Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Antelope Island

Antelope Island

When we travel, we’re always looking for new experiences. Nothing could be further from the tropics than Antelope Island in Utah!!! The only thing similar to the tropics is that –  it is an island. When we heard that Antelope Island was a prairie grassland with over 40 fresh water springs, brine shrimp, brine flies, pronghorn antelope, free-range bison, mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, owls, hawks, falcons, porcupine and badgers, we just had to see it for ourselves. The Great Salt Lake provides about 90 percent of the world’s supply of brine shrimp cysts. Brine shrimp are used in laboratories for testing the toxicity of chemicals. Antelope Island is a state park which used to be privately owned until 1969 when the State of Utah purchased it. The island’s shore is mainly flat containing beaches, plains and mountains. The mountains reach an elevation of 6,596 feet. Antelope Island is known as the Basin and Range located from the Wasatch mountains to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Antelope Island consists of  28,000 acres, 15 miles long and 5 miles wide. In the picture above you can see all of the salt surrounding the lake.

Drive along the narrow, two-lane road which connects the Mainland to an island. Park your car, get out and walk on it. It crunches with each step and you will observe millions of brine flies buzzing around you. Sounds appealing, right? Nonetheless, it is an experience like no other.

The Fielding Garr Ranch is located on the east side of the island. Guides take tourists out on horseback to view the bison.

Smelly Salt Lake

Smelly Salt Lake

Why does the Great Salt Lake smell so bad? When visiting the Wasatch Front you will be taken aback by the ever so pungent rotten egg smell, especially on windy days. The rotten egg smell is actually hydrogen sulfide which is created when bacterial sulfate reduces.  The Great Salt Lake is a hyper-salinity (high salt content) environment.  Sewage facilities on the Great Salt Lake unload their liquid waste into the lake. Ewwww! The bacteria is busy working to decompose waste products as well as the bird, brine fly, and brine shrimp waste. The brine shrimp and flies actually have a purpose, aside from annoyingly buzzing around your body, they eat the algae and bacteria which keeps the smell down. The other reason for the intense, unpleasant smell is due to the brine fly casings, brine shrimp and decaying algae that wash ashore and sit in the heat.

Enjoy hiking? There is a 3-mile Lake Side Trail which is accessible from Bridger Bay Campground. The trail follows the beach around the northwestern tip of the island to the camping area on White Rock Bay. The trail is spectacular at sunset.

Free-range Bison

Free-range Bison

“The amazing herds of buffaloes which resort thither, by their size and number, fill the traveler with amazement and terror” ~ John Filson in 1784

Bison crossing the road

Bison crossing the road

Seeing the bison in a picture, just doesn’t have the same effect as in person. The animals are massive! Bison are extremely tall, way beyond the height of a vehicle and a mature bison bull can weigh up to 2 thousand pounds!! It is a little unnerving when they walk or run toward your car. We were in an SUV and I was still very nervous when the bison came close by. In the picture to the left, you can see how tall the bison is in comparison to the vehicle.

Bison were introduced to the island in 1893. Known as the Antelope Island Bison Herd, they have proven to be a valuable genetic pool for bison breeding and conservation benefit. The bison thrive on Antelope Island due to the dry, native grassland. Bison are the most famous residents on the island. In 1897, twelve animals were brought to the island and today they account for 550 – 700 bison! Each year the health of the animals is accessed.

Antelope Island is made up of alluvial (loose sediments) plains with prairie grassland on the north, east and south of the island. Antelope Island has some of the oldest rocks in the United States, older than the Precambrian rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Salt Lake surrounding Antelope Island

Salt Lake surrounding Antelope Island

Antelope Island is surrounded by the Great Salt Lake. The lake is extremely salty, with salt levels reaching as much as 25% of the lake. You won’t see any fish, just Brine Shrimp which become food for the birds. As you can see in this picture, it is so bright that it’s almost blinding. Antelope Island has a dry heat, dry air and it is extremely bright. Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses!

Fees for visiting Antelope Island

Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle up to 8 people

Senior entrance fee (Utah residents over 62 of age): $5 per vehicle up to 8 people

Bicycles and Pedestrians: $3 per person

Commercial Groups (over 8 people per vehicle): $3 per person and $5 per bus

Educational Groups: $1 per person with prior reservation

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