Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn Leaf Loop - Causey

If you live in Utah between Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo [and almost who doesn't in Utah] then you may be one of the thousands who are looking for a good "Sunday Drive" to see the leaves. Most likely, the rest of you can see the leaves out your window.

The Rocky Mountains, specifically the Wasatch Range, being full of maples and deciduous trees of all kinds, as well as heavy amounts of conifers which act as 'foils,' sports the most grand fall color display of anywhere west of the Appalachian Trail.  [I say that because having lived in New York I remember the blaze the sugar maples make each year.]

They are beginning to turn now that we've had a few cool days to accompany the cooling nights of fall.   Just like in Vermont, however, they don't turn all at once or in all places at once; so, if you make your drive long enough you can avoid being disappointed.

Such is the drive we took the other week which pretty much encircled the Wasatch Front Range from the High Uinta's to Monte Cristo.   A very full days ride with many places to stop and rest and lots of chances to "catch the color."   Our ride was a bit more than one would deliberate set out to take in one fell-swoop; but, once you get going, it's hard to stop… until you can't, and it's "shorter" to go around than go back.   Especially when you think you remember all the places you're seeing.   [For a free Google Earth file of this route see: Autumn Leaf Loop]

This is the first of three posts about the three major stops on the ride – today about the northern end of the loop.   [On the ride we took we were sitting at a junction in Evanston, having come from Mirror Lake and decided to "run round through Woodruff and into Huntsville." You could just as easily take the trip the other way around and enter the loop through Ogden Canyon past Pineview Dam.]

Causey Reservoir

The ride up over "Monte" is a treat no matter what time of year you take it. It's kept fairly open through the winter for snowmobilers and in the fall the red and yellow hues against the "forest green" of the pines is a sight worth seeing.   After coming down from the summit we decided to turn in at Red Rock Ranch and take a look a Causey Reservoir.

Growing up I can remember being cautioned not to drink the water coming from the hose because it wasn't "culinary."   What that meant was that it was secondary water which we referred to as "Pineview" – meaning that: it came from Pineview Reservoir up the canyon, was turned off every winter, wasn't chlorinated and did contain little fish when they flushed it every spring.

I think that I also have memory of the fact that Causey Reservoir was being built.   Where it was I didn't know at the time, but shortly learned that it was close to the Camp Kiesel Scout Camp up toward "Monte Cristo."

At latitude: 41.2983333 longitude: -111.5872222 Causey Dam was constructed in the 1960s to collect water form the South Fork of the Ogden River and was named for Thomas Causey, who operated a sawmill where Causey Creek meets the South Fork.

About 11 miles upstream from Pineview Dam, and part of the Weber Basin Water Project, it is a zoned earth fill structure, 218 feet high, 845 feet long and holds 7,870 acre-feet of water for a surface area of 136 acres and 182 feet deep. Causey actually does have a power plant producing 1.9 Megawatts.

All the obligatory statistics out of the way, Causey is best known as a absolutely GREAT place to hike, fish and "Cliff Dive."   The reservoir is located in steep, forested, valley terrain, and extends into three canyons.   The water is cold and deep and wearing a life jacket is (or should be) the law because more than a couple of people have lost their life in the waters.

Campers/Scouters report:
There are many camping and picnic sites available all along the Ogden river and at nearby Memorial Park with facilities for picnicking, camping, swimming, boating, water skiing, fishing, and hunting. Most have sanitation facilities available but you are expected to bring your own fire wood and pack out your own garbage. Dogs should be leashed in group areas.

Cub Scouts from the Lake Bonneville and other councils attend day-camps at Camp Kiesel located on the northern arm of the reservoir. [See map] The scouts use it for winter snow-shoeing – at least they used to when I went there.

Recreation is administered by the US Forest Service at both Causey and Pineview Reservoirs so their rules apply relating to safety, refuse and sporting.

Scuba rivers report:
Causey's water is a light blue-green (except in spring run off) with a few suspended algae particles as you go deeper.   Visibility is 14-20 feet and best in the north arm.   Mid-summer surface temperature is 66 degrees without appreciable thermocline.   Maximum depth is 65 feet, but the reservoir will draw down about to about 30 feet during the season.

The walls of the reservoir are quite steep and the bottom slopes rapidly towards the old creek bottom.   The below water terrain is mostly rocks with patches of silt. In the shallows, fine moss grows in patches.

Crayfish, snails and hair moss abound, but trout are hard to find and not tempted out by food.   Night dives are best for game spotting and spear fishing is permissible under a limit.

Hikers report:
There are three trails most often used. All have magnificent views and fall color. All have easy parts and lake views. Some have more difficult portions going to higher vistas.

Three trails are shown on the map in blue however due to GPS errors in the canyon, and lack of visibility on satellite image, they are not all completely shown.

Swimmers/Kayak'ers report:
There are no dedicated boat-launch facilities, and hand-powered, wake-less speeds only are allowed.   Entrance to the water is from three major areas [shown on the map]. They are:

North Arm: Continue uphill as you approach the lake, rather than descending to the dam. After a steep hill, the road descends towards the water at the end of the north arm. You'll need to swim a bit from the creek mouth to find deeper water. GPS: [N 41° 18.871' W 111° 34.590']

Dam: As the road turns away from the lake on the far side of the dam, find a spot to park. Walk a bit south from the dam. GPS: [N 41° 17.851' W 111° 35.118'].

South Arm: Go across the dam. Continue south until you reach the water at the Skull Crack trailhead. GPS: [N 41° 17.366' W 111° 34.926]

Fishermen report:
Fishing includes several trout varieties, including rainbow, cutthroat, and brown and minimum storage pools for game fish are maintained at Causey as well as East Canyon and Pineview Reservoirs in the area.

Rainbow trout are stocked as fingerlings in a put-grow-and-take management system. They stay close to shore, live on invertebrates and swim up the tributaries in the fall to feed on kokanee eggs. Rainbows have been the main-stay of the Utah Fish and Game programs for years and were the official state fish until supplanted by the recently found alive strain of Bonneville Cutthroats.

Cutthroat Trout prefer rocky areas with deep water nearby. They eat fish and a wide variety of invertebrates, including zooplankton. Because of this, they are very vulnerable to angling. Cutthroats are the only native trout strain in Utah and have supplanted the Rainbow as the official state fish.

Brown Trout are non-native and self-sustaining here. They eat other fish and due to their diet and secretive nature they area rarely caught by anglers.

Tiger Trout, are a hybrid cross between a male Brown Trout and a female Brook Trout and have a unique, dark maze-like pattern all over a brownish, gray body. The belly and fins is yellowish orange as are the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. The tail fin is square. They eat other fish and have been stocked to help keep the "chub" population from competing with game fish. Tigers are also supposed to be more resistant to diseases such as whirling disease, which makes them a good choice for stocking in waters that are known to be infested with whirling disease.

Splake are a sterile cross between brook trout and lake trout, eat kokanee and other small fish, and usually swim at depths of 30 to 50 feet, near schools of kokanee.

Kokanee Salmon is stocked and is the smaller, land-locked form of Sockeye Salmon, reaching only about 3 pounds.   They like deep, open, cold water, except when spawning and often swim in large schools at depths of 30 to 60 feet eating tiny aquatic crustaceans (zooplankton). In mid-August large groups of adult kokanee can be found staging at the mouth of tributaries for the right conditions to start spawning.

Whirling Disease: The microscopic parasite that causes this disease was accidentally introduced into the U.S. form Europe in 1958 and discovered in Utah in 1991.   It doesn't affect humans, but can devastate trout and salmon by attacking the cartilage of the fish's head and spine causing them to develop whirling behavior, black tails, or deformities and may die.   The disease spores can survive for years in moist places and can travel through a predator's digestive tract - or on muddy boots and other equipment.

After reading the signs in the viewers area, we ran up to Camp Kiesel then down into Huntsville both for nostalgic reasons. From Huntsville one can either run down Ogden Canyon into Ogden or across the new Trapper's Loop road, past Snow Basin Ski Resort and into Weber Canyon – which is the way we decided to take.

Next stop: East Canyon Reservoir.

[The counties traveled through on this ride were: Utah's Salt Lake, Morgan, Wasatch, Duchesne, Rich, Summit, Weber, Cache and Wyoming's Uinta.]


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