State parks expecting another record visitation year, hiring more workers

Feb 16, 2024, 5:57 PM | Updated: 6:41 pm

HEBER — It didn’t matter how cold or snowy it was at Deer Creek State Park Friday afternoon. Nothing was going to stop Leonard Sawyer from taking his boat out to do a little fishing.

“As long as the fish are out there, I don’t mind,” Sawyer said with a big laugh. 

Going fishing at Deer Creek this time of year also means there’s a good chance he’ll have all those fish to himself.

“It is peaceful and it is not too crowded,” Sawyer said. “I heard it is really popular during the summertime.”

Deer Creek was as popular as ever this past summer.

It hosted 702,504 visitors, placing it seventh on the list of most visited Utah State Parks in 2023.

We have a blue-ribbon fishery, so we are one of the best places to fish in the state,” said Chris Nelson, who is a park ranger at Deer Creek.

However, it’s not just fishing. Any water recreation was a big draw because Deer Creek was full of water.

Obviously the amount of snow we had last year was really what set us off for a successful season into the winter this year,” Nelson said.

Deer Creek is about 96% full now. Plus, with another good snowpack in the mountains this year, park managers are expecting another busy season.

That is why the park was approved to hire more workers than normal.

Deer Creek Reservoir

Deer Creek Reservoir is already 97% full. The park is planning for another record-setting summer and is hiring more workers. (Istvan Bartos, KSL TV)

“Not only do we have a few more positions than we typically do, we have positions that are more dynamic than they have been in the past,” Nelson said. “Our custodial stall, for example, will also help with grounds, whether it’s picking up garbage or trimming some of the grass and weeds that we have. We also do invasive species mitigation with our grounds crew and our custodial crew and our maintenance crew.”

Nelson also said it can be a challenge to try and keep the park clean with so many visitors.

It’s not just Deer Creek, but many other parks are hiring more workers especially those with water like Jordanelle State Park.

Managers know more water brings more visitors and they want to be ready.

“With higher water levels, we have a greater surface area, so it allows more space for our fisherman versus, we’ll call them our power sports, the jet skis and the surfing and the wakeboarding, the parasailing,” Nelson said. “It gives more space for everybody to enjoy themselves.”

More water also means docks and ramps stay open for boaters. Two years ago, water levels were too low to keep them open at many parks.

At Deer Creek, not only was the ramp open on Friday, but there was also a dock in the water as well.

“It’s easy to get to,” Sawyer said.

It was enough for Sawyer to find a fish.

Even in the winter.

“I got a heated jacket on,” he said with a laugh. “I love it out here.”

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State parks expecting another record visitation year, hiring more workers