where, when, and what to find

Sand Hollow Reservoir & SP

posted by Tim Avery at
on Saturday, March 28, 2015 

Sand Hollow Reservoir from Google Street View

The sprawling 20,000-acre park, which rests mostly on USDI Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, rivals Utah's two largest state parks - Wasatch Mountain and Antelope Island. Sand Hollow already one of the most visited destinations in the Utah State Park system, with recreation opportunities for nearly every user from boaters to bikers, and OHV riders to equestrians. A favorite destination for local off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, Sand Mountain provides 15,000 acres of perfectly sculpted dunes. The red sand is an incredible backdrop for Sand Hollow reservoir. At nearly twice the size of nearby Quail Creek Reservoir, Sand Hollow offers boating and other water recreation in a spectacular setting.  The park opened in 2003 and sits at roughly 3,000' in elevation.  The reservoir comprises 1,322 acres of the park and is the main draw for birders.  As a state park this is a fee area.  Along the west edge of the park is the headquarters, campground, enormous parking area, boat launch and to the south the dam.  From here you can take the park road around the south end which is mostly beaches and flats, leading into the dunes to the south.  Most of the north and east end of the park is only accessible by boat.  Outside of the park gates you can take an old highway around the south end of the park into mostly sagebrush covered hills before flattening out in desert with a small cholla collective.  Being a popular destination for weekend warriors it is often crowded, loud, and not ideal for birding. During the week and early in the day however it is fantastic!

When Sand Hollow was built it really changed the face of water birding in Washington County.  It replaced Quail Creek as the largest body of water, and out in the open desert to the south, became the location for migrant waterbirds to use.  With more than 175 species being recorded here it has an impressive list of rarities. 31 species of waterfowl have been seen here including all 3 SCOTERS, LONG-TAILED DUCK, 5 species of GEESE, and TRUMPETER SWAN.  Large flotillas of ducks converge here during the winter months and often number in the 1,000's.  PACIFIC LOON, RED-NECKED GREBE, NEOTROPIC CORMORANT, and BROWN PELICAN are a nice list of vagrant divers that have been observed here.  NORTHERN HARRIER are present around the edges of the reservoir, and in the fields adjacent.  GOLDEN EAGLE is seen fairly often soaring high over the desert here.  During the winter BALD EAGLE can usually be found as well.

The shorebird list is almost as impressive as the waterfowl list with 26 species being recorded.  The big treat here was a PURPLE SANDPIPER several years ago that was the first time the species have been observed west of the Mississippi.  SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, WHIMBREL, SANDERLING, DUNLIN, PECTORAL SANDPIPER, and RED PHALAROPE have all been seen here, showing jsut about anything can show up in the desert at this oasis.  POMARINE JAEGER to date is the only species to show up here, but I imagine all 3 will be recorded eventually.  With 10 species of gulls being recorded, its no surprise that vagrants are in the mix with HEERMANN'S, SABINE'S, WESTERN, GLAUCOUS-WINGED and LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS all being found here.  5 species of tern have been seen with LEAST, BLACK, and COMMON TERN all being notable. During the winter months SAGEBRUSH SPARROW, SAGE THRASHER, and CACTUS WREN can be picked up driving around the south end of the reservoir and checking the sagebrush and cholla patches. During migration various sparrow species may be seen, as well as all 6 regularly occurring species of SWALLOWS in Utah.  LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE can be seen year round, and NORTHERN SHRIKE has been recorded in the winter.

When birding at Sand Hollow I like to start at the entrance station where GREATER ROADRUNNER has be seen and head up to the parking lot stopping on the north end of the west dam.  From here you can scope the deeper areas of the reservoir near the dam.  You can also drive down a small dirt road here for closer viewing of the beach for shorebirds--this is usually only worth while in the morning or mid week when the water sports folks aren't out yet.  Continuing along the road in the parking lot headed north you can scan more beach, water, and the large rocks near the marina.  After working to the boat launch I head back towards the entrance and will take the park road south around the lake to the beaches for more scanning.  Gulls and shorebirds often roost here so these beaches are a good spot to spend some time  As you work east the water gets further away and you can drive to it in some areas.  Towards the east end is where many dabbling ducks are often found.  You can't really go wrong birding here from fall through late spring (May). The summer months are hot, and the place is packed.  But the rest of the year its a must stop while birding the area.

From I-15 exit 16 head east on SR-9 for 4.6 miles.  Turn right onto Sand Hollow Road and go 4 miles till you reach the left turn onto Sand Hollow Parkway and into the entrance station.  Alternatively from Exit 10 in Washington, head south to the first light form the freeway and turn left onto State/Telegraph Street and go 1.1 miles.  Turn right on to 300 east and go 1.6 miles.  Turn left onto Washington Dam Road and go 2.8 miles.  Turn right onto Washington Dam Exit and go .2 miles to turn left to enter the Southern Parkway.  Follow this for 3.3 miles then turn left on to Sand Hollow Road.  After .8 miles turn right into the entrance to the park.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Back to Previous


View List of All 1,300+ Spots




  • Have a hot spot you want to submit information for? You can become a contributor and create pages for the database by sending an email to Or if you jsut want, you can fill out the form from the link below and we can add your spot to the data base for you!



Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]