About the Forest

A Forest Service employee is helping some vacationers.

The Fishlake National Forest located in south-central Utah, encompasses 1.5 million acres in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Juab, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier and Wayne Counties. The Forest features majestic stands of aspen encircling open mountain meadows that are lush with a diverse community of forbs and grasses. Fish Lake, from which the forest takes its name, is considered by many to be the gem of Utah. The largest natural mountain lake in the state, it offers trophy fishing and bird watching. The mountains of the Fishlake are a source of water for many of the neighboring communities and agricultural valleys in the region. Hunting, fishing and OHV use are among the most popular forms of recreation enjoyed by forest visitors.

There are four ranger districts on the Forest; Beaver, in Beaver; Fillmore, in Fillmore; Fremont River in Loa; and Richfield. The Supervisor’s Office is collocated with the Richfield Ranger District in Richfield. Mike Elson is the Forest Supervisor.

Forest History

The Fishlake National Forest was established in 1907, with its headquarters in Salina, Utah. Like many national forests, the Fishlake has a long and interesting history. More...


The Fishlake Forest sits across the boundary of two major physiographic elements of the North American continent: the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range. The Colorado Plateau is characterized by rocks deposited in a shallow marine environment or on a coastal plain. These rocks are predominantly sandstones, shales, and salts. Their spectacular colors come from the warm oxidizing environment that acted on trace elements within the rocks. About thirty million years ago, the plateau was uplifted about a mile to its present elevation. The rocks have been bent into broad, sweeping arches and basins such as the San Rafael Swell and the San Juan Basin. Igneous intrusions have formed lacolithic mountains such as the Henrys and Sleeping Ute. Most of the Plateau is drained by the Colorado River System which has cut spectacularly sharp canyons.

The Basin and Range is underlain by rocks deposited in a deepening trench at the former edge of the continent. These rocks are mainly limestones, dolomites and clean sands. This suite of rocks indicates that very little sediment was being brought to this deep water marine environment from the land mass to the east. Limestones and dolomites were formed by chemicals precipitated from the oceans and from accumulations of biologic debris. Since these rocks were deposited beneath the ocean, their colors are somber greys, tans, and blacks.

About seventy million years ago, the North American continent collided with another plate that pushed the rocks eastward in massive overriding sheets. The resulting mountains shed their sediment eastward onto the area that was to become the Colorado Plateau. Then about thirty million years ago, when the Colorado Plateau was uplifted, the Basin and Range was uplifted too, but it was also stretched in an east-west direction. This broke the rocks into individual blocks, some of which dropped downward forming valleys while others remained higher forming mountain ranges. In addition to breaking up the region into basins with intervening ranges, this action also disrupted the drainage pattern so that much of the Basin and Range does not drain to an ocean, but to internal sinks such as the Great Salt Lake.

While the Fishlake Forest straddles the boundary between the two provinces, various aspects of the boundary appear at different parts of the Forest. Only 20 percent, the Fish Lake Basin and Thousand Lake Mountain areas, drains into the Colorado River. On the other hand it appears that the eastern two thirds of the Forest are underlain by rocks typical of the Colorado Plateau. However, these rocks are broken into blocks typical of the Basin and Range, and about 80 percent of the Forest has internal drainage typical of that province.

Written by Andrew A. Godfrey, Fishlake National Forest Geologist