There was never any doubt that Quail Creek would be a popular recreation spot. It had everything. The only concern after it began to fill four years ago was that it might not be big enough.
There was talk that this would be the first state water where boating reservations might be required. The break in the reservoir's dike minutes after 1989 rang in delayed facing that situation by at least two years."What happens now is we see what we have left, then study the possibilities, make a decision and then set about putting everything back together," said Roy Birrell, regional superintendent for the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.
"It could be two years before we're back to where we were."
And where was that?
Many believe that Quail Creek, in four years, had become the state's most popular park. It was, after all, the only body of water of any size in the southwest corner of the state. It was a short drive and an easy launch for the nearly 2,000 boats now registered in Washington County. The next closest launch on water suitable for high-speed boating was hours away at Lake Powell.
Birrell said the parking lots this past summer were always crowded on weekdays and packed solid on weekends.
Two years ago, facing the possibility of boat overcrowding, he talked about setting up a first-come, first-served reservation line that would allow only a safe number of boats on the reservoir. Then, he explained, as one would pull off, another would be allowed to launch.
How much boating will be allowed on the reservoir this year is uncertain, said Birrell.
"Some areas are too restrictive, now. Also, there's an island out in the middle. We'll have to put marker buoys around it. Even without all this, the reservoir's about one-third the size it was."
But Quail Creek had become more than just a popular boating spot. It was also the state's best bass fishery, was destined to become one of its top trout ponds and offered some of the best camping facilities in the area.
As a fishing hole, Dale Hepworth, regional fisheries manager, called Quail Creek "a textbook warm-water/cold-water reservoir. It was perfect."
It is the state's lowest elevation impoundment. High-water mark at Quail Creek was about the same elevation as the base of the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell. Which, said Hepworth, made it ideal as a warm-water fishery for species such as bass and crappie.
Also, the lake was deep, about 300 feet, which made it perfect as a trout water.
"What made it even better is that water coming into the reservoir flowed in in a pipe, which oxygenated the deeper water for the trout, something that doesn't happen in many places," he said.
Because of a size restriction on bass in Quail Creek _ only largemouth bass longer than 15 inches can be kept _ the population there was large. It was nothing, said one fishermen, to catch 20 to 30 bass a day. "Most went back, but there were some very nice 5-, 6-pounders," he said.
Hepworth said plans were under way to improve trout fishing, too. "In fact, we just planted about 30,000 catchables, fish about 7 inches long, just last month. Now we'll have to go in and see how many of the fish we lost."
Birrell doesn't think losses will be heavy. He said that because of the depth of the reservoir, fish were probably able to escape being swept away.
"There were some fish caught in pools, however, that couldn't get back to the main reservoir that were lost."
For now, however, the reservoir is not boatable or fishable, and it's not likely too many people will be interested in staying at one of the new camping spots built on the shore of the reservoir.
Both Birrell and Hepworth said they will have to wait until a stable level is reached before they can go in and really assess the damage. But both said they will do everything they can to help it recover its recreational value.