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Seeing nature in all its glory is relatively easy when visiting Utah, where the red rock of the Colorado Plateau, the alpine splendor of the Uintas, and Wasatch Mountains and the desolation of the basin and range of the West Desert offer amazing views.

But few places offer the variety of both ancient forces and modern sites found in the area between Cedar City and Panguitch that includes Navajo Lake, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Brian Head, Duck Creek and Panguitch Lake.

The area has been in the news for several weeks due to the huge Brian Head fire, a man-caused event that certainly altered the look of much of this interesting part of Utah.

Yet, from the ancient forces that formed the Cedar Breaks amphitheater and Navajo Lake to more modern natural sites that include wildflower watching, stargazing and fishing, there is much to see and learn here.

For the most part, the effects of the fire, though substantial for thousands of acres and disastrous for property owners who lost cabins, had little impact on camping or visiting the area, which is now mostly open again for recreation.

According to Dixie National Forest information specialist Kacy Ellsworth, the only campground affected by the fire was Yankee Meadow, just east of Parowan.

She said that area could be closed for between one and five years due to possible flooding, numerous hazardous trees and slick areas due to ash.

"The area is not safe for recreation," she said. "Yankee Meadow has extensive damage."

Other campgrounds in the area — including Panguitch Lake North and South, White Bridge, Spruces, Te-Ah, Navajo Lake, Cedar Canyon, Deer Haven, Duck Creek and Cedar Breaks — are open. Many fill quickly, especially on summer weekends, and reservations are suggested.

"We were really lucky," said Shannon Eberhard, information specialist for Cedar Breaks National Monument. "The fire was six miles north of us and moved north and east. We didn't get affected by the smoke, though we had a good view of the flume."

Jim Facciuto of the Panguitch Lake Resort said his facility has been open since July 3, though business is slower.

"Nothing burned here and there was no damage," he said. "It is nice and green around us. There are spots on the other side of the lake that got burned. Fishing is great. We are trying to get it back together. It will take a little while, but we will be fine."

Brian Head spokesman Mark Wilder said that resort was able to open with full operations on July 4. The resort is offering regularly scheduled weekend operations Friday through Sunday with live music, food and drink, mountain biking, a family adventure trail, zip line, tubing, climbing wall and scenic chair lift rides.

What hasn't changed is the area's interesting geology.

Navajo Lake, for example, has an interesting story about its formation. According to, it formed when an ancient lava flow dammed the eastern side of the lake valley. It rests on a bed of limestone and drains underground through sinkholes. Some water drains towards the Pacific Ocean via Cascade Falls and the Virgin River, while the balance runs east coming out at Duck Creek.

There are lava tubes and ice caves in the area to explore and some interesting viewpoints, including some unusual looks of nearby Zion National Park.

Cedar Breaks' amphitheater offers some of the state's most amazing views at an elevation over 10,000 feet. Once covered by an ancient lake, it is located on the 100-mile-long Hurricane Fault, which became active about 10 million years ago.

The high mountain area at Cedar Breaks is known for its displays of wildflowers that can often last through the summer. According to Eberhard, the 12th annual wildflower festival continues through Sunday and includes daily wildflower walks, and this weekend, booths for kids, crafts, sidewalk chalks, games and flower coloring.

The monument, which received International Dark Sky designation this year, also holds summer star parties every Saturday evening from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Large telescopes are provided for these events.

The area is also known for good fishing at Panguitch Lake, Duck Creek Pond, Navajo Lake, Bristlecone Pond at Brian Head and Aspen Mirror Lake.

Mountain bikers can enjoy an easy 12-mile ride around Navajo Lake or lift-served mountain biking on the weekends at Brian Head.

The national forest is also popular with off-highway vehicle riders with UHV and ATV rentals available at Duck Creek Village, which features lodges, retail stores and restaurants. There is also a small lodge with boat and cabin rentals on the shores of Navajo Lake.

One good stop to get information or maps is at the Duck Creek Visitor Center, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Helpful volunteers have free information and maps to area attractions.

To cap things off, the area is 30 miles from Cedar City and its famous Shakespeare Festival.

Lovers of the outdoors can easily spend days exploring the many interest sights found in this part of Utah.

Twitter: @tribtomwharton —

Activities near Duck Creek Village

• Visit the U.S. Forest Service visitor Center just off State Route 14 across from the Duck Creek pond and campground.

• Hike the half-mile-long Singing Pines Trail that begins at the Duck Creek Visitor Center.

• Hike the half-mile-long Old Ranger Trail or the 3½-mile-long Lost Hunter Trail from the north side of the Duck Creek Campground.

• Hike to Cascade Falls, south of the Duck Creek Visitor Center.

• Hike the half-mile-long Bristlecone Pine Trail off SR-14, about 12 miles west of the Duck Creek Visitor Center.

• Visit the Ice Cave near the Duck Creek Visitor Center.

• Explore inside Bower Cave on the Mammoth Creek Road.

• Visit the Mammoth Cave lava tube on the Mammoth Creek road about five miles north of SR-14.

• Explore the Lava Beds near Mile Marker 21 off SR-14.

• Drive the North Fork of the Virgin River Road.

• Fish at Duck Creek Pond or Aspen Mirror Lake near the visitor center.

• Enjoy fishing, boating, camping or hiking at Navajo Lake. Boat and cabin rentals are available at the lodge.

• Ride an ATV or UTV on numerous trails in the area. Rentals are available at Duck Creek Village.

Source: U.S. Forest Service