Ancient Indian rock art is the real attraction at Jones Hole Creek. No, that's not exactly true. It’s the combination package of spectacular, vivid rock art, a fun, easy hike through a remote and scenic canyon, and a crystal-clear stream that offers decent fishing for browns and rainbows. Oh, the federal fish hatchery at the head of the stream is also very interesting.
Jones Hole Creek is located about 30 miles east of Vernal. Most of the stream is just inside Dinasour National Monument, on the Utah side of the Utah/Colorado border. Access is via a deteriorating paved road. The road is rough in spots but still suitable for a passenger car. The route takes you up over Diamond Mountain - which offers excellent opportunity to view deer, elk and other wildlife. Wildlife viewing in this area is especially good in the fall. Just after the deer hunt closes you should be able to see buck deer with giant racks grazing peacefully in plain view.
The road to the hatchery is generally open during the winter but may close for periods after storms. Spring and summer are ideal times to explore this area. Summer days are hot but most hiking is in the shade along the stream and is pleasant even during warm weather.
Fishing in Jones Hole Creek is ok, but not great. The fishing itself would not be sufficient draw to justify a trip this far into the outback. There are many waters in the area which are closer to Salt Lake and which offer better fishing, including the Green River, Flaming Gorge and lakes and streams of the Uinta Mountains.
Jones Hole Creek is small, with clear water and a rapid flow. There are few pools - it's mainly riffle and pocket water fishing. The fish are easily spooked in the clear water, so anglers need to practice stealth fishing. Walk softly. Approach your fishing area slowly and stay behind brush, if you can. Don't jump from rock to rock and don't hang out over the stream. Wading is usually not necessary. Cast softly to a spot above your target and allow a natural drift over the feeding area. Use a fine leader.
Terrestrials are good patterns during the summer and fall. There are lots of hoppers, big red and black ants, cicadas and beetles in the canyon. Standard small dry fly and nymph patterns are also effective.
Most fish caught will range from 10 to 14 inches. There are a few larger browns in the water, but you've got to work to catch one.
Special regulations on the stream require fishing with flies or lures only. It is difficult to fish lures in the small stream. The trout limit is two and only one may be larger than 15 inches.
The canyon is very scenic. It's narrow, with high sheer walls and massive sandstone panels.
There is abundant vegetation in the canyon bottom. Trees shade the stream in most areas and make hiking pleasant even in the summer. Brush is thick in the canyon and often encumbers the stream, but a well-maintained trail provides easy hiking.
Browns, rainbows, brookies and cutts are raised at the hatchery for stocking in area waters. Visitors are invited to walk among the 50 outside raceways and visit the main hatchery building where there is a fish-rearing area, egg-incubation units and displays.
- From downtown Vernal take U.S. 191 north to 500 North, then drive east on 500 North out of town. Just stay on that road all the way to the hatchery. It will wind and fork - just follow the main road.
- The stream starts right at the hatchery, bubbling out of large springs. The trail begins at the lower end of the hatchery and is easy to spot. Just follow the water, walking past the hatchery runways. Dogs are not allowed in the hatchery or the canyon.
- Rock art panels are located about two miles down the trail below the hatchery, near the mouth of Big Draw. They are on the west side of the canyon. Look for them immediately after the wooden bridge where the trail crosses the stream. Signs and well-used side trails lead to the art work, and to an overhang where there was an ancient structure. The art is mostly in the form of pictographs - figures painted onto the rock. The art represents the work of several cultures over a long time period. Some figures are faded and barely visible. Others are bold, vivid and easy to see.
- The stream flows into the Green River, about four miles below the hatchery.
- Side trails extend up Big Draw and both directions along the Green River.
GPS Coordinates (Units are UTM)
- Hatchery: 0664486 East, 4494813 North
- Rock Art: 0664475 East, 4492507 North
How Diamond Mountain Got Its Name
(Jones Hole Creek flows through a canyon which is called Diamond Gulch on some maps. It's located on the edge of Diamond Mountain in northeastern Utah. There is an interesting story behind that name. The version told here is based on information from a travel brochure published by the Utah's Dinosaur Land Travel Region.)
In 1872 Philip Arnold and John Slack appeared at the Bank of California in San Francisco with a bag or diamonds saying they had found them on a recent trip.
The story caused great excitement and many people wanted to know where the men had found the gems. Arnold and Slack agreed to meet two men at the Union Pacific Station in Wyoming and drive them to the site - but the men would have to be blindfolded. Upon arrival the investigators were shown a field which was literally strewn with diamonds.
The news crated a sensation. The diamonds were examined and found to be genuine and a $10 million corporation was formed to pursue mining activities.
Arnold and Slack then sold their shares and left the country.
A well-known geologist, Clarence King, visited the site and determined the "diamond field" was a fraud and the "mine" had been "salted."
The details finally came out. The gems were industrial diamonds bought by Arnold and Slack. Arnold was eventually caught and he repaid the money he had received. Slack was never caught.