For those of us who live here, it’s a place we never go. In fact, the only time we even think of the Great Salt Lake is when a westerly wind brings an odiferous phenomenon known as “lake stink.”
In days of yore, the water level was higher and there was less stink. At lakeside resorts named Saltair and Black Rock, swimmers bobbed like corks in the saline waters of America’s amazing inland sea. But nowadays, in order to bob like a cork, you’ve first got to hike for a mile or so before you even get your feet wet. Once in the water, you can either try bobbing like a cork or just keep wading until you arrive at the opposite shore.
Alternatively, you can drive out to Antelope Island, now connected to the mainland by a causeway that spans an expansive mud flat. The first thing you’ll come to is a marina turned dry dock, with no boats and just enough water to accommodate a Wilson’s Phalarope—swimming in tight circles in order to stir up a tasty brine shrimp.
At the visitor’s center, one can learn about the history of Antelope Island, which is no longer an island but rather a peninsula. Also, it should be called Pronghorn Island, since pronghorns aren’t technically antelope, nor is a bison the same thing as a buffalo. Thus a trip to the “island” is educational as well as recreational.
On this day, the bison outnumber humans. In fact, if you don’t watch out for bison, you might accidentally run into one. I cautiously make my way to the west side of the island and the beach, or what used to be a beach thirty-some years ago when I last was here. What I find are changing rooms, cabanas, picnic tables and dunes—but no people. Where have all the beachgoers gone? Even with a 550mm lens, they are naught but specks on an indistinct horizon.
If all this sounds like disappointment, rest assured that it is not. I really enjoyed my day at Antelope Island! Why? Because it’s such a refreshing departure from the suburban sprawl, shopping centers, strip malls and congested freeways of the Wasatch Front—so near and yet so far away that you can pretty much forget what you had to go through in order to get there.