Monday, May 30, 2016

Utah: The Great Salt Lake & Antelope Island State Park

It's rare that Ed and I have time off at the same time, but given that today was Memorial Day, we both had three-day weekends. Ed expressed interest in actually spending the day together and I immediately thought of going to Antelope Island State Park, the largest of ten islands that lie in the southeastern part of The Great Salt Lake. I had only visited once previously, before we were married, and during the winter months.The weather was really perfect: sunny with some good breezes, not humid and not especially hot although definitely warm.

Antelope Island comprises more than 28,000 acres; it's 15 miles long, and 4.5 miles across at its widest point. There are some really beautiful rocky formations, including Frary Peak, the highest point on the island (6,596 above sea level), which we didn't get to. We did make it part way up, though, and were able to admire some of the views of the lake.

From Antelope Island & The Great Salt Lake

Some of the rocks on Antelope Island are some of the oldest in the state; for example, the Farmington Canyon is 1.7 billion years old, and is the same age as the rocks found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. These rocks comprise the southern two-thirds of the island.

From Antelope Island & The Great Salt Lake

The  northern one-third of the island includes 550 million year old-tintin Quartzite, which had been deposited in a shallow marine environment. The youngest rocks on the island are ruff, which had been deposited by Lake Bonneville about 10,000-15,000 years ago, and which typically resembles concrete.

The Great Salt Lake itself is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River, and is a remnant of the pre-historic Pleistocene-era Lake Bonneville, a pluvial lake (landlocked basin) that had been filled with rainwater during times of glaciation, when precipitation was higher; it's since large evaporated.  Lake Bonneville had been the largest of many of the glacial lakes in the western United States, covering most of Utah and portions of Idaho and Nevada. At one point, Lake Bonneville had spanned more than 20,000 square miles and was more than 1,000 feet deep; the current Great Salt Lake and the dried-up Sevier Lake are all that remain.

From Antelope Island & The Great Salt Lake

The hillsides of Antelope Island and the Salt Lake Valley are marked with terraces formed by past lake levels, which you can see slightly in the picture below. Just imagine a lake covering large portions of the pictured hillsides.

From Antelope Island & The Great Salt Lake

We eventually went looking for the bison corrals, but were out of luck: We didn't see any bison or antelope, although we did see what Ed though was a coyote crossing the road. Really, it was just so nice to be out for a long drive, to get out and stretch. There were hiking trails which we did not make use of (neither of us is especially interested in hiking anyway, nor were we wearing the proper footwear), but we did a fair amount of exploring, spending maybe two hours or so driving around, climbing over a few rocks, and admiring the views from various points on the island. It was an excellent afternoon.

From Antelope Island & The Great Salt Lake

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