Winnie in the Desert
Winnie in the Desert
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In the late 1960s, the state of Utah realized a need to create irrigation and flood control for the towns downriver - St. George, in particular - and set about to create a reservoir. Upon completion of the dam, the state officially established Gunlock State Park, which borders the reservoir, to foster recreational fun in the area. Gunlock State Park and the nearby town, Gunlock, take their name from the first settler in the area, William “Gunlock Will” Hamblin, who arrived in 1857. In addition to being skilled at repairing gunlocks (muzzleloaders’ firing mechanism), Gunlock Will was a renowned sharpshooter.
Also of minor interest is the main access road to Gunlock State Park, which was originally used by raiders who preyed on pioneers and miners traveling west seeking gold and greener acres.
The closest town is Gunlock, about three miles north of the state park. Primarily a farming town, there is precious little in the way of shopping and dining options in Gunlock. In contrast, St. George, is a bustling community with a variety of retail shopping, restaurants, and cultural activities. St. George is a little over 20 miles to the southeast.
Gunlock State Park is an underrated gem overshadowed by nearby Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and Zion National Park. Many locals flock to Gunlock State Park because it’s typically not as crowded even during the peak season. Gunlock State Park cradles Gunlock Reservoir, which sprawls some 266 acres. A small boat ramp invites swimming, boating, and fishing. Bass and catfish fishing is considered excellent, and though the reservoir is not stocked, the fish population is quite robust. Due to an invasive mussel sneaking into Utah, all boats, kayaks, and stand-up-paddleboards included must be decontaminated, and all watercraft owners must have proof of quagga decontamination (aka zebra mussel).
When the reservoir’s dam was constructed, the engineers took care to incorporate the natural landscape into the dam’s design. As a result, during the wet seasons, when the reservoir’s level is high enough to overflow the top of the dam, the water flow resembles a waterfall. Bring a camera to document this photogenic event.
Nearby Snow Canyon State Park has even more opportunities for outdoor recreational fun. Encompassing over 7,400 acres, there are plenty of unique geological features for people to explore, including an ancient lava flow, sandstone cliffs, and canyons. There are nearly 40 miles of hiking trails.
Skip enduring noisy hotel neighbors and long drives from the closest town when you rent an RV. Sleep in the comforts of a camper rental surrounded by sheer wilderness. RV camp at Gunlock Campground, which is a primitive site. Although there are restrooms with vault toilets, there are no other amenities.
Should more luxurious accommodations are desired, the Snow Canyon State Park RV campground may be a good candidate. It boasts features like electric and water hookups, hot showers, a dump station, and fire rings at each site. However, space is limited, with only 26 sites to go around. Finding another option may be necessary, particularly during the peak season. St. George has several RV campgrounds and RV parks.
As rural and remote as this part of Utah is, there are plenty of activities and sites of note to visit, and traveling to and from each is made easier with the help of a motorhome rental. Get a break from the extreme summer heat at the Pool Resort in Veyo. The pool, fed by a natural spring, was established in 1920 and has been a long-time destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. Pool Resort is also the site of one of the only private rock-climbing walls in Utah.
Enjoy live concerts and entertainment in an outdoor amphitheater at Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins. The venue regularly hosts broadway and off-broadway musicals, top-notch entertainers like Elton John and Bill Engvall, and other acts.
Step into the ancient past at Warner Valley and follow dinosaurs’ tracks as they roam the bedrock. Get a first-hand glimpse at their size by studying their stride and the dimensions of their footprints. Warner Valley, a few miles south of Hurricane, UT, also has several petroglyph rock art that are thousands of years old.
At the end of a long day of exploring, fishing, or roaming the Utah desert (or all of above), kick up your heels outside a travel trailer rental and look skyward. Far from the bright lights of cities, the stars overhead are dazzling and dramatic. Several celestial objects can be discerned with the naked eye and many more with the aid of a telescope.
Book an RV in Washington County, and head off on a perfect RV camping adventure in Utah with friends and family.