CAUSEY RESERVOIR — Loud splashing noises resonate from the steep canyon walls as one swimmer after another takes the 30-foot plunge off of a cliff into the dark, deep water below.
“Man, that was a rush!” a young man shouts up to his friends above after resurfacing, slightly startled at first but then visibly relieved by the cooling effect of water that remains bracingly cold thanks to the last of the snowmelt.
Meanwhile, a couple of kayakers glide by using smooth, fluid strokes to propel themselves across the channel, followed by a fit-looking man on a stand-up paddleboard. Off to the side, a couple lazily floats on inner tubes under the scorching summer sun.
Such is a typical scene these days at Causey, one of Northern Utah’s most popular places for non-motorized recreation throughout the dog days of summer.
Several miles away at Pineview Reservoir, the picture looks much different. Motorboats crowd the water as they zoom around the surface, many with waterskiers or wakeboarders in tow. Smaller boats troll for tiger muskie and other fish at this popular angling spot that lies just five miles from Ogden city limits.
Whether enjoying the boater’s bonanza that is Pineview, the paddler’s paradise of Causey, or frolicking on the moving waters of the Weber or Ogden rivers, the Top of Utah offers many options for finding relief from the double-digit temperatures that have been beating down relentlessly on the area over the past week or so. While many prefer the convenience and relative safety of their local community swimming pool or splash pad, others turn to Mother Nature for their water-related recreational needs.
“It’s a little cooler up here, and I just prefer the peace and the beauty of being out in nature,” said Dennis Marshall, who has spent many a summer weekend canoeing up and down the narrow, highly scenic branches of Causey. “Swimming pools are fine and all, but this is like the ultimate swimming pool to me.”
For those who prefer moving water, another long-lived pastime involves grabbing an inflatable tube and spending the afternoon floating the Weber River, the largest along the Wasatch Front. The Weber also serves as an ideal introduction to whitewater sports, with rapids that are big enough to jostle rafters and kayakers and get them wet, but not so technical as to require the experience necessary to make it through Cataract or Grand canyons.
The Ogden area has become a kayaking destination, thanks in large part to two established kayaking parks that have become a centerpiece of the city’s outdoor recreation offerings.
Located just off of 24th Street near Fort Buenaventura, the Ogden Kayak Park was built in 2000 at the urging and with the help of local kayakers. It was the first professionally designed play-park in Utah and really drew attention to the area as a kayaking destination.
During late summer and low water years, the park is less a destination for kayakers and more a local hangout and swimming hole. During medium flows it offers an ideal place for beginning and intermediate boaters to get in some friendly hole surfing. In high water, it has three fairly intimidating wide holes that can take a little work to get out of.
In 2008 Ogden City, with help from a county RAMP tax grant and local kayakers, installed semi-permanent kayak slalom gate structures at the kayak park, lending an Olympic-style feel to the experience.
The other kayak park in the area is on the Weber River as it runs through Riverdale. This park was established as part of a project to stabilize an underwater pipe running across the river, and the stabilization project created the Riverdale Wave, which has become one of the most popular water features among the Utah kayaking community.
Locals are fortunate to have so many options for summer water recreation when the heat becomes too much to bear, especially considering Utah is the nation’s second-driest state (only neighboring Nevada has less water). When out on the water, remember that everyone should have a personal flotation device, especially kids. After all, the most important part of a successful lake or river outing is coming home safe.
Of course, the Ogden area isn’t the only place in Northern Utah offering water recreation options for escaping the summer heat. The Logan area also has a variety of offerings.
As far as rivers, the Logan and Blacksmith Fork offer limited kayaking and tubing potential, while Cutler and Newton reservoirs are popular for flatwater recreation.
Perhaps the crown jewel of Northern Utah is Bear Lake, which offers beaches, cooler temperatures, and plenty of room for motorboats and non-motorized watercraft to co-exist in harmony. If you make the two-hour drive from Ogden, don’t forget to stop in Garden City for a famous Bear Lake raspberry shake.