Southern Utah Expedition, Part Two: Dead Lake
Trail Time: 4 hours
Location: East of Cedar Breaks on the 143 route to Panguitch Lake
Mapping / GPS / Waypoint File: gif Map Image (Main) (Area) (TOPO) / .MPS GPS File / .TXT waypoint File
Trail Rating (1-5 scale): 2 to the lakes, 2.5 on loop trail
Major Obstacle: (Note: Some spotting will be required to prevent damage to vehicles with less ground clearance.)
The loop trail is VERY narrow, and cannot be traveled in a full size vehicle. The trees are just too close. After the lake is more of a quad/ motorcycle trail, but is identified on the map as a FR Trail.
Brush (minor, moderate, severe): Minor to the lakes, severe on tight loop trail
Scenic Value (1-5 scale): 4
Scott & Stephanie Brady- 2004 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD
Flacon's Nest Cabins
Duck Creek Village, UT
Duck Creek Lake
Our adventure started in Duck Creek Village, located along Hwy 14 east of Cedar City. I was actually reliving a piece of my childhood by coming here. For the first 12 years of my life my father would bring me to Duck Creek as a base camp for his hunting expeditions into Brian Head. My family has owned property here for over 30 years, and this place is very much a part of me.
It actually all started with my Great Aunt Jeanne who ran the Falcons Nest Cabins and lived in Duck Creek for a few decades, relishing the cool weather and clear air. During the winter she would have to use a snowmobile to get to her cabin on the mountain, and lived off of a huge metal water tank in her basement because the water would be shut off to prevent damage to the pipe system.
Some of my earliest memories were of running through the huge meadow behind the cabins, and catching fish out of Aspen Mirror just a few hundred yards from the village. As a young boy, life could not be better.
As I got a little older, my Aunt and Uncle would take me to Duck Creek in the summertime, and we would take these great adventures in the mountains. This was my first exposure to Jeeps. I remember driving that old 1953 Jeep Willys M38a1 like it was yesterday.
That was the same year my Uncle Dave told me that we were going on an adventure, to find the "lost lakes," which promised huge fish and a rugged road for the old Jeep. My eyes were WIDE with excitement, thoughts of monster trout and the adventure of driving in the Jeep, standing in the back with a firm grip on the roll bar swaying back and forth as the vehicle bounced down the trail.
Sunset Point at Cedar Breaks
So one of my goals for this trip was to find the "Lost Lakes." I think they were called that by the locals not because they had never been found, but that most people would get lost trying to find them. In fact, it turns out that they aren't even called the Lost Lakes at all (other than in local lore), but are in fact the Dead Lakes. A little bit of research and some help from Tom Barkume of Cedar City and my Uncle, I felt that I was on the right track, so to speak...
We left our cabin early, and traveled west on Hwy 14 towards Cedar City. We took the turn to HWY 143 and traveled north towards Cedar Breaks. Cedar Breaks is very similar to Bryce Canyon, just on a much smaller scale. At (N37 39.266 W112 49.549 NAD83) there is an eastern alternate route of 143 that travels towards Panguitch Lake.
One of the more rough sections
FR 051, which leads south from Hwy 143 to the lake is easy to drive by, as most trails to lost places are. You get engrossed in the scenery around you, afforded by the elevation of the Markaguint Plateau, big meadows speckled with wildflowers, bordered by great stands of pine and juniper. Even though I had the point marked on the map, I drove right by the trail head, tucked up against the trees at the edge of a meadow. We soon recognized our error and tracked back to the dusty road, and the start of the day's adventure (N37 39.400 W112 44.481).
After making the turn south on FR 051, we crossed Mammoth Creek on this easy, well maintained forest road in Dixie National Forest. The trail winds through stands of aspen with several great campsites. We traveled approximately 1.9 miles on 051 before a small, rugged track splits off to the left. There is a small trail marker with a #25 on it, and not much else to predict the angler's treasure located just beyond (N37 38.529 W112 43.356).
John L Flat
The track begins to deteriorate quickly, with larger embedded rocks protruding from the surface, made more difficult by the narrow width. This rough surface mostly requires a slow speed, as traveling much above a crawl will rattle most vehicles and occupants. There are a few challenging sections of larger rocks that warrant the 2 rating. Vehicles with limited ground clearance should use caution, and ensure good tire placement to avoid damage. The trail is really very easy for any high clearance stock SUV or truck.
After the first few sections of rocks, the trail drops down into John L flat and makes a sharp left turn. This was the first trail feature that I remembered with distinction. There is a slight side hill that needs to be traversed along the edge of the flat. I recalled those many years before, clutching on to the roll bar of the old Jeep, sure that the vehicle would roll. The traverse is actually very tame, but I remember being wide eyed as a child.
Just east of the flat is a series of small gullies and one last rock section before reaching the lake. The trail splits at approximately (N37 38.178 W112 42.034). The short spur to the south leads to the lake, and over a short rock section. There is a good sized open area for parking. The lake is only stocked when the water levels are good, as the lake is relatively shallow, and can freeze too deep in winter, killing the fish.
The slightly cambered traverse across John L Flat
Video of the last rock section
The lake sees limited use due to its rugged and remote location. The few anglers fishing that day were doing great. One girl on an inflatable pulled in three good size rainbow trout in the short time we were there.
After leaving the lake, we decided to explore a short loop trail that continues to the east. This trail is considerably more difficult than the main trail, and is EXTREMELY NARROW. Do not underestimate this warning. Even a mid-sized SUV would not fit on this trail as the trees encroach heavily. This trail is only well suited to quads and small Jeeps, Samurai's, etc. There were several points on the route where the clearance to the sheet metal of the Tacoma was measured in inches. Despite all of that, the trail was beautiful and remote, with great views to the east, small meadows, and creek crossings. There were several side trails, and navigation was difficult. Use the GPS track for the best results, but even GPS coverage is spotty in the heavy timber. The trail eventually loops back around to the Lake after crossing a narrow earthen dam.
One of several meadows that would make for a wonderful camp.
Lightly used and poorly maintained. Perfect!