Sunday, May 18, 2008

An Island in the Middle of the Desert

One of the places that I've taken my kids more than any other seems to be an anomaly when living on the deserts edge- an island in the middle of an ocean-like lake.

Antelope Island is the largest island of the eight on the Great Salt Lake. You access the island by driving out on a 7 mile long causeway that gives the impression of flying low across the water. You enter the island at the northern tip and immediately see a small marina where boat owners dock while not sailing the lake (yes, you can sail on the Great Salt Lake).

There is a road system on the island that gets you to the major points of interest, but by and large the island is free of roads, particularly at the southern end of the island, where there is even a dearth of hiking trails.

One of the first stops to make is the visitors center that you see sitting atop a hill above the entrance to the island. The visitors center has information and exhibits about the history, geology and habitat of the island. Get a sense of the island at the visitors center, ask state park rangers any questions you might have, get your bearings and decide what to see.

One of the most interesting drives is along the east coast of the island, south to the Fielding Garr Ranch. The ranch house is the oldest continuously occupied house in the state of Utah and the oldest house on its original foundation. There are activities going on quite often at the ranch. My kids loved learning how to dip candles. Check the events schedules to know when things are going on.

On your drive down to the ranch, keep an eye out for the herd of roaming bison. About 500 live on the island and graze in the open rangeland most of the year. Once a year they are rounded up and brought to the corral for checkups and thinning the herd.

There are several trails on the island for hiking or biking. Some are shorter than a mile and the longest ones run about 7 1/2 miles. Two of my favorites are the short, Buffalo Point trail at the north end of the island and the slightly longer Frary's Peak trail. The trail to Buffalo Point is less than 1/2 mile long and is a fun hike for kids and adults alike. From there you get a great view of the lake looking north. The Frary's Peak trail is a bit longer at 3 1/4 miles, but takes you to the tallest peak on the island. It is a bit steeper than the Buffalo Point trail, but my kids still were able to hike it with a few stops along the way.

Camelbak Backpacks: Free Shipping

If you're hot and tired after a hike, head down to Bridger Bay, a developed beach with campgrounds nearby. Take a dip in the lake, but be warned. With low lake levels, the water has not been close to the white sandy beach for a while and it may take a short trek to get to the water's edge. Also, once you get to the water, you will need to make your way through a swarm of brine flies, but once past them, the lake is is fun to play in and is shallow enough for the littlest of kids. If you want a little deeper water, just walk out a little further. Once you are done in the water, head back to the beach and shower off- unless you want to be encrusted in salt when you dry off.

My advice, when heading out to see attractions around the state is always to bring food and drinks with you- it's cheaper that way. But, Antelope Island does have concessions, and the one thing you may want to try is a buffalo burger, just to say you did.

There is no end to adventure on Antelope Island, so be prepared to spend an entire day, and like myself and my family, make follow up trips to go where you didn't get to go on your first trip to the island.

Place: Antelope Island State Park
Location: Take Exit 332 off Interstate 15, then drive west on Antelope Drive to the park entrance.
Phone: 801.773.2941
Hours: May through September: 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. / November through February: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. / March: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. / April: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. / October: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visitor Center and Fielding Garr Ranch Hours: September 15 to April 14: 9a.m. to 5 p.m. / April 15 to September 14: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: $9.00 per car

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City: 40.2 miles
Ogden: 24.8 miles
Provo: 81.8 miles
Logan: 69.5 miles

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