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Morgan County: Utah mountains a playground year-round

The best way to describe Morgan County would be to call it a connector.

It's located smack in the middle of such neighbors as Rich, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Summit counties, and all points within the respective counties.

What you know:

Morgan County is without a big city, which has made it popular with passers-by. This is a rural-type community with lots of fields and open land, and its share of high mountains, streams and rivers.

In the 1990 Census, the entire county population was just over 5,000. Morgan, in fact, has more privately owned land than any other county in Utah. Much of it is used for stock raising — especially beef and dairy cattle and sheep — and for hay and other field crops.

Its main attractions are East Canyon Reservoir, Lost Creek Reservoir, the Weber River and headquarters for the Browning Company.

But, it is the easiest access point to Snowbasin ski area over the Trappers Loop road and the most direct route west to Wyoming and east into Ogden.

Both routes are also popular with bikers.

Most of the country, however, is open land and wilderness that has proven attractive to campers, hikers and fishermen.

Tucked in a high valley in the Wasatch Mountains, Morgan County is split down the center by the Weber River. The many streams that feed into the Weber made the valley attractive to fur trappers in the 1820s and to prehistoric Plains Indians and historic Shoshone and Ute Indians.

And all of this water has made it a popular stop for fishermen today.

The county was created in 1862. During the Utah War (1857-58), settlers in the town of Milton supplied feed for the horses of Mormon troops stationed in canyon passes watching for Johnston's Army. Lot Smith of Stoddard blocked Echo Canyon, burned U.S. Army supply trains, and stampeded government horses and cattle. Despite such incidents, the "war" was settled peacefully.

Lumber was a major industry from 1860 to 1875 in Hardscrabble Canyon. Thousands of railroad ties were furnished to build the Union Pacific Railroad line, and charcoal was shipped to Bingham for use in smelting. During the building of the railroad in 1868, a number of businesses opened in Morgan City, and it became the county's trade center.

Within the county boundaries is East Canyon, a beautiful mountain lake bordered by Highway 66 and the Mormon Pioneer Trail. Excellent fishing abounds, as well as water sports in the summer. There is a campground that is currently undergoing remodeling. Winter means ice-fishing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

East Canyon State Park and Reservoir is about 35 miles east of Salt Lake City. The route most people take is to head up Parleys Canyon and take the East Canyon exit just below Mountain Dell Golf Course, then simply follow the road to the reservoir.

This is a typical mountain lake with about 600 surface acres of water, steep bands and very deep in spots —150 to 200 feet.

Fish include rainbow, brown, cutthroat and a few kokanee.

As completion of the new campground, concession building and restrooms nears, park improvements will focus on the boat ramp, day-use area, yurt/group area, office and new entrance road. These projects coincide with the off-season and lower lake levels.

Next season, visitors will enjoy an improved campground with shelters, campsites with full and partial hookups, and two restrooms with showers in the camp loop. A new concession service will also be in operation with new facilities.

Lost Creek is another of the high-mountain reservoirs popular with fishermen.

To reach Lost Creek Reservoir, take the Devils Slide/Croydon Exit north off I-84 in Weber canyon. The reservoir is about 11 miles from the turnoff. This is a long, narrow, mid-elevation reservoir. The creek enters from the east end. Most of the shoreline is sagebrush, but with some trees.

Along with good summer fishing, this is also a great place to fish in the winter. Fish include Bear Lake cutthroat, rainbow and strawberry cutthroat.

The stream that enters Lost Creek about 1/2-mile from the dam also offers some good fishing.

What you don't know:

As noted, Morgan County is the connector to Snowbasin. But, what some don't realize is the Trappers Loop Road is also the most convenient route to other resorts, such as Powder Mountain and the new Wolf County, formerly Nordic Valley, as well as Pineview Reservoir.

The Trappers Loop road, which connects Fountain Green and runs into Pineview Reservoirs, has also becomes a popular biking route. The road can be ridden in either direction.

Designated as a Scenic Backway, the route runs over rolling hills covered with brush, fields and aspens, and offers a great view of the backside of the northern Wasatch Range, including Mt. Ogden, Strawberry Peak, DeMoisey Peak and the rocky formation called the Needles. This is rated as an intermediate ride with lots of ups and downs.

Another popular route with bikers runs from Henefer to East Canyon Reservoir. The climbs are a little more gentle and the country no less remove.

A short but enjoyable ride for mountain bikers is the one over the dirt road between East Canyon and Jeremy Ranch. The road is level most of the way, with only a few short climbs and descents along the way.

The Weber River meanders through Morgan County creating several picturesque fishing and picnicking spots, as well as kayaking and tubing opportunities.

Kayaking and canoeing are among the fastest-growing participation activities in the country, and the Weber River that parallels I-80 through Morgan County, is very popular with boaters, especially in the spring.

One seven-mile run on the Weber takes 45 minutes and involves a shuttle.

Here in Utah, most people who canoe or kayak do so for recreation, which is why people are working to introduce more water parks along Utah's waterways, the Weber included.

There is currently one water park in Utah, which is located on the Weber River near Fort Buenaventura in Ogden.

Another is said to be in the works around the town of Morgan.

Parks have different levels of features, such as rocks and waves that kayakers and canoers can negotiate or pause for a little play time.

Some of the best boating usually starts in March and goes into April and May. But, there are year-round sections on the Weber, such as the one near Henefer.

There are numerous parks in and around Morgan County, which offer everything from sand volleyball courts, playgrounds and picnic facilities. Parks are located in Croydon, Morgan, Milton and Mountain Green.

The Round Valley Golf Course is a public course situated along the Weber River. It is located in secluded Round Valley, which is near Morgan City. The 18-hole course offers unique golf and outing opportunities.

Looking at a map, it may seem Morgan County has little to offer in the way of recreation, but many hours are spent each year fishing, boating, hiking, biking and enjoying scenic drives.

Morgan County

Well known: East Canyon, Weber River, Lost Creek

Unknown: Trappers Loop, Round Valley Golf

Contact: 801-627-8288

Next week: Daggett County