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Johnson Valley Reservoir is a 700-acre lake just three miles northeast of Fish Lake in the heart of Utah's Fishlake National Forest. The reservoir was created in 1899, ten years after Fish Lake was purchased from the Paiute Indians. Because of rapid settlement in Utah in the late 1800s, construction of storage reservoirs became necessary to manage water resources. The State of Utah built a dam on Sevenmile Creek, and Johnson Valley Reservoir is the result. The meadow where it lies is part of the upper section of the Fish Lake Plateau. Surrounded by rolling hills and tall aspens, the reservoir seems like the perfect little mountain swimming hole. The meadow itself is most likely an ancient caldera, as evidenced by the volcanic deposits found around the reservoir.
Johnson Valley Reservoir receives much less traffic than its popular neighbor, Fish Lake. The shoreline is publicly owned and administered by the Fishlake National Forest with unrestricted public access. The reservoir is used for recreation, coldwater game fishing, and agriculture. The Fremont Irrigation Company administers the reservoir and dam. Open grazing and erosion have caused the lake to be classified as hypereutrophic (high nutrient levels).
A boat launch is located on the northern section of Johnson Valley Reservoir, and it is free for public use. You will also find a few picnic tables in the same area - but no public restrooms. Since the reservoir lies within the Fishlake National Forest, the Forest Service maintains two campgrounds - one completely free and completely primitive (no drinking water), and one that offers water but no electricity. There are also a few housekeeping cabins with kitchens.
Though Johnson Valley Reservoir doesn't receive as much attention as its nearby counterpart Fish Lake, it is a popular spot considering its size. Swimmers, water skiers, boaters, and fishermen have plenty of space to enjoy their particular brand of recreation. Fishing is definitely one of the favorite activities on the reservoir. Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout are the main species, though Brook Trout are growing in numbers.
Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and ATV trails snake through the countryside around Johnson Valley Reservoir. The region is a dream for people who love to be outside, and offers plenty of activities for every season. Nearby recreation spots include Fish Lake and Koosharem Reservoir, Capitol Reef National Forest, and Fishlake National Forest, just to name a few. For some adrenaline-pumping fun, hop on your ATV (or rent one from one of the local businesses) and head off on the Paiute Trail. The main portion of the trail is over 900 miles long, and if you add in all of the side trails, it grows to nearly 2000 miles! The beauty of the trail is supposedly unmatched and the grandeur is unbelievable. The highest point of the trail is around 11,500 feet above sea level, and allows you to see over a hundred miles in every direction - on a clear day of course.
Johnson Valley Reservoir is a diamond in the caldera and offers so many opportunities for fun that it should not be missed.
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