Since Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks we’d driven south passing through Wyoming, the corner of Idaho where we saw the Bear Lake Wildlife Reserve and into Utah. The road to Antelope Island took us through Cache National Forest which had beautiful mountain and river scenery in its own right [Just wait for more on Utah, wow!]. Having arrived in Ogden just north of Salt Lake City we found a nice suburban neighbourhood to stop our camper and bed down for the night and the next day we headed to Antelope Island State Park.
The plan was to camp a night, see the park, swim in the salt lake and generally have an awesome park experience before hitting Salt Lake City the following day. While paying our entrance fees we were warned about the biting flies, apparently they’re the only creature which thrives in the heavy saltiness of the Great Salt Lake along with the brine shrimp. As we drove out on the manmade peninsula from Syracuse we could literally see swarms of these ‘biting flies’ hovering on the shoreline. Taking a photo involved quickly opening the van door whilst simultaneously spraying fly spray everywhere to discourage the little bastards from getting in our van. To get back in I developed the technique of running around the van to lose as many flies as possible before fly spraying extensively and then jumping in. No joke, it was hilarious to watch.
The island has a visitors centre, a pleasant campsite, a beach with free cold showers or paid hot water showers plus antelope and roaming buffalo to keep your camping experience interesting. We headed to the beach, got changed and waded out in eager anticipation of swimming in the Great Salt Lake.
The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere and it is very salty due to being endorheic – meaning that there is no outlet for water other than evaporation. Three main rivers deposit an estimated one million tons of minerals into the lake every year but nothing flows out. To give you an idea of how salty this lake is, the salinity of sea water normally ranges between 3.1% and 3.8% while the Great Salt Lake averages around 27% – close to 10x saltier.
I was eager to experience firsthand the effect this greater water density would have on my ability to float. To give you some background my body is not naturally a good floater: in a fresh water pool I can sink to the bottom and stay there with no effort just by breathing out. In normal salt water I can float on my back for a while if I heavily breath in but eventually my feet always seem to sink and I need to kick back up to float again. We found the Great Salt Lake to be quite shallow and it took a lot of wading to finally get to waist deep water, there were also a lot of bird feathers and dead brine shrimp which we wanted to wade past before trying to float. Once deep enough I was amazed to find I could float with no effort at all. I could float on my front or my back with my hands, feet and head out of the water, it was incredible!
After our swim we showered and headed back to our campsite to cook dinner and later take some photos of the sunset and watch the buffalo.
Later in Salt Lake City I always asked people I met if they’d swam in the lake before and I never met someone who had. It seems many people don’t take the opportunity to swim; probably because of the high salinity, the brine shrimp and the biting flies but none of these add up to a proper excuse… Sure it’s not the cleanest lake but my advice is to do it, because how many opportunities do you get to swim in 27% salinity!
While on the island I also did a small hike to the peak and managed to get a few shots with my mobile phone.
Lastly a final photo I like from Antelope Island State Park. This was taken while being swarmed by ‘biting flies’ so it was no easy feat to capture this bird in the rushes with the bison in the background and the snow capped mountains in the distance.