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Electric Lake lies like a high-altitude jewel amid one of Utah's most spectacular recreational playgrounds. Bordering both the Panoramaland and Castle Country tourism regions, the reservoir was created in 1974 when a dam was constructed to collect the waters of Upper Huntington Creek, Boulger Creek, Coal Creek and a number of seasonal streams. The water serves irrigation needs, provides cooling water for a Rocky Mountain Power generating plant, and loads of water-based recreation in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The steep-banked reservoir is deeper than many in the area, with depths to 217 feet found within its 425 acres. It is one of the few lakes in the area that allows waterskiing, but only to those who don't mind cold water. Located at 8,575 feet in elevation, Electric Lake has only 40 to 60 frost-free days each summer, leaving the water quite chilly year round. That same feature makes it excellent for trout fishing, and anglers appear here frequently to try their luck.
There is no private property along the shoreline of Electric lake, but access is easy. All-season Utah Highway 31, the Skyline Highway, passes along the shoreline for over three miles at the south end, and Utah 264 skirts the shoreline at the north for several miles. Both highways are regularly plowed in winter, although heavy snow may make the trip difficult. A concrete boat ramp off U-264 allows for boat launching, although there are no marinas or guest facilities.
Several dispersed campsites are marked by the US Forest Service, and visitors who obtain the appropriate Access Pass are allowed to camp in the rugged surroundings of Electric Lake. Two organized Forest Service campgrounds are located near the lake and allow camping on a fee basis. The area is open year-round and popular for cross-county skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in winter. The terrain around Electric Lake varies from forested areas with pine aspen, oak, maple and spruce-fir to sagebrush and pinyon, making an autumn trek both colorful and refreshingly cool. The lake is not heavily visited, so a hike takes on the air of wilderness, replete with a scenic lake surrounded by distant peaks.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources manages Electric Lake as a catch-and-release fishery. Cutthroat trout fingerlings are planted regularly, although some fishermen report tiger trout also present. There are few native fish in the waters. The long, narrow reservoir with many arms is a great place to explore with canoe or kayak or to reach some of the more remote campsites via paddling. All appropriate fishing regulations must be followed, including possession of a Utah fishing license.
Few visitors to Electric Lake realize that a coal-mining and coke-smelting ghost town lies beneath its waters. The tiny town of Connellsville only existed from 1874-1878, an off-shoot of the first commercial coal mining operation on the Wasatch Plateau. When the reservoir was constructed, only a few ruins of cabins and coke-smelters still remained. An archeological excavation performed by Utah Power and Light (now Rocky Mountain Power) resulted in one of the remaining coke-smelting ovens being dismantled and rebuilt overlooking the reservoir where it can stands today as a monument to those long-ago miners.
Because there are no facilities for lodgings at Electric Lake, visiting here is usually part of a vacation to Utah's Castle Country or Lake Canyon Recreation Area, both nearby. Lake Canyon Recreation Area is popular with ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) enthusiasts and contains miles of trails for enjoying the sport. The designated recreation area is located between Huntington and Cleveland Reservoirs, south of Electric Lake.
An even larger area of interest is the entire region called 'Castle Country' by Utah visitor guidebooks. This area spans thousands of acres just outside of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, with Price City as the unofficial headquarters of a geologic adventure. The 'castles' are the exotically-eroded rock formations of the San Raphael Swell, an expanse of stunningly-beautiful spires above narrow, deep canyons created by eons of wind and water. The area is rich in fossil deposits, including the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. Here is found the largest known deposit of dinosaur fossils, with guided tours to see some of them still in place. The Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum in Price offers an excellent museum focusing on archaeology and the fossilized treasures found in eastern Utah. The collections and exhibits will enthrall young and old alike.
The rugged canyons and maze of trails within the ancient reef of the San Rafael Swell offer miles of hiking opportunities and legends of robbers and outlaws, miners and early pioneers. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid pulled off some of their most daring robberies in the area, hiding out in these canyons. Mining towns grew and fell to ruins, leaving ghost towns and numerous small town museums detailing particularly interesting historical events in the area. Several state parks, including Huntington State Park, Scofield State Park and Goblin Valley State Park offer camping facilities. These are joined by several private campgrounds, RV parks, guest cabins and guest ranches in the area. Both Price City and the City of Huntington provide other forms of lodgings such as hotels and motels. Bed-and breakfasts can be found, along with antique shopping and artisan shops. There is plenty here near Electric Lake to keep the entire family happy and wishing they could stay for more than a week or two.
Real estate can be found outside of the national forest and protected areas. Both existing homes and cabins are available as well as vacant building lots and acreage for ranching or roaming. What better place to put down roots than this, where the scenery always changes but is ever spectacular? Where mountain lakes and reservoirs vie with desert landscapes and rugged canyonlands? And where thousands of pristine acres of public lands await the hiking boots, fly rod and kayak? Come visit Electric Lake and Castle Country; you may never want to leave.
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