“ Address: Antelope Island State Park / 4528 West / 1700 South Syracuse UT 84075 / Tel: 801 725 9263 „
Antelope island State Park
WHERE IS THIS ISLAND?
Antelope Island is in the Great Salt Lake and because of the 11 km causeway from Syracuse on the mainland to the island it is very easily accessible. The Great Salt Lake is as its name says very high in salt content because its only outlet is evaporation. Because of its high salinity few animals can live in the lake apart from the tiny brine shrimp, brine flies and several types of algae. This brine shrimp and brine flies tolerate the salt and feed on the algae which in turn are a highly desirable food to many birds and so the lake shores attract millions of native and migrating birds and this makes it a popular place to bird watch.
STATE PARK STATUS
The island was made a State Park in 1969. A State Park is not the same as a National Park and so your annual payment National Park card (America the Beautiful) doesn't work as an entrance ticket and you have to pay about $10 per car to drive in.
RULES OF VISITING:
Antelope Island is the lake's largest island, a huge 42 square miles in size and is open all year round for visitors but there are strict rules that must be adhered to. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on leads, horses can be ridden but not on the beaches on the ranch area. Fires only allowed in designated areas and you must not gather firewood from the island. You are not allowed to remove, alter, destroy or disturb any plants or animals. The possession of firearms or traps or other such devices that could wound or kill or damage property are prohibited. Hunting is prohibited in the park boundaries. Parking is only allowed in designated parking areas. It is unlawful to dump water from campers onto the ground; there is a disposal station available.
This is open all year round and the building is wheel chair friendly. There are gifts and books on sale and we were able to watch a video presentation about the island and its formation geologically as well as some of the birds that are resident and that visit the island each year.
There are a large number of walking trails and on some of the trails you can ride on horses or bikes. The day we visited we were surrounded by midges as soon as we got out of the car so walking anywhere was not an option. We spent about three minutes outside the car before running back as we were covered in these horrid bitey things.
You can camp in designated areas only and you need to get a permit in entering the park. The campsites are fairly basic and there is no water or electricity so you have to bring your own supplies.
WHY DID WE GO?
We wanted to see the Great Salt Lake and this is a great place to get views of the lake. We were warned that there was a strange salty marshy smell as we approached the island but I have to say this wasn't obvious, possibly as it was quite cool the day we visited, and the smell might be worse in the heat of summer.
As we drove along the causeway we could see salty crystal deposits which were similar to those on salt pans in deserts. The rocky edges had a number of wading birds wandering around but not being bird experts we were not able to identify them we just enjoyed watching.
We were especially interested in seeing the plains bison herds which were introduced to the island ii 1893. Apparently four bulls, four cows and four calves were taken to the island by boat. They bred well and today this is the largest publically owned herd in the USA. We were very lucky and a large group of bison were grazing just beside the road and we were able to pull over and watch them for quite some time.
The bison herd is kept under control and the numbers kept between 550 and 700. Each year they are rounded up, vaccinated, checked and decisions made as to which will be culled or removed. Some are sent to other herds in the USA while others are auctioned to bison farmers who breed them for meat or sold directly for meat.
This bison herd has been a valuable source for conservation and breeding of bison as they were virtually extinct in the late 19th century thanks to the slaughter by the white man trying to kill off the native Indians source of food.
The island is named after the native Pronghorn antelope and today the herd is maintained at about 200 strong and once again we saw a few but not in great numbers. Mule deer herds of about 250 deer live on the island are also to be seen but we didn't see any unfortunately. Both the bison and the deer/antelope are usually seen on the east side road that leads to Fielding Garr Ranch and this is where we did see them.
Another 200 or so Bighorn sheep live on the island but sadly they were hiding up in the hills and we didn't see any.
Another local animal that we saw a few of, were the wonderful jack rabbits that look a bit like scrawny hares with huge long legs that carry them away at a great rate, hence no good photos of these speedy little beasts.
NOT SO WELCOME:
Midges were everywhere especially by the beachy area and by the causeway. They swarmed around in numbers so great that they looked like smoke rising. Apparently these don't bit but they were very annoying.
The Bodega black gnats bit like mad and insect spray is useless and they are everywhere on the island there is no escape. They hurt when they bit and you end up scratching like mad. Once the temperature gets above 90 degrees F they die off but sadly it was not so warm when we were there and they were biting like crazy.
The brine flies are found along the shore but although they fly in numbers they don't bite.
OTHER INTERESTING FACTS:
This Great Salt Lake is higher than the highest point in the USA. The lake is at 4,196ft and the highest point on Antelope Island is Frary Peak and that is 6,594 ft high. I found that very strange to think that the UK is so much lower than this salty lake. I expected it to be low like the Dead Sea but not sure why.
The Island has about 300,000 visitors each year which is a pretty huge number for a park I had never heard of before we planned our visit to Utah.
The Great Salt Lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. This lake is a remnant of the pre-historic Lake Bonneville which covered a huge 20,000 square miles.
The Great Salt Lake is 75 miles long and 8 miles wide and covers 1.700 square miles. I wanted something to compare this with and so went to see how big the county of Derbyshire is. Derbyshire covers 1,635 square miles so that the Great Salt Lake is actually bigger than Derbyshire.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
Yes, we had a very interesting morning on the island as we left Salt Lake City and made our way northwards towards Yellowstone National Park via Montpelier in Idaho. If you are staying in Salt Lake City then it is not a long drive to visit the island. It was great to see the wildlife and this was where I saw my first real live wild bison so that was very exciting.
I'm not sure I would camp there as facilities are pretty basic but I am not a big camper. I would certainly avoid camping there when the horrible gnats are biting as that would be unbearable. It was bad enough getting out of the car for minutes. We brought quite a few into the car with us too.
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