Friday, June 12, 2015
Vintage Vacation...Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake!
A Home Where the Buffalo Roam...
It rained practically every day in May, so we were so happy to have a sunny Saturday near the end of the month. One of the reasons that I enjoy writing my blog so much, is that it gives us an excuse to go exploring close to home, whether it be in the old mining towns or a visit to the largest island on the Great Salt Lake. Antelope Island State Park is very unique. Prehistoric people inhabited the island more than 6,000 years ago. Explorers Kit Carson and John C. Fremont made the first known Anglo exploration of Antelope Island and named it after the herds of pronghorn antelope they observed grazing on the grassy range lands.
Map of the Island...
You won't need a boat or a ferry to get to the island. There is a two-lane road built on a causeway that takes you to the north end of the island. The water is fairly shallow in that part of the lake. In fact, the water level is very low right now. We are in the midst of a drought...tell that to the rainy month of May! Antelope Island is 15 miles long and 4.5 miles across at it's widest point. Frary Peak is the highest point on the island and is 6,596 feet above sea level. The island is the perfect place to camp, cycle, hike or explore on horseback. We went for the wildlife.
This road enables visitors to drive to the island.
An Eligible Bachelor...
The males hang out together in separate herds.
We saw only a couple of antelope (230) on our visit, but the most popular residents of the island are it's 500 to 700 buffalo or bison. Mule deer (500) and California big horn sheep (120) are also to be found there, along with predators such as coyotes, bobcats, badgers and birds of prey. Large populations of small mammals such as jack rabbits, cottontails, pocket gophers and kangaroo rats provide prey. For such a small island, the animals were very good at keeping out of sight on our visit. People report sightings of the various animals at the Visitor's Center...a chart there can tell you where you might catch a glimpse.
There is plenty of water to support the wildlife with 40 major freshwater springs, most of which are on the eastern side of the island. The Fielding Garr Ranch has a spring which helps to account for the green wooded area around the ranch buildings.
Cows and Calves...and their Uncles.
Over 700 bison call the island home.
Most of the bison calves are born in April and May, so we were lucky to see the babies playing alongside their grazing mothers. The older bulls who no longer breed stay with the cows and calves. The mature males range together in "bachelor" herds. A bison round-up is held annually to control the size of the herd. They are weighed and vaccinated and checked for pregnancy. Excess animals are sold, then the rest are released.
Chukars are one of the many species of birds.
Handsome Gopher Snake.
None of the Island's snakes are venomous.
Fielding Garr Ranch
Fielding Garr established the first permanent residence on the island in 1848, which...according to the brochure...is Utah's oldest Anglo-built structure still standing on it's existing foundation. The ranch complex consists of an adobe house, bunk house, spring house, sheep shearing barn, blacksmith shop and corrals. The home and bunk houses are still furnished with family possessions. I liked how the kitchen was stuck in the 1950s with a dinette table and other vintage accessories. It wasn't like a museum display, but a house that still appeared to be inhabited. It reminded me of the homes on Heritage Street in the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. It was an odd combination of pioneer life and suburbia, where a vintage tricycle sits next to an old wagon wheel. It has a comfortable "go ahead and touch" kind of feeling. Under the trees are picnic tables, which makes it a lovely shady place to have a picnic lunch.
Fielding Garr Ranch House
The rooms are still furnished with family possessions.
Bunk House...steps lead down to root cellar.
Bunk House sleeps four.
Sheep Camp Wagon.
I've always wanted to look inside one...would love to see it restored.
The ranch looks like they simply parked their truck and tractor and just walked away.
Miscellaneous Images of the Ranch
Swimming in the Great Salt Lake...
The Great Salt Lake.
When I was young I always wanted to go swimming in the Great Salt Lake. I couldn't swim then...and I can't swim now. But it was said you couldn't drown...you would only bob on the surface like a cork. There were several resorts on the shores of the lake, but they were mostly abandoned by the time I came along. Saltair was the most famous. It was known as the Coney Island of the West. Old post cards show a hustling bustling resort that I wish I could have seen. A version of the Saltair Pavilion still exists...used mostly for rock concerts and other events. My mother talked about going swimming when she was a girl at a place called Black Rock Beach. That, too, is gone.
Great Salt Lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. It is a remnant of pre-historic Lake Bonneville, which covered more than 20,000 square miles during the Ice Age. My town of Highland, sits on one of the lake's old shorelines. The lake is very salty due to the fact that it has no outlet; water leaves only by evaporation...high concentrations of salt and other minerals are left behind. The salinity is too high to support fish...brine shrimp, brine flies and algae thrive in the lake and are the primary food sources for millions of migrating birds.
How salty is the Great Salt Lake?
Salinity levels vary depending upon which part of the lake you're on. Farmington Bay is 5%, the South Arm is 8-15%, and the North Arm is 28%. The differences are due to fresh water flowing into the southern part of the lake and not being able to flow freely into the North Arm due to the railroad causeway. I used to believe that Utah was just like Israel. Great Salt Lake was the Dead Sea, while Utah Lake was the Sea of Galilee. We also have the River Jordan which flows from Utah Lake into our Dead Sea. I'm sure my devout scripture-reading pioneer ancestors thought of that before I did...lol!
On the northwest end of Antelope Island are some very nice sandy beaches, with picnic areas and outdoor showers. There is even a cafe called The Buffalo Grill if you are in mood for a burger...either beef or bison. I've had a Buffalo Burger before and it was pretty tasty...not gamy at all.
Hope you enjoyed this Utah Vintage Vacation!
Before you go...I scanned some of my Great Salt Lake postcards to share with you.