It had appeal before the dam work. Now Smith and Morehouse Reservoir has even more, and it's likely that as fish grow even more people will come to use the high-mountain lake.
After four years of work to enlarge the dam, originally built in 1925, to increase capacity from a 1,040 acre-foot to a 8,350 acre-foot reservoir, and to rebuild and add to existing campgrounds, old visitors are returning and new ones are discovering the mountain retreat.And well they should. The area has all the elements for an ideal outdoor outing - proximity, setting, fishing.
An hour and a half after leaving a parking lot in downtown Salt Lake City, a camper can be resting in a tent or a fisherman casting toward the water.
All this as the aspen leaves flutter and pine trees bend in the wind, and wildlife move about in daily routines.
Smith and Morehouse, 13 miles east of Oakley, 11 on paved road and two more up a mountain ravine on a good gravel road, has for years been a well-known camping and fishing spot. The lake was small, however, and the campgrounds well-used.
About 10 years ago, water users decided to enlarge the dam, and while doing so decided to rebuild the old campgrounds and add a new camping area.
The project was completed last year. Along with the larger reservoir, 70 camping areas have been rebuilt with new tables, restrooms, and paved road at Ledge Fork, and 37 new units were build at the Smith and Morehouse campgrounds below the dam.
At the first of the season, in May, S.J. Gandy, in charge of camp maintenance and operations for the U.S. Forest Service, said use was light.
"Now, we're 100 percent booked every weekend, usually by early Friday afternoon. On holidays, like the one coming up, we'll probably be filled by early Thursday.
"People coming up here are excited about the changes. They're excited to have something this nice so close"
Along with the new campgrounds, the reservoir also got a new boat ramp and a new supply of fish. Last fall, when work was completed, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources planted catchables (fish 6 to 8 inches) and fingerlings (fish 2 to 3 inches). This summer, an additional 10,000 catchables were added to the reservoir.
According to biologists, the new fish should grow fast and healthy. Anytime new areas are flooded, they report, food sources for the fish are increased.
This fall, plans are to put in more cutthroat fingerlings.
According to Gandy, best fishing has been from boats using pop gear with nightcrawlers. It has also produced the largest fish, he added, up to 16 inches.
Shore fishermen have been having fair luck using salmon eggs, floating cheese and nightcrawlers.
Earlier this week, Pat Calwell of Murray and her sisters, Janice Nash and Val Dennison, tried fishing at the lake. Mid-day action was slow and after three hours they had three fish. They came to the reservoir, said Calwell, because of reports of good fishing.
Lamont Burningham of Salt Lake said he came camping to compare the old and new, and while fishing wasn't the best, he said the campgrounds were "very nice . . . well worth the trip."
Sam Warren, district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, said that because of the low-water year there is no water in the lower campgrounds.
Because of it, the $6 camping fee has been waived for all but those in self-contained motor homes. The $6 fee remains on the upper camping area where water is available.
The campgrounds will be closed on Sept. 12 for a week, and then reopened in time for the big game hunts. When reopened, however, there will be no water available at either camping area.