"ANTELOPE ISLAND & THE GREAT SALT LAKE" Antelope Island Travelogue by worldtrekker
Antelope Island Travel Guide: 8 reviews and 43 photos
In March, 1997 I was leading a 2 week ski tour based in Salt Lake City. Each day we would drive to a different ski resort within 1 hours drive: Alta, Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird, Park City, Deer Valley, Snowbasin, and Sundance. We had a stretch of some warm days and by early afternoon we'd practically be water-skiing down the mountains. It was that warm. On one particular day, it was just over 70 degrees F, and we decided not to ski, but to do something different. I had read something somewhere about Antelope Island and it intrigued me, so I made this suggestion to the group. They liked the idea and that's how I came to know Antelope Island.
We spent several hours here doing a few short walks and searching for wildlife. There's quite a lot here including around 600 roaming bison!
This island is 15 miles long and has 28,000 acres; the largest in the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake is so salty, that only the Dead Sea has a higher salt content.
Antelope Island is reached via a 7.2 mile causeway. Activities include saltwater bathing, bird watching, camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, sunbathing, exploring historical sites, photography and viewing wildlife in its natural habitat. Watchable wildlife viewing opportunities abound with a herd of 600 bison, deer, coyotes, antelope, bighorn sheep, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Facilities include modern rest rooms, hot showers, picnic shelters, group-use pavilion, boat launching ramp, marina and visitor center.
The information in this chapter comes from <A HREF="http://parks.state.ut.us/parks/www1/ante.htm">
THE UTAH DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES - DIVISION OF PARKS & RECREATION</A> - I found the following extremely interesting and helpful and am adding it to my travelogue even if only for my own reference.
WILDLIFE ON ANTELOPE ISLAND
Perhaps the most alluring feature of Antelope Island is its unique array of wildlife. The island is most famous for its large bison population. The herd fluctuates between 550 and 700, making it one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the nation. The Antelope Island bison herd is also recognized as one of the oldest in the country and possesses unique genetic characteristics.
Prior to European settlement, biologists estimate between 50 to 60 million bison roamed the continent. By the 1890s, the population had been decimated, and it is believed only 800 remained. Conservationists, faced with the eminent extinction of bison, began to take steps to save the species. Two Utahns, William Glassman and John Dooly, were instrumental in this effort. They brought bison to Antelope Island in 1893. The bison herd is managed to maintain a stock population of 600. The bison calve primarily from March through June, and new calves balloon the population to more than 700. Studies indicate that this is near the maximum population of bison that the island can support without overgrazing the grasslands. Careful management allows a large herd to thrive while maintaining forage and nesting cover for other wildlife species.
The bison roundup, which occurs the end of October, is one of the great fall spectacles of northern Utah. The bison are driven to corrals on the north end of the island by a combination of volunteer horsemen and helicopters. Here they are allowed to rest for four days before being worked through the corrals, vaccinated and checked for general health the first week in November. The excess animals are sold at auction and a small number designated for the annual bison hunt in December. Other mammals found on the island include, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, porcupines, jackrabbits and several species of rodents.
Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake attract numerous migrating and nesting birds. Along the shoreline avocets, black-necked stilts, willets and sanderlings can be observed. The island grasslands provide habitat for long-billed curlews, burrowing owls, chuckars and several species of raptors. The Great Salt Lake attracts incredible numbers of eared grebes, Wilson's phalaropes and California gulls. The Great Salt Lake is one of the most important natural features in in the country for migrating birds.
The birds are drawn here to take advantage of the large number of brine flies and brine shrimp associated with the lake. One of the most interesting sights on the island is to watch these beautiful birds gorge on brine flies along the shore. The combination of abundant large mammals located along-side of rich salt marshes provides Antelope Island with a truly unique blend of wildlife.
PRONGHORN RETURN TO ANTELOPE ISLAND
In 1845 John C. Fremont and Kit Carson made the first European exploration of Antelope Island. They shot two antelope and Fremont wrote "in grateful supply of the meat they furnished, I gave their name to the island." By the 1930's the island's namesake had disappeared from Antelope Island. In 1993 a cooperative effort between the Utah divisions of Wildlife Resources and the State Parks and Recreation resulted in the reintroduction of 24 pronghorn antelope. By the 1995 fawning season the population had nearly doubled in size. It is hoped that predation from coyotes, bobcats, and eagles will act as population control for the pronghorn on the island. Long term research by Weber State University monitors the population, helps determine critical habitat and studies behavioral traits of the species.
FIELDING GARR RANCH
Fielding Garr was quick to recognize Antelope Island's potential as livestock range. He began construction of a ranch house in 1848. Garr was a skilled mason and fashioned the sun-dried adobe bricks used to build the home out of materials found on the island. The ranch house is distinctive for two reasons; it is the oldest continually inhabited anglo-built home in the state of Utah (from 1848 to 1981 when the island became a state park); and second, it is the oldest anglo-built house in Utah still on its original foundation. The Fielding Garr Ranch is open to the public daily.
ANTELOPE ISLAND HISTORY
John C. Fremont and Kit Carson made the first known visit by people of European descent to Antelope Island in 1845. They found several antelope on the island thus giving Antelope Island its name.
Fielding Garr established permanent residency on the island in 1848. He not only tended his own herds, but those of other stockmen as well. In 1849, Brigham Young asked Garr to manage the LDS Church's Tithing Herd, which was kept on the island until 1871. The Tithing Herd was utilized by the Perpetual Emigration Fund which was established to help needy Mormon converts immigrate to Utah. Recipients would reimburse the fund when circumstances would allow them to do so. Reimbursement was made in the form of livestock, which was considered better than cash. During this time the LDS Church also invested thousands of dollars in valuable stallions and brood mares which were turned loose on the island.
Antelope Island was used as a base camp for a government funded survey of the Great Salt Lake by Captain Howard Stansbury during the years of 1849-50. During the 1870's several private homesteads were established, with George and Alice Frary staying the longest. Alice requested to be buried on her island home, and a marker stands to commemorate her grave site.
On February 15, 1893 , twelve head of bison were transported to Antelope Island. John Dooly and George Frary loaded the bison into a small sailboat and nearly capsized as they sailed to the island. The Island Improvement Company owned most of the island from 1884 thru 1972. Cattle and sheep were the company's primary ranching commodity, although buffalo and horses were always on the island. In the 1930's , Antelope Island was the largest private sheep sheering operation west of the Mississippi. Recognizing the recreation potential of the island, the north 2,000 acres were acquired by the state in 1969. In 1981 the state purchased the rest of the island thus preserving it as a state park for all the people to enjoy.
GREAT SALT LAKE
The Great Salt Lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. At the current level the Great Salt Lake is 75 miles long and about 35 miles wide. Located in several wide flat basins, a slight rise in water lever expands the surface area of the lake considerably. The first scientific measurements were taken in 1849 and since then the lake level has varied by 20 feet, shifting the shoreline in some places as much as 15 miles.
Great Salt Lake is salty because it does not have an outlet. Tributary rivers are constantly bringing in small amounts of salt dissolved in their fresh water flow. Once in the Great Salt Lake much of the water evaporates leaving the salt behind.
Great Salt Lake is the remnant of Lake Bonneville; a great ice age lake that rose dramatically from a small saline lake 30,000 years ago. The most conspicuous reminders of Lake Bonneville are the ancient terraces etched into the landscape along the lakes formers shorelines. The terraces were eroded by wave action and are relatively flat areas which follow a contour line. Look south from Buffalo Point for an outstanding view of Lake Bonneville terraces carved into the island as high as a thousand feet above Great Salt Lake. After the ice age the earth's climate became drier and Lake Bonneville gradually receded to form Great Salt Lake.
Great Salt Lake is too saline to support fish and most other aquatic species. Several types of algae live in the lake. Brine shrimp and brine flies can tolerate the high salt content and feed on the algae. Brine shrimp eggs are harvested commercially and are sold overseas as prawn food. The oft maligned brine flies do not bite or land on people and are the primary food source for many birds that migrate to the lake. For most of the summer brine flies form a ring around the entire shoreline and rarely venture more than a few feet from the water's edge. Biologists have estimated their population to be over one hundred billion.
The ever fluctuating Great Salt Lake has frustrated attempts to develop its shoreline. As a result much of the lake is ringed by extensive wetlands making Great Salt Lake one of the most important resources for migrating and nesting birds.
Great Salt Lake draws people for a variety of recreational experiences and to enjoy what John Muir called "one of the great views on the American Continent". Bridger Bay Beach on the north end of Antelope Island is perhaps the nicest beach on the entire lake. The beach is a two mile long hundred yard wide expanse of white oolitic sand. Oolitic sand is actually formed in the lake and is made up of concentric layers of calcium carbonate (lime). Look closely at the sand, most grains are smooth and perfectly round. Bridger Bay is where many people come to float like a cork for you cannot sink in Great Salt Lake. To lie back and float upon the lake with only the sound of the gulls overhead is a unique experience unlikely to be forgotten.
ANTELOPE ISLAND TRAILS
The island's non-motorized trails are designed to be equally enjoyable for both the beginner and expert trail rider and it provides 35 miles of track. You can look forward to spectacular views of the Great Salt Lake and surrounding areas. The trails also offer excellent opportunities to view the island's wildlife. The backcountry trail currently consists of 14 miles of double track traveling south from White Rock Bay. The heart of the trail is the 7.5 mile White Rock Bay loop. One of the three spurs off the loop travels to Beacon Knob, which is the highest point on the trail towering 800 feet above the Great Salt Lake.
Split Rock Bay is trail is a 5 mile loop of single track which consists of a short climb and dramatic descent to a pristine white sandy beach. The Elephant Head spur leads to a dramatic overlook.
Three shorter trails exist on the north end of the island. The longest is the Lakeside Trail at three miles one way. The trail follows the shoreline around Buffalo point and connects White Rock Bay to Bridger Bay.
The Buffalo Point Trail is extremely popular and consists of a .5 mile hike ascending 300 feet from the Buffalo Point overlook/parking area. The visitor is greeted with a fantastic 360 degree view on the northern point of the island.
The Ladyfinger Point Trail is a .25 mile long hike winding across a rocky point to overlook both Egg Island and Bridger Bay. Mountain View trail is 11.4 miles and winds along the east side of the island. All three of these scenic trails offer excellent opportunities to view the wildlife and geology of Antelope Island.
Utah State Parks and Recreation has established a number of guidelines designed to protect the island's wildlife and unique resources, yet still allow trail access. Please help us protect the island by observing all guidelines. A volunteer trail patrol has been organized for the safety of trail users and to help us protect the islands backcountry. If you are interested in becoming part of this effort, please contact a ranger.
THE DAVIS COUNTY CAUSEWAY
The Davis County Causeway is a 7.25 mile earthen dike and roadway leading from the mainland to Antelope Island. The original causeway, constructed in 1969 by the State of Utah, was washed out frequently by heavy wave action in the early 70's but was raised slightly and reopened each time. By 1985 the causeway was completely under water due to the relentless rise of the lake.
As the lake began to recede in the late 80's the causeway reemerged. It was in poor condition and needed extensive work. Davis County officials together with State Parks personnel lobbied the Utah State Legislature in 1990 for funding to rebuild the causeway so that Antelope Island State Park could again be opened to the public. Eventually the legislature agreed to give the causeway to Davis County along with $4 million for rebuilding and repairs. Another $500,000 was appropriated in 1992 and the County rebuild the causeway in 1993 for a total cost of $5 million.Davis County charges a $2 per vehicle toll (included in your entrance fee) on the causeway to help pay for ongoing maintenance costs and to set aside a fund to deal with possible future damage should the lake rise again.
Reservations for camping may be made by calling Utah State Parks and Recreation, (801)322-3770 in the Salt Lake City calling area or toll-free 1-800-322-3770, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Individual campsite reservations may be made from three days to 16 weeks in advance from the date of departure. A $6.25 non-refundable reservation fee will be charged for each site reserved. A $10.25 non-refundable fee is charged for group sites and building rentals. An additional reservation fee will be charged for any changes to existing reservations. Visa, MasterCard and personal checks are accepted. A $7 fee is charged for an extra vehicle and is collected at the park. Group reservations are made by calling the park at: (801) 773-2941
Permits and Passes
The Single Park Permit is $55 and allows the cardholder and up to seven guests in the same private
vehicle day-use entrance into Antelope Island State Park. The permit is valid for the current calendar
year. The Five-Day Pass is $15 and allows day-use entrance to most Utah state parks for five
consecutive days. The $2 causeway fee is still required on all passes
To reach Antelope Island, take I-15 to exit 335 (Syracuse/Freeport Center). Travel west nine miles
west on Antelope Drive to the entrance gate.
Antelope Island State Park
4528 West 1700 South
Syracuse, Utah 84075-6868
(801) 773-2941 or (801) 725-9263
Buffalo Point Inc. (801) 776-6734 Operates Buffalo Point Restaurant and Bridger Bay Ice Cream Shop
R&G Horse and Wagon Outfitters, LLC. (801) 782-4947 or (801) 731-4725 for information or
reservations. Offers horse rentals, wagon rides and guided horseback rides.
-Camping -Total sites- 35
-Stay limit - 14 Days
-Group Camping Available
-Modern Restrooms -Visitor's Center & Museum
-Max Length 35 ft.
-Showers -Showers avalilable
-Modern Restrooms -14 Day stay limit
-Day use fee - $7
-Camping Fee - $13
-Five day pass - $15 -Abundant Wildlife!
-Coyotes -14 Day stay limit
-Day use fee - $7
-Camping Fee - $13
-Five day pass - $15
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