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Also known as Fred Hayes State Park, Starvation State Park was officially established in 1972 when the dam was completed. Starvation State Park borders a 3,500-acre reservoir. It’s believed that a small settlement near the Strawberry River was established in the late 1800s, and this settlement struggled to survive in a harsh, arid region that Utah is well-known for.
The settlement’s residents struggled to keep not only their cattle alive but also themselves. Many - both people and cattle alike - died of starvation in the late 1800s. Settlers traveling through the regions found their bodies, and rather than remain in the area, buried these villagers with a sign describing their fate, and kept going. And that is the likely origin of the name for this region and the state park.
The closest town with a medical clinic is Duchesne, UT, which is primarily an oil and cattle town. The town’s motto is “the Gateway to Uintah Basin.” It’s believed that William Long, aka Sundance Kid, may have not died in Bolivia, but rather returned to his hometown, Duchesne.
Although Starvation State Park is only around 800 acres, it lines the shores of the Starvation Reservoir, which has a surface area of 3,500 acres. The pristine aquamarine water of the reservoir is perfect for walleye fish, and they are especially robust. Fishermen frequently catch trophy-sized walleye fish that weigh over 10 pounds. The Walleye Classic Fishing Tournament has been held annually since 1991, and several other smaller tournaments are held on the lake frequently. In addition to walleye, other fish like yellow perch, smallmouth bass, rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout, carp, and kokanee salmon are common.
Close to the public boat ramp, the park office operates a small boat rental service, lending out rowboats, small motorboats, canoes, and kayaks. Starvation State Park also has two courtesy docks, and boaters are allowed to tie up their boats at the shore near their campgrounds. There are also fish-cleaning stations available. Embark in a boat and duck into a cove along the shores for a quiet day of fishing or sunbathing.
In addition to the fishing retreat, land-bound adventurers can try their hand at the 3D archery course or hit the trails. There are a few miles of hiking trails that climb rugged terrain to rocky summits. Alternatively, hop into an OHV and roam the dirt roads. Be mindful that Ute Native American Tribal lands encompass Starvation State Park, and trespassing - whether on foot or vehicle - is strictly prohibited.
Rent an RV and skip the long, lonely drive from the closest hotel. Wake up to rosy rocks colored by the rising sun. Starvation State Park RV campgrounds have six campgrounds, two of which are developed. The Beach Campground is, as the name suggests, waterfront. It has restrooms with flush toilets, hot showers, electric and water hookups for all RV sites, and fire pits at each site.
Mountain View Campground is found on the side of a low hill, and most RV sites have a fabulous view of the lake. There are hot showers, electric and water hookups, and fire pits at each site. Atop the hill, the views of the turquoise lake contrasted by the soft suede hills are brilliant.
As remote and isolated as this region is, with a little patience and the help of a motorhome rental, the nearby towns are just a heartbeat away. Vernal, UT, is nicknamed “Dino town,” because of the abundance of fossil finds in the area. There are two museums that centers around dinosaurs: the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum and Dinosaur Land. Vernal also holds an annual Games, Anime, and More festival in the town.
The small town of Roosevelt, UT, is one of the few towns in Utah with a drive-in theater. This relic is alive and well, featuring both new releases and classic films on a regular basis. On a warm summer evening, roll up in a camper rental and enjoy your favorite film. Underneath the big screen, children pump their legs on the old-fashioned swings, seesaws, and slides. In the back of the theater, teenagers shill buttery popcorn and candies in the old-timey confectionary shop.
At the end of a long day of traveling in a motorhome rental, pull up at an RV site at Starvation State Park. Kick up your heels by a campfire and watch stars appear in the night sky. In this remote part of Utah, light pollution is minimal, and the stars are clear and bright. Several celestial objects can be seen with the naked eye.