland. But several of the sites are very close to the lake. Most of the 41 sites have electric and water hookups; three sites have sewer lines as well. Much like the Beach Campground, there is lots of grass everywhere, every site has a fire pit, and most sites have sheltered picnic tables. Campground amenities include hot showers and large, family-style restrooms. The park’s RV dump station is nearby as well.
In some ways, Starvation Lake has some of the best fishing in the state, but in other respects, fishing is a work in progress. The walleye are plentiful and big. At the annual walleye fishing tournament, several anglers usually haul in trophy-size fish. Perch and bass are plentiful here. As for other fish, like crappie, rangers sometimes ask that you release your catch to let the population grow. Shore fishing is very popular on this huge lake, especially near the dam. Or, you can put out to open water from one of the many boat launches. Winter ice fishing is probably not a good idea. The lake does not freeze over every year, and the ice is usually uneven. There is a fish cleaning station near the marina.
The main boat launch is in a marina which has several boat parking spots. There are a number of smaller boat launches scattered throughout the park. As a rule of thumb, if you want to launch a motorboat, go to the marina. But if you have a kayak or canoe, use one of the less-crowded smaller boat launches. The water here is deep and blue. Water temperatures hardly ever rise above 72 degrees, even in July and August. Most of the open water is in the northern part of the lake. Further south, there’s less space, but there’s plenty of room for unpowered craft and fishing boats. Boat rentals are available.
Don't forget to pack a swimsuit and picnic gear in your camper or travel trailer. The large sandy beach has several sheltered picnic areas. Like the camping areas and many other places in Fred Hayes State Park at Starvation, the picnic area is very grassy. That’s a nice touch that many visitors enjoy, especially in desolate northeastern Utah. The scenery is nice and the atmosphere is very tranquil. It’s even prettier in the spring, when the flowers bloom. Since the water is pretty cold all year, if you plan on swimming a lot, be prepared. However, it’s just the right temperature for wading and frolicking.
The park’s hiking trails are open to ATVs, hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers. For the most part, they are wide and well-maintained. Many ATVers rough it at the remote Knight Hollow primitive campground, because it’s close to the ATV trailhead. Some trails are rather rocky, steep, or sandy, but hey, that’s why they call it “hiking.”
The night sky is quite vibrant at in this area. The area around Mountain View Campground is a good place to go, as it is high and dark. On a moonless night, many details on nearby celestial bodies are clearly visible with just a simple telescope. Use a more powerful telescope to see the rings of Saturn and some unbelievable sights. Expect to see lots of shooting stars as well.
Geocaching is a fun family activity to tackle during your RV road trip to Utah. At various points along the park’s hiking trails, small metal boxes conceal small treasures, like pencil erasers and other such items. Find them with your eye or with your GPS-enabled device, sign the logbook, replace the prize, and move onto the next place where X marks the spot.