Friday thought #42 The Great Salt Lake

I have to admit before coming here I knew virtually nothing about the Great Salt Lake. I’m not sure I even knew it was in the State of Utah. But I can now happily admit that my mind has been blown by this astonishing natural feature, sitting contently in the middle of the vast land mass that is America, so very far from any kind of sea!

I have since discovered that it is 75 miles long and 28 miles wide, the biggest lake in the United States that isn’t part of the Great Lakes range further north. I was confused as to how a body of water this far from the sea could be an actual salt lake, so being the curious English tourists we are, we asked someone! The lake has no outlet other than evaporation, and is fed by 4 major rivers which tumble down to it from the mountains. Just like rivers flowing in to the sea, these carry huge amounts of rocks and minerals containing salt, which remains in the lake when the water evaporates. Due to the sheer quantity of salt arriving in this lake, and the fact that it is so much smaller than the sea, the salinity is vastly higher than that of the sea, 7 X to be precise.

We had to test this out, so after a bit of research we headed for Antelope Island, the biggest of the lake’s 10 islands, for a couple of nights. Utterly stunning would be one of the many ways to describe it here and would still not come close to doing it justice. To access the island you drive across a long, purpose built causeway, with the salt flats rolling away on either side. We came across various tourists pottering round at the visitors’ centre, but predictably enough, as soon as we left to explore the rest of the island we were pretty much on our own. The Bridger Bay campground had arguably one of the best views of any I’ve ever stayed on, and provided 2 of the most relaxing days I’ve ever had; a feeling I very much cherish. There’s something rather magical about swinging in your hammock, reading a book in the sunshine, with wildlife and the gentle lapping of the lake as the only sounds.

So, back to the Salt Lake. For starters the temperature of the water was 28 degrees, not much like the sea in any way (and certainly not in the UK!) It was shallow for a long time so one has to wade out quite a distance to get above knee deep, but yes indeed, once you immerse yourself and take your feet off the bottom you do in fact float in any position you wish to try! It’s difficult to describe, but it’s one father weirdest feelings I’ve ever had. You just float! Imagine sitting in a pool on a lilo, happily floating around, but there’s no lilo. I feel like it is what astronauts must feel like. You can simply barrel roll round and round without even a hint of sinking. You can happily swim along using just your arms, legs just floating out behind you. We couldn’t get enough. Plus, if you scrub your skin whilst in the water, once you’re out and blasted clean with cold water, you feel like you’re skin’s been born again. People pay a lot of money for exfoliating skin treatments that make you feel like that!

I can’t recommend it enough, it’s one of the most unusual and most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. During our time on this island we’ve also had the opportunity to see close up; bison, antelopes, wild deer, eagles and wild hare. Hard to knock. Antelope Island will be tough to leave behind, but we’ll be back, I’m sure of it!

Wild Antelope on the island named after them
Wild Antelope on the island named after them
Wild bison, what cool animals!
A wild bison, what cool animals!
Not a bad camp spot, as they go
Not a bad camp spot, as they go. Salt Lake in the background
The Salt Lake itself, no-one around but us...
The Salt Lake itself, no-one around but us…

Friday thought #41 Incredible Utah

We hadn’t planned to come this far south on our road trip of the States. Time constraints and commitments in Missoula meant we had intended to go as far as Yellowstone National Park and then loop back up towards Montana. However, when we woke up in Driggs, in the Teton National Park, we were met with dreary, miserable grey rain. To our dismay we checked the weather forecast and discovered that the rain was set to stay over the Tetons and our pocket of Wyoming for the next week. What to do, what to do…?

After much deliberation and calendar checking we decided to head south, to Salt Lake City. We weren’t sure if it was a wise move, it was a long way off track and would add around 700 miles to our trip but considering fuel is practically free here (compared to Europe!) and Salt Lake is somewhere we’d always wanted to see, how bad a decision could it be??

And what a brilliant decision it turned out to be!

The sun has shone from the minute we arrived and yesterday we hiked up on of the biggest peaks in the area; Deseret Peak. Over 10,000 ft high and an 8 mile round trip, no mean feat in 33 degree heat! The hike itself is beautiful, and we were even lucky enough to spot a doe trotting along the meadow en route! At the summit you are treated to an unbelievable 360 panorama of the Salt Lake and the Salt flats (where the land speed record was set). In one direction is Utah and over the other mountain range lies Nevada. The scenery is simply stunning and the lake is so vast it’s very hard to believe you’re not looking at the sea.

More to come on the Salt Lake itself. What a diverse country this is, and we’ve only seen a tiny fraction. I think I could spend forever travelling round America. If only work, life, time and money didn’t get in the way…!

Here are some of the photos from the top.

View across the salt flats of Salt Lake
View across the salt flats of Salt Lake
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City
Amazing Utah
Amazing Utah
It seemed fitting to drink a Utah beer at the top, overlooking the famous Great Salt Lake
It seemed fitting to drink a beer at the top, overlooking the famous Great Salt Lake!