Fish Lake Utah – Wildlife and Aspen Groves

In mid-June we visited Fish Lake, Utah, and drove the pretty Fish Lake Scenic Byway where we saw lots of wildlife and later learned the story behind Five Wives Vodka. RV boondocking is all about spectacular views and space to spread out.

It was a tight squeeze to get here…but oh, was it worth it!

Sometimes driving the fifh wheel down dirt roads breaks stuff in the trailer.

Mark fixes a light fixture.

Mother duck and ducklings on Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

Mama duck & ducklings.

Seagulls fishing on Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

Seagulls fished every afternoon.

A hummingbird sits on my bike's derailleur cable.

A hummingbird guards "his" feeder.

Pelicans floating on Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

Little white pelican boats float past.

One way to walk your dog.

The easy way to walk your dog...

Dog bounding through tall grasses at Koosharem Reservoir, Utah.

…the dog's gotta run to keep up!

Bunny relaxing in the shade.

Relaxing in the shade of the trailer...

Cows watch our every move.

Cows stop what they're doing to study us as we ride past.

RV boondocking offers stunning views and privacy.

An idyllic setting.

Road to Richfield Utah goes over red rock mountains.

Red rock mountains encircle green farmland.

Richfield Utah is green farmland tucked between red rock mountains. Magazine rack in Richfield Utah.

Happy rural living.

Scowcroft Never Rip Overalls mural on the wall of Grass Valley Mercantile Company in Koosharem Utah.

The Grass Valley Mercantile Company.

Inside the Grass Valley Mercantile Co. Koosharem, Utah.

Inside the Mercantile.

Salt Lake Randonneurs on a 250-mile one-day bike ride

These guys were 93 miles into a 250-mile daytrip.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway.

Fish Lake seen through aspens, Utah.

Fish Lake through the aspens.

Aspen grove and bike path, Fish Lake, Utah.

A bike trail runs alongside the lake.

Wildflowers in Fish Lake, Utah.


Fish Lake Lodge, Utah.

The deck of Fish Lake Lodge overlooks the lake.

Elk head on the wall of Fish Lake Lodge, Utah. Cozy fireplace and log rocking chairs at Fish Lake Lodge, Utah.

The fireplace.

Cool staircase outside Fish Lake Lodge, Utah.

A creative bannister on the deck stairs.

Critter. Carving up the day's catch at Fish Lake - ugh!

"Ooh - fish guts - Yuck!!"

Carving up the day's catch at Fish Lake - cool!

"Cool, dad!!"

Old Spanish Trail, Fish Lake, Utah.

The Old Spanish Trail...memorialized.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway.


Butterflies and moths were everywhere.

The Mormon Temple in Manti, Utah.

The Mormon Temple in Manti.

Liquor outlet store, Utah.

Liquor is sold only in special places.

Free the Five Wives t-shirt.

Free the Five Wives!!

Five Wives vodka bottle.

The culprit.

Koosharem and the Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Mid-June, 2012 - Searing heat chased us out of the brilliant red rocks of Capitol Reef National

Park, Utah, and we were glad to see the landscape cool to soft green rolling hills as we traveled

north.  Searching for a scenic place to put the fifth wheel, we wriggled down a narrow dirt road,

squeezed the big rig between some very thick bushes, and finally emerged onto a perfect

shoreside spot on the edge of the Koosharem Reservoir.  What a view!

Of course, taking a 52' long rig down a rutted dirt

road can wreak havoc inside

the trailer, and Mark had to JB

Weld one of the light fixtures

back together again.

What a beautiful contrast the

blues and greens of this place

were to the rugged red rock

cliffs of Capitol Reef just 50

miles south of us.  Wildlife was

everywhere.  Raucous seagulls

went fishing right outside our door

every morning and evening, and a

mother duck cruised by every sunset with her

brood in tow.

Hummingbirds discovered our feeder minutes

after we put it out, and one took up residence

on the derailleur cable of my bike, jealously

guarding the feeder from a distance.

Life was very relaxed on this little lake.

Cormorants would surface from fishing

underwater every so often, and in the late

afternoons the pelicans would float by like

little white boats.

Just as regularly, a neighboring RVer

would zoom past on his motorbike while

his dog bounded eagerly behind.

One afternoon we found a rabbit lounging in the trailer's shadow looking very much

like he owned the place.

The lake was surrounded by pastures filled

with cattle and sheep.  When we rode our

bikes around the lake the cows all stopped

what they were doing and stared at us

intently as if they had never seen a bike


There was a peaceful serenity here.

One morning we headed over the hills to the towns of

Richfield and Koosharem.  Red rocks revealed

themselves once again on our drive, and the valley

stretched like a vast green sea of farmland between the


We had been visiting national parks for the last month,

going from one tourist destination to the next.  But this

was down home farm country.  When we parked at the

supermarket it was quite a change to slide in between

two trailers, one carrying irrigation equipment and the

other one filled with sheep.

Peering through

the slats of the

sheep trailer I

spotted a face that was fluffy and white with dark eyes but was definitely not a sheep.

"That's a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog," the farmer said as he walked over to me.

"He lives with the sheep all the time and guards them."  Sure enough, he looked very

contented in the trailer with all his sheep buddies surrounding him.

We got another

reminder of the rural

nature of this area

when we scanned

the magazine rack in

the supermarket and

saw "Chickens

Magazine" standing

front and center.  It featured

an article on how best to

catch and hold a hen.  All the

outdoorsy joys of rural living

were highlighted on this

magazine rack:  right behind

Chickens were Hunting

Illustrated, The

Backwoodsman, Rifle's Varmint Magazine, Trophy Hunter, Bow & Arrow, Fly Rod & Reel,

Illustrated Horse Magazine and The New Pioneer.

Over in the tiny town of Koosharem, the Grass Valley Mercantile Company has been the local

variety store for eons.  The mural on the outside of the building advertised "Never Rip

Overalls" by Scowcroft, a brand of pants we learned later were made in Utah in the early part

of the last century.  They were known for their ruggedness right up until the last pair was

produced in 1937.  There was a comforting air of antiquity here.

On our way into town

we had followed several

groups of cyclists,

including a pair on

recumbent bikes.  We

caught up with

Katherine of the Salt

Lake Randonneurs at

the Mercantile.

Between gulps of V8

juice she explained that

she and her companion

were 93 miles into a 250 mile bike

ride that day.  The kicker was that the

group of cyclists was doing all those

miles in just one day and night.  Yikes!

Another day we drove the Fish Lake

Scenic Byway, one of Utah's many

beautiful highways and byways that are

officially (and rightfully) designated as

"scenic."  This road weaves and curves

through pine tree studded hills and into

thick aspen groves.

A bike trail runs alongside the lake and

we found ourselves jumping on and off

our bikes to take in the views and check out the


Fish Lake Lodge is the centerpiece of the

Fish Lake community.  It is a wonderful old

building made of logs and filled inside with

trophy heads, a cozy fireplace and a large

dining room that looks out over the lake.

We were there in summertime, but the fireplace looked like it

would be perfect for snowy winter evenings too.

Of course the main activity at

Fish Lake is fishing, and it

seemed everyone we saw was

carrying a fishing pole or a

tackle box.

A large family huddled around

one of the fish cleaning

stations near the Lodge, and

two men busily carved up the

day's catch.  The kids watched

in fascination as one of the

men sliced open the belly of a

fish and then explained it was

a female as he pulled out a

fistful of eggs.

The Fish Lake Scenic Drive lived up to its billing and was very pretty.  People have

traveled through this area for a long time.  It was first inhabited by mammoth hunters

some 9,000 years ago, and part of the Old Spanish Trail, used by Utes and cowboys

alike, wanders along the western side of the lake.  Out of the corner of our eyes we

both thought we spotted a train of horseback riders, but on second glance we saw it

was a memorial sculpture in the middle of a field commemorating the Utes and settlers

who traversed the Old Spanish Trail.

Notes from Kit Carson in

1848 described the shallow

streams in the area as

"swarming with fish."  Using

just "an old bayonet

fastened to a stick" he

caught five dozen fish at sunrise in the icy water.

We didn't see quite such plentiful fish, but we found

the flower-strewn banks of the lake and streams

teeming with butterflies.

The rolling hills around Fish Lake got us thinking

about the bigger mountains up north, and we soon

packed up the rig and journeyed a little further down

the road.  Utah is home to many devout Mormons,

and the temple in the small town of Manti was

quite a sight to see out the truck window.

The flip side of such piousness is that liquor is

rather hard to find.  The small towns we

passed through didn't sell beer at the grocery

stores.  To satisfy that kind of wayward vice

you had to go down to the gas station or to a

liquor outlet store.

We felt quite sinful when we ducked into one of these small outlets on the edge of

town, and we guiltily glanced over our shoulders to see if anyone was watching us as

we slipped through the door.

Another unusual side to the Mormons' straight-laced style of Christianity is the dubious

history these fine people have with polygamy.  The practice was abandoned long ago

by mainstream Mormons, but the idea of it still raises eyebrows among non-Mormons

today.  So it was with a slight smirk that we heard the story behind a t-shirt hanging on

the wall which showed five jailed women in vintage garb above the words.  "Free the

Five Wives."

Apparently a Utah distillery recently created a delicious new vodka which they named

"Five Wives Vodka."  Its popularity soared when the distributors over in Idaho refused

to carry it because they found the name insulting to the faithful.  This ban resulted in

an outcry among vodka lovers on both sides of the border.  T-shirts demanding that

the Five Wives be let out of jail were printed up and they sold like mad.  Naturally we

had to pick up a bottle of the stuff, as we have both really enjoyed the Wasatch

Brewing Company's beer called "Polygamy Porter" which, ironically, has always been

sold freely and never been banned anywhere!

Happily toasting Utah's incredible beauty, we left Koosharem in pursuit of the pretty

scenery and great bike rides found along the Scenic Byways of Provo Canyon and its Alpine Loop.