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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Kodachrome Basin

The choices are:

— A weekend in the mountains beside or near a flowing stream.

— Stepping back in history a couple of billion years and getting a glimpse of what life was like.

— Experiencing frontier life in pioneer days and traveling the route of the early pony express riders.

— Spreading a blanket on a sandy beach, resting, relaxing and taking a swim in nearby water.

— Standing in the center of a colony of imaginary figures ranging from a camel to a princes to a demonic-looking gargoyle.

— Reeling in a nice 1- or 2-pound trout, then walking back to camp and frying it up for dinner.

And, as they say, the list goes on and on.

There are 42 state parks in Utah, and each and every one has its own personal label. Each and every one offers a unique type of getaway ... buffalo on Antelope island, acres of soft sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, views from on top of the world at Dead Horse Point, dinosaurs at Utah Field House of Natural History, western life at Camp Floyd and hundreds of sandstone figures at Goblin Valley.

Then the question comes: Which one to visit?

The time to start planning trips to in-state parks is now.

Because of rising gas prices, the feeling is that state parks, and especially those close to population center, will be busier this summer, said Holly Brown with the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.

Some parks are already full for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Those parks with sites still available for Memorial Day are Antelope Island, Bear Lake, Deer Creek, Jordanelle Hailstone and Rock Cliff, Red Fleet, Rockport, Scofield, Snow Canyon, Starvation, Steinaker, Utah Lake, Wasatch Mountain, Willard Bay and Yuba.

The longtime established pattern for park use is that in the spring it is the southern parks that fill first, parks like Snow Canyon, Goblin Valley, Kodachrome Basin, Dead Horse Point and Escalante. After a long, cold winter, people are looking for warmer spots to stay in the southern areas.

Midsummer and fall, the crowds shift more to the north, to cooler locations like Wasatch Mountain, Bear Lake, Jordanelle, Rockport and Antelope Island.

Most of the state parks offer camping opportunities. Some, such as the Field House, Anasazi, Fremont and Camp Floyd, are historical museums, displaying a range of artifacts discovered over time in the general areas.

There are also four state parks offering golf — Wasatch Mountain, Jordan River, Palisade and Green River.

This marks the 51st anniversary of Utah's state park system. The decision to set aside park land was made in the 1950s, and in 1957 the Utah State Parks and Recreation Commission was established and named three sites — Wasatch Mountain, the Territorial Statehouse and This Is the Place Monument — as the first to become parks. Two years later, park officials presented to the Utah Legislature 118 potential park sites. Some, obviously, made the list, and many didn't meet requirements. Those that have been selected are considered to offer a true taste of Utah — past and present.

The newest addition is Sand Hollow State Park and reservoir outside of St. George. In recent years it has also become one of the state's most popular because of the recreational opportunities that are available.

All total, there are more than 18,000 campsites within the parks. Services available range from designated camping sites, hot and cold running water, fire pits, covered picnic tables, electrical and sewer hookups.

Last year, on a list compiled by park staff from around the country, six of the top 100 family campgrounds were in Utah — Antelope Island, Bear Lake, Dead Horse Point, Red Fleet, Wasatch Mountain and Willard Bay.

State park reservation policy allows campers to reserve individual campsites up to 16 weeks prior to their date of departure from the park.

This means campers can reservoir spots for Memorial Day, July 4th and July 24th.

The Utah State Parks reservation number from within the Salt Lake calling area is 322-3770. Outside the Salt Lake area, call toll-free

800-322-3770. Those calling may reserve up to three campsites per call.

Individual campsite reservations must be made at least two days in advance of arrival date.

An $8 nonrefundable reservation fee is charged for each site reserved. Group site reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance. A $10.25 nonrefundable fee, along with a per-person fee, is charged for group sites and building rentals.

For more Utah State Park information, visit www.stateparks.utah.gov.

The top 10 parks based on visitation

Antelope Island

Bear Lake

Deer Creek

Jordanelle

Palisade

Sand Hollow

Snow Canyon

Utah Lake

Wasatch Mountain

Willard Bay

The lowest 10 parks

Anasazi

Camp Floyd

Edge of the Cedars

Goblin Valley

Green River

Iron Mission

Piute

Red Fleet

Millsite

Territorial


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