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Explorer Corps Marker: Duchesne County

Find the Marker

The Duchesne County marker is near the Dinosaur Diamond Kiosk on Main Street in Duchesne. It highlights Starvation State Park (Fred Hayes State Park), only 10 minutes northeast from the marker.

40°9’47.5092”N 110°23’37.896”W

Dig Deeper

About halfway between Salt Lake City and Dinosaur National Monument, outside the town of Duchesne, sits a favorite summertime playground for Utahns. In years past, this place was called Starvation State Park. Now it carries a different, less imposing title – Fred Hays State Park, located about four miles northwest of Duchesne.

Exactly why this area was named “Starvation” often depends on who you ask. There are stories about people stealing food from one another during the stark winters in this high desert area, leaving the unlucky to starve. More likely, the name is an echo of what ranchers and settlers found when they tried to establish a home along the banks of the Strawberry Reservoir. Up at this elevation, the summer growing season was short. Ranchers didn’t fare much better. The winters were long, cold, and prone to floods and hailstorms. A great deal of the livestock the settlers tried to raise would freeze or otherwise become victims of the harsh conditions, and so the settlers nicknamed the area Starvation – a title that stuck with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation created a dam in 1970 that formed the reservoir at the center of the state park.

This place, popular with fishers and boaters, was called Starvation State Park for decades. That changed in 2019. Fred Hayes, who started working as a seasonal ranger at Starvation State Park in 1982, eventually climbed his way through the ranks of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. By 2012, Hayes had become the director of the division – and state parks were having trouble. Tight budgets and other challenges raised the possibility that some state parks would have to close. Hayes drove changes to the parks, to make them more like businesses, and the plan worked – so much so that the division re-named the park where Hayes started his career after his memory.

Want to Go Farther?

Fred Hayes State Park has plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and other recreation. The park has even added archery and slacklining to its list of activities!

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