Explore: Best lakes in Washington County to swim, boat, adventure

Scouts embark on kayak adventure at Quail Creek State Park, Hurricane, Utah, June 2016 | Photo by Brett Barrett, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Southern Utah might best be known for its stunning sandstone cliffs, desert landscape and triple digit summer temperatures but it is also home to a few sparkling bodies of water where visitors can swim, cliff jump, paddle, enjoy watercraft sports and boating.

Each of the reservoirs found in Washington County offer something a little different for visitors who come to recreate.

Below is a brief guide for visiting Gunlock Reservoir, Fire Lake Park, Quail Lake and Sand Hollow Reservoir. This guide is not meant to be comprehensive or definitive. Visitors are encouraged to choose a site that best fits their recreational needs.

Gunlock Reservoir offers fun areas to paddle, Gunlock, Utah, June 11, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Gunlock Reservoir offers fun areas to paddle, Gunlock, Utah, June 11, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Gunlock Reservoir at Gunlock State Park

  • Fees: Day use (including boat launch) $7; seniors (62 and over) $4.
  • Motorized watercraft: Yes.
  • Fishing: Yes.
  • Paddle sports: Yes.
  • Beach area: Yes.
  • Equipment rentals: No.
  • Pets: Yes (on a leash).
  • Camping: Yes. $13 per site or $13 per vehicle for beach camping.

Located near the town of Gunlock on Gunlock Road, Gunlock Reservoir is a small reservoir and the least crowded water body in Washington County.

Low water levels in recent years have made beach access difficult for those wishing to swim without any sort of boat or personal watercraft. The beach area is accessed by walking across the dike.

The eastern shore provides ample opportunities for fishing from the shore but the shore is full of sticker bushes and cow pies.

Visitors with motorized and nonmotorized watercraft will enjoy warm waters with few crowds as well as access to cliff jumping sites and natural caves to explore. A boat ramp is available from which to launch watercraft.

There are five primitive camp sites at Gunlock State Park. Vault toilets are provided but there is no potable water. Camping is also allowed on the beach.

Pros

  • Low crowds.
  • Fun places to explore.

Cons

  • Long walk to the beach.
  • Eastern shore is full of sticker bushes and cow pies.
Children enjoying the newly opened Fire Lake in Ivins, Utah, May 27, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Michelle Cumming, St. George News
Children enjoying the newly opened Fire Lake in Ivins, Utah, May 27, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Michelle Cumming, St. George News

Fire Lake Park at Ivins Reservoir

  • Fees: None.
  • Motorized watercraft: No.
  • Fishing: Yes (not in designated swimming area).
  • Paddle sports: Yes.
  • Beach area: Yes.
  • Equipment rentals: No, but there is a possibility of kayak and other paddle sport rentals in the future.
  • Pets: No pets in designated swimming area. Pets allowed on a leash away from the designated swimming area.
  • Camping: No.

The newest recreation lake in Washington County, Fire Lake Park at Ivins Reservoir recently opened for visitors and often draws big crowds to its family-friendly beach. Located at the existing Ivins Reservoir site, a levee has been built to separate Ivins Reservoir from a newly created beach and swimming area.

Swimmers and casual beachgoers can enjoy sandy shores and a nice place for small children to play. High-quality temporary restrooms are available and additional plans for a covered picnic area and more permanent restroom facilities are in progress.

Fishing is allowed in Ivins Reservoir but not in the designated swimming area. Pets are allowed on a leash but are not allowed on the beach or in the water at the designated swimming area.

Swimmer’s itch has been reported at Fire Lake Park at Ivins Reservoir this summer.

Pros

  • Nice sandy beaches.
  • Great for small kids.

Cons

  • Swimmer’s itch.
  • Can get crowded.
Quail Lake provides ample opportunity for paddle sports, Hurricane, Utah, June 4, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Quail Lake provides ample opportunity for paddle sports, Hurricane, Utah, June 4, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Quail Lake at Quail Creek State Park

  • Fees: Day use, $10; seniors (62 and over) $4. All fees are per vehicle with up to eight people per vehicle.
  • Motorized watercraft: Yes.
  • Fishing: Yes.
  • Paddle sports: Yes.
  • Beach area: Yes.
  • Equipment rentals: Yes.
  • Pets: Yes (on a leash).
  • Camping: Yes. $15 per site. $12 extra vehicle fee per night. Two vehicles allowed per site.

Quail Lake at Quail Creek State Park, located just off state Route 9, offers visitors some of the warmest waters in the entire state. Quail sees higher visitation than Gunlock and lower visitation than its nearby neighbor Sand Hollow Reservoir.

Quail has something for everyone with fun areas to paddle and explore and ample room for motorized watercraft and fishing.

The beaches at Quail are not soft sand. Some form of water shoes are highly suggested. There are several picnic tables near the shore and covered picnic areas for large groups. Group day use areas are first come, first served and can accommodate up to 80 people.

Camping is available in the Quail Creek Campground.

Swimmer’s itch is not active at Quail Lake.

Pros

  • Warm water.
  • Fun places to explore.
  • No swimmer’s itch.

Cons

  • Rocky beaches.
  • Can get crowded.
Visitors to Sand Hollow Reservoir take turns jumping cliffs, Hurricane, Utah, June 22, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News
Visitors to Sand Hollow Reservoir take turns jumping cliffs, Hurricane, Utah, June 22, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Sand Hollow Reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park

  • Fees: Day use, $10; seniors (62 and over) $5. All fees are per vehicle with up to eight people per vehicle.
  • Motorized watercraft: Yes.
  • Fishing: Yes.
  • Paddle sports: Yes.
  • Beach area: Yes.
  • Equipment rentals: Yes.
  • Pets: Yes (on a leash).
  • Camping: Yes. Camping fees vary per site, see fee list here.

Sand Hollow Reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park is known for its sparkling blue waters set against the backdrop of Southern Utah’s famous red rocks. Its sheer beauty makes it a popular draw for tourists and residents of the area alike.

Sand Hollow is the most popular of the area’s lakes and is the ideal lake for boaters and visitors with personal watercraft.

Sand Hollow also boasts soft, sandy beaches as well as unique rock outcroppings that provide fun and daring places for cliff jumping.

Fishing, camping and paddle sports are also popular activities on the lake.

Swimmer’s itch is active at Sand Hollow Reservoir.

Pros

  • Perfect for motorized recreation.
  • Sandy beaches.
  • Good cliff jumping.

Cons

  • Swimmer’s itch.
  • Sand can get really hot.
  • Can get crowded.

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Where is your favorite place to swim, paddle, boat or cliff jump? Tell us in the comments.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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