The Great Salt Lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River, the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere and the 33rd largest lake in the world. It’s massive! It can seem almost ocean-like, or perhaps more like a large ocean bay, but it is located far from any ocean. One difference between the Great Salt Lake and an ocean is that the lake is much saltier, and brine shrimp are the only thing alive in it. It is one of Utah’s natural wonders!
The largest island in the Great Salt Lake is Antelope Island, which is 15 miles long and five miles wide. The highest point, Frary Peak, is 6,594′, and is often snow-capped in the winter. It’s accessible by road via a causeway. Antelope Island is managed by the Utah State Park system.
Kit Carson and John C. Fremont, who visited Antelope Island in 1845, gave it its name after hunting pronghorn antelope on the island. Daddy Stump and Fielding Garr would build homes on Antelope Island over the next few years. This is a place that people have been coming to for a long time. In fact, there is evidence that native people have spent time on the island since at least the time of Christ.
Antelope Island seems like a world away from the Salt Lake City metro area, even though it is located very close to the city. It looks remote, and it must have been very remote before the road was built and the city grew. Interestingly enough, the oldest non-Native American structure in Utah is located on the island: an adobe ranch house built in 1848. The Fielding Garr Ranch was a working ranch from 1848 to 1981, and now the old ranch is open to the public for self-guided tours.
Wildlife abounds on Antelope Island, including buffalo, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, big horn sheep and many other animals. At one time the bison herd on Antelope Island was the largest in America. There are a huge variety of birds that migrate across the area.
The water is often calm and the reflections can be incredible. There are sandy beaches. There are trails that curve across the rugged landscape. There is a unique beauty to Antelope Island that draws me back. It’s one of my favorite places to photograph. But it’s also disgusting! There’s a certain “rotten egg” smell that can be found near the shores. There are tons and tons of bugs, including biting no-see-ums, brine flies (that cover the shore like a thick cloud), mosquitoes, tons of spiders (venomous and non-venomous), among other things. It’s pretty common to see dead birds. There’s plenty to love and hate about this place. I try to look beyond the gross to see the beauty.
Something interesting that I’ve discovered since moving to the Salt Lake City area almost three years ago is that most people who grew up in Utah don’t visit Antelope Island. Maybe they went on a school field trip as a kid, but they haven’t been back since. The majority of people you find on the island are from out-of-town. The locals who do visit are often those that moved to the area from someplace else. It’s too bad for those who don’t make the short trip to the island, because they’re really missing out!
Antelope Island is incredibly beautiful and tranquil. It is indeed odd, and one has to purposefully look beyond the negative aspects of the place to truly appreciate it. I feel like it is a secret treasure that is easily overlooked, and I feel honored to have found it and photographed it.