When I told my children we were going to visit Starvation State Park (now Fred Hayes State Park at Starvation), they were not sure they liked the idea. They were completely confused when I told them we'd have a picnic at Starvation. Even I was not sure what to expect at this reservoir with a strange name near Duchesne, Utah.
We were all pleasantly surprised.
If you're from Utah and your family enjoys boating, fishing and camping, then this state park may be a secret you'd prefer I not share. For everyone else, here are seven tips for planning a trip to Fred Hayes State Park at Starvation.
It's an easy weekend getaway
Fred Hayes State Park is located just two hours southeast of Salt Lake City on Highway 40. For those of us who live near Salt Lake, that's an easy weekend getaway – or even a day trip. The park is about 90 minutes west of Dinosaur National Monument and a good jumping off point for a side trip into the beautiful and rugged Uinta Mountains to the north.
The first thing I noticed about Starvation Reservoir was its beautiful blue-green water. Ranger Pili took us for a tour in the State Park boat, and the water looks just as lovely up close as it does from the highway. The reservoir is a popular destination for boating and fishing, and is stocked with fish every season. Boats, personal watercraft and other water toys are available for rent at the park, if you don't have your own.
Several of the campgrounds and the day use area are on sandy beaches that slope gently into the water. Even though my family isn't into boating or fishing, we'd have a great time swimming, splashing and paddling around in our kayaks.
If I can have nature out my front door without having to pack a tent, I'm in. Fred Hayes State Park rents three cabins at the Mountain View Campground, each large enough for a family of six. Each cabin has a set of queen-size bunkbeds and a pull-out couch. Bring your own bedding and pillows. The cabins do not have kitchen facilities or private bathrooms. A fire pit and water spigot are located outside.
Cabins have electricity with lights inside and on the porch. A mini refrigerator and microwave are included, along with a table and chairs for four. Heating and air conditioning units have been installed, making the cabins a nice off-season option.
To reserve a cabin or campsite at any of the campgrounds at Starvation State Park, visit www.reserveamerica.com. Bring your own firewood, unless fire restrictions are in place.
Having just returned from a camping trip where everything came home dusty and dirty, I'm more excited than necessary about the green lawns. I'm talking about soft, green, well-maintained grass at the day use area and Mountain View Campground.
On those lawns, you'll find gazebos, picnic tables, soccer fields, volleyball courts and camp sites. Given the choice between a carpet of grass and a patch of dirt, I know where I'd rather pitch my tent or enjoy my picnic.
For campers who don't mind a little dirt, Fred Hayes State Park also has several primitive campgrounds with beaches and good fishing spots. Ranger Pili recommends the Juniper Point campground for those who want to escape the crowds on the busiest summer weekends. The Knight Hollow campground has access to ATV trails.
A large group campsite is available in the Mountain View campground, which is a developed campground with modern bathrooms, showers and grass. The group site, cabins and other popular camp sites may be reserved up to four months in advance at www.reserveamerica.com. If you want a summer weekend date, book in the spring. Weekdays are generally not as crowded.
Ranger Pili assured me that clean bathrooms make happy campers, so the park staff works hard to keep the bathrooms and showers in good condition.
We had the chance to try Fred Hayes State Park's new 3-D archery course, which opened in June 2014. It was the first time most of my family had tried archery and it was fascinating to watch my kids take on a new challenge.
My 7-year-old son and my husband especially enjoyed this activity. Whether you are an experienced archer or a first-timer, all are welcome to use the course. You can borrow equipment from the park if you don't have your own.
Junior Ranger Program
Most Utah State Parks sponsor Junior Ranger programs, similar to the National Park Service Junior Ranger Program. This state park's Junior Ranger program teaches kids about water safety and nature. Ask for a packet at the fee station.
If kids also complete Junior Ranger programs at two other Uintah Basin state parks – Red Fleet, Steinaker, and the Field House Museum – they can earn the tri-state patch.
We had a great day at Starvation State Park and we hope to return again. It would make a fun family reunion destination or multi-family getaway.
Good to Know
Where: On Highway 40, near Duchesne, Utah.
When: Open year-round, but is most popular during warm weather months. Expect ice and snow in the winter.
- Day Use: $7 per vehicle. Cash only!
- Camping and RV sites: $12-28
- Cabins: $60 per night
How long: a few hours to a few days
Amenities: Modern bathrooms, showers, cabins, tent and RV camp sites, boat launch, picnic facilities, day use facilities, RV dump station, fish cleaning station, fire pits.
Disclosure: Duchesne Chamber of Commerce and Starvation State Park hosted us at Starvation State Park so that we could experience the park and review it for other families. All opinions are my own.