Great Salt Lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. Although the area varies with seasonal evaporation and precipitation (or lack of it) the lake covers approximately 75 miles long by 30 miles wide.
There are eight major islands in the lake, with the largest being Antelope Island. Antelope island is 15 miles long and 4.5 miles at its widest point. It can be reached by a causeway from the mainland.
Today, Antelope Island is visited for three major reasons: its beaches, its large herds of bison and antelope, and its historical farm.
The level of the lake is very low due to recent droughts, the lowest its been since the sixties. With the lake so low, in most places, it’s a long walk from the parking lots to the water’s edge. At the end of the day, though, we found a beach where we could easily reach the water.
We took our swimsuits with us on our visit to the island. After hearing for decades how unique it is to swim (or float) in the Great Salt Lake, one look at water’s edge changed our minds as the island’s odor assaulted our senses, and we spotted the brine flies. The stench, (which you do get used to) is attributed to algae, and the swarms of brine flies (about the size of gnats) are actually credited with reducing the odor, as they feed on the algae. The sand has the feel of salt and grit.
The bison number over 500, growing from the original 12 brought to the island in 1893, and are visible all along the scenic drive. For years, buffalo hunts were organized on the island, almost wiping out the population at one point.
At the far end of the island is the Fielding Garr Ranch, dating back to 1848. The residence has the distinction of being Utah’s oldest Anglo-built structure still standing on its original foundation. As you wander the grounds, and look out over the vast lake, you can’t help but feel the loneliness that must have permeated the ranch at times. At the same time, you sense the peacefulness that could come from living apart this way, raising your animals, gardens, and children on an island of your own.
For more pictures of our drive through the island and of the ranch, CLICK HERE.