Visiting the Salt Lake

Visiting the Salt Lake

Utah Salt Lake Flys Utah Salt Lake Kid
Just outside of the capital is the Great Salt Lake itself, actually the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere! Despite covering an average of 1700 square miles the lake has a maximum depth of only 35 feet, so if you’re a great skin diver you could be miles from shore but still swim down and touch the bottom. All of us non skin divers would otherwise have trouble even descending in the high salt content which makes you extremely buoyant. Since I am a scuba diver I did try to see if there was anything worth diving for in the lake but it seems one would find more forms of life diving in a septic tank. The high amount of salt in the lake gives the nickname; America’s Dead Sea, because there are so few creatures that are able to survive in this salty environment. The lake has no fish but does have a species of brine shrimp swimming around, plus plenty of birds along its shores along with over a billion brine flies. I visited the Great Salt Lake twice, on my first visit the photos above pretty much summed up on my experience. I didn’t see any waterfowl or shrimp on my first trip, but the brine flies seemed to be pretty hard to miss. They give the shore a nice black coating until you walk to close and then they turn into a cloud that resettles a few feet away. Most visitors to the lake come for a swim or for water boating and sailing, but as far as the natural beauty of the lake itself goes, I found it slightly disappointing and little more than a muddy salt water swamp packed with disgusting flies and foul smelling odors. Fortunately I returned four years later and made some new discoveries.
Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Road
The highlight of the Salt Lake in my opinion is Antelope island. This enormous island is over 15 miles in length and up to 5 miles wide with mountains reaching 6,500 feet or just past 2,000 meters. On the left is a photo of Antelope island taken from the mainland, on the right is a photo of the drive towards Beacon Knob which is just under 5,000 feet.
Antelope Island  Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Plant
The natural beauty of Antelope island and the unique plants here make the visit worth while alone. With a range of almost half a mile in altitude you can find different plants along the marshy shores and other plants along the dryer higher elevations. I’ve no idea what the plant on the right is, but it looked special enough to deserve a photograph on my website.
Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Bison Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Bison Heard
Hungry American explorers who first discovered the island in the mid 1800s ended up shooting a pronghorn for meat, and forever gave this place the name Antelope Island. Although there are lots of pronghorn on the island, it is now mostly famous for its large and stable herd of American bison. Above on the left is about as close as I was willing to get to a wild bison. I used full zoom on my camera so I wasn’t as close as it might look, but I approached the bison by first clapping until he looked up at me so I knew I wouldn’t surprise him, then took a few cautious photos and left. I imagine these guys are pretty used to seeing people and I assume it’s rare that anyone is attacked by them but I still wouldn’t want to be the exception. On the upper right is a view of the grassy plains with a large herd of bison in the background. Many signs along the road beg for people to not leave the road, I was unclear if they meant for people to not drive in the plains or physically not get out of the car.
Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Silly Buck Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Bison Crossing
With no forests to hide in and the entire island a protected area, you won’t have any problems trying to spot wildlife on Antelope island. Above is a silly male Pronghorn who ran along the road for several minutes trying to get away from me. He reminded me of wile e coyote and his attempt to outrun trains along the tracks instead of simply stepping off to the side. Eventually the pronghorn left the street and fled into the mountains. The bison on the right was big enough that he was able to take his time crossing the street. The fleeing rabbit on the lower left didn’t take any risks and I saw dozens of them crossing the road. On the lower right is another male pronghorn also called an antelope by the locals. Although antelopes are actually only found in the old world, pronghorn are so closely identical that I don’t think there is any real difference.
Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Rabbit Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Running
Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Bird Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Chukar
I’m not aware of any amphibians that live on Antelope Island, but I know there are a few species of harmless snakes, none of which I saw. I did come across several species birds such as the western meadowlark on the left and the chukar on the right. Some waterfowl below includes the American Avocets and maybe a second species of bird. None of these birds live on the east coast and I had never seen these species until my trip in 2012 to the Great Salt Lake.
Utah Salt Lake Antelope Island Birds Utah-Salt-Lake-American-Avocets