Every once in a while you go somewhere and then, later, wonder why you did. For me, Great Salt Lake is one of those places. Mostly because the damn thing stinks. True to its name, it’s really salty. But most of the travel literature fails to mention that it also really stinks. Like something died. Or kind of like rotten eggs. Or maybe both. It’s hard to put an exact label on the smell because most of the time you’re trying not to breathe it in. If you ever go there I’d suggest bringing your own oxygen supply. And a mask.
OK. Maybe it’s not all that bad. Actually it doesn’t smell at all if you hike to the top of one of the hills on Antelope Island. From there it just looks like an average sized lake. With breathable air. The only thing that seems strange while you’re up there taking in the view is that the lake seems very quiet – almost deserted. No boats to speak of and nobody fishing. Although you do see some seagulls around it (some of which are dead). There is, of course, a good reason why there aren’t any fishermen: there aren’t any fish. It’s too salty. Mostly just brine shrimp make their home here (not the kind of shrimp you eat with hot sauce). The shrimp, by the way, are partially responsible for the smell. Or more correctly, waste from the shrimp is a contributing factor. Along with processing effluent from sewage plants. I’ve heard that if the wind is out of the northwest people living in Salt Lake City might even complain about the odor wafting in (most of SLC is to the southeast of the lake).
The lake is also very shallow. Before we went there I read that you should walk into the lake at least once to get a feel for the buoyancy effect. Supposedly you can’t sink. Perhaps that’s true. But if you’re 6′ 6″ tall (like me) you’d probably have to walk awfully far out to test that theory. I did stick my hands into the water, though. That was dumb. It’s like sticking your fingers into watery glue. It’s really sticky. The first thing you want to do is find some “real” water to wash your hands with. And if it’s windy – like it was on the day we were there – you begin to wonder what the stuff blowing around in the air might be doing to your camera. Can’t be a good thing……..
There’s also an old ranch down on the south end of Antelope Island (the Fielding Garr Ranch). It’s no longer active, but there are people there who’ll be happy to fill you in on its history. We talked for quite a while with one of them who seemed to know all kinds of stuff about the island, Salt Lake City, and Utah itself. He was born in Utah and had lived there his entire life but got fairly animated when we told him we were from western NY. He’d been there, he said, and loved it because of all the “green”. He’d never seen anything like it. I almost told him that if he liked it so much maybe he should move to Webster, NY (where life is worth living) but realized he wouldn’t get my attempt at humor. But I did tell him that I didn’t think it was fair that Utah has 5 national parks and NY has exactly 0. Which probably explains why Utah gets more tourists than NY does.
This image looks east from the ranch, across the “flats” that make up the southern end of the lake. As you can see, the wind can kick up a lot of dust and salt. Not too far away is the other side of the lake, I-15, and a lot of residential areas. I asked him if there were ever problems with visibility on the interstate when the wind blew west to east. Surprisingly, he said no. The sand and salt never got that far, he said. Personally, I think he was fibbing just a bit (do Mormons fib?). I’ve seen sandstorms in the desert – they seem to just keep going and going until they run into something. In this case, the Wasatch Mountains on the other side.