We couldn’t visit Salt Lake City without seeing the Great Salt Lake. We decided to make a day trip out to Antelope Island State Park. The park has miles of hiking, camping, and beaches on the lake as well as a historic ranch. There are also plenty of opportunities for birdwatching and spotting wildlife.
We drove to the park and paid the admission fee at the tollbooth at the beginning of the causeway leading to the island. Admission as of October 2016 is US$10 per carload.
Lady Finger Point
When we arrived at Antelope Island, we passed the small marina and headed for Lady Finger Point. There’s an easy ¼ mile trail (one way) where you can get great views of the lake and Bridger Bay.
Next, we went to the visitor center to learn more about the park. There were interesting displays on the wildlife and the history of the lake as well as a short film. The film was overly dramatic and turned us off a bit. Outside of the building are a few sculptures.
From there, we drove to Bridger Bay to dip our feet in the lake. We parked the car, walked down a soft sandy beach, and then had to walk quite a long way on a harder surface to the edge of the water. The water was comfortable but the smell was horrible (probably due to the hundreds of birds floating nearby). I couldn’t wait to get back to the parking lot.
The Great Salt Lake is too salty to support fish, but brine shrimp thrive in the waters. These shrimp support several different species of migrating birds.
We had a quick picnic and rested a while at Bridger Bay. We noticed a restaurant called Island Buffalo Grill located in the next parking lot. It serves real buffalo burgers and is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
After lunch, we went to Buffalo Point, which overlooks White Rock Bay. There’s also a short but steep ½ mile one way trail there which we decided not to do.
Next was a scenic drive to the southern half of the island. On the way, we were surprised by a herd of bison crossing the road. It was incredible how the adult bison blocked the road and waited for the calves to cross first.
Fielding Garr Ranch
Our last stop on the island was the Fielding Garr Ranch. The story of the ranch is equally as interesting as the nature on the island. It was built in 1848 by the LDS Church for their herds of sheep and cattle. The church sent Fielding Garr, a War of 1812 veteran who was born in Culpepper, Virginia, in 1794, to manage the ranch. Garr joined the LDS Church in 1842 and made the journey to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The ranch is the oldest remaining Anglo settlement in Utah and was in use until 1981. It was once one of the largest sheep ranches in the country.
The ranch had a few buildings open to visitors and lots of antique farming equipment on display. We started with a mercantile building where we examined some of this equipment.
Next, we visited the large barn followed by the blacksmith’s workshop.
The last part of the ranch we visited was the living quarters. The Garr family home was filled with authentic furniture and decorations.
The rooms where the ranch hands lived were much simpler and a bit less comfortable.
Antelope Island State Park is a wonderful opportunity to get close to the Great Salt Lake and see firsthand the fantastic scenery and abundant wildlife that many wouldn’t expect to see in such a salty place.