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Antelope Island

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Understand[edit]

State Park Map
State Park Entrance
Sunset on Antelope Island
Antelope Island seen from an aircraft

Antelope Island State Park is a 42-square-mile island located in the Great Salt Lake, just west of Ogden, Utah. It was first established as a Utah State Park in 1969, and it has become a popular outdoor recreation area for Utahns as well as a refuge for antelope, bison, nesting birds, and other animals. In 2017, Antelope Island was designated an International Dark Sky Park (Bronze Tier) by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). Popular activities at at Antelope Island include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, stargazing, photography, saltwater swimming, and wildlife watching.

Antelope Island is still relatively unknown, and is thus free from the hordes of tourists that descend on nearby Bear Lake every summer. If you arrive in the early morning you may have the island practically all to yourself. Even at its busiest it is large enough that you will still have the chance to feel very much one with nature.

History[edit]

The islands of the Great Salt Lake were first mapped out by John C. Fremont in 1843. From 1848 until 1870 the island was used by pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for breeding horses and cattle. In 1884, John Dooly and Frederick Meyers purchased the land and founded the Island Improvement Company, which owned the majority of the island until the late 20th century. In 1893 and 1894, 12 bison, 12 elk, and a number of mountain sheep and pheasants were purchased by ranchers George Frary and William Walker, and brought to the island. Towards the turn of the 20th century, the Antelope Gold and Copper Mining company began activities on the island, under the leadership of George Frary and others.

In 1911, 100 buffalo were counted on the island, at the time one of the largest buffalo herds in the U.S. In 1915, John Dooly Jr. took over the Island Improvement Company and brought sheep to the island as well. In 1955, the Island Improvement Company became the Island Ranching Company.

In 1967, the "Road to Nowhere" was started, and completed three months later connecting the north shore of the island with what is now Syracuse. This road to nowhere later became the causeway that is used today to get to the island. The State of Utah purchased 2000 acres on the northern half of the island in 1969, and the Antelope Island State Park opened to the public on January 15, 1969.

The remaining 26,000 acres of the island were purchased from the Island Improvement Company in 1981, and the cattle and sheep were removed from the island. The company's ranch is still maintained by Utah State Parks as the oldest building built by European-Americans still on its original foundation. It is called Fielding Garr Ranch and is one of the highlights of the island.

Climate[edit]

Antelope Island is a year-round destination, with winter temperatures in the 10s and 20s Fahrenheit and summer temperatures hovering roughly between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Because there is very little shade on the island, it can be rather suffocatingly hot during the summer. The temperatures are most pleasant in the fall and spring. However, from late March through June there are hordes of biting gnats ("no-see-ums"), which can make a tourist's life truly miserable if they are not adequately prepared. Therefore, although the island can be enjoyed to varying degrees throughout the year, the best times to visit are during autumn and winter.

Get In[edit]

By car[edit]

Antelope Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway that crosses the Great Salt Lake to the northern tip of the island. To get to the causeway, take exit 338 from Interstate 15 in Syracuse, just north of Salt Lake City, and head west on Antelope Drive for seven miles to get to the state park tollbooth. From there, continue on the causeway for an additional seven miles to get to the island. Antelope Drive is the same as 1700 S in Syracuse, and is also UT-127.

By train[edit]

The Clearfield station of the FrontRunner train is at Antelope Drive, just west of the freeway. From there, you can rent a car, bike, or use ridesharing apps to access the island by heading west on Antelope Drive.

By plane[edit]

From the Salt Lake City International Airport, it is just an hour's drive to the northern tip of the island. The Salt Lake Airport has direct connections to many cities throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada; there are also direct connections to a few cities in Europe.

The Ogden-Hinckley Airport is only a half-hour's drive from the northern tip of the island. However, currently the only commercial flight into Ogden is from Mesa, Arizona. There is, however, a large general aviation community that uses the Ogden airport.

Get Around[edit]

The main road going through the island is Antelope Island Road, which comes in at the northern tip of the island and roughly follows the eastern shoreline. There are several other roads, mostly on the northern half of the island, for access to campsites, the visitor's center, and the beaches on the western shoreline. To get onto Antelope Island Road, turn left when you arrive on the island.

Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular ways to explore the island's many roads and trails.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Ladyfinger Point. Ladyfinger Point lies on the north tip of the island, just west of the causeway. It offers some interesting rocky outcroppings and beautiful lake views. There is also a campground. From here you can also see Egg Island, closed to visitors as a nesting place for birds.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

Ranch[edit]

Fielding Garr Ranch

To get to Fielding Garr Ranch, turn left once you reach the top of the island. Turn left again to follow the eastern shoreline. The drive is about 11 miles.

  • Fielding Garr Ranch, +1 801-773-2941. 9am-6pm daily. Take a trip into the past at Fielding Garr Ranch, a collection of historical buildings dating as far back as the 19th century, where ranchers worked and lived. Explore the artifacts on display at the museum, popular with children because they can touch and feel practically anything.  edit
  • Cowboy Legends, Music and Poetry Festival, (Fielding Garr Ranch). Every Memorial Day weekend, Antelope Island State Park hosts the party of a century with cowboy performances, vendors, campfire dinners, dances, and wagon rides.  edit
  • R & G Horse and Wagon Rides, (Fielding Garr Ranch), +1 801-726-9514, [1]. R&G Horse and Wagon offers horseback riding for all experience levels. $55/person/hour.  edit

Hiking[edit]

Antelope Island is covered with trails branching off in different directions, and they all provide wonderful opportunities for wildlife watching and endless photo opportunities. Some of the most popular trails are listed below.

  • Frary Peak. At 6,596 feet, Frary Peak is the highest point on the island. To get to the trailhead, follow Antelope Island Road along the eastern shore of the island for roughly 5 or 6 miles until you see a turnoff on the right-hand side. The turnoff is roughly half-way to Fielding Garr Ranch. The trail is steep, gaining 2,335 feet in elevation, and there is no shade. There is typically a significant amount of snow on the trail between December and March. From the top there are amazing views of Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake.  edit
  • Dooly Knob. At only 5,200 feet, Dooly Knob is much more accessible than Frary Peak. To get to Dooly Knob, follow Frary Peak Trail and turn north after about half a mile. From Dooly Knob you can get excellent views of the northern half of Antelope Island, of Frary Peak, and of the Great Salt Lake.  edit
  • Buffalo Point Trail. Buffalo Point Trail is an easy 1-mile round-trip hike for all ages, year-round. It also offers magnificent lake views, and many opportunities to get close to wildlife. Benches lie along the trail for breaks, if necessary. To get to the trailhead, turn left once you reach the northern tip of the island, then continue straight when the main road branches off to the left to follow the shoreline.  edit

Biking[edit]

  • Antelope E-Bikes, (Antelope Island Marina parking lot), 801-317-8549 (), [2]. Reach speeds over 20mph on an electric bike as you explore the island in a unique and fun way. Morning, afternoon, and evening tours are available, or just rent a bike and see where adventure takes you. $30-89.  edit

Watersports[edit]

The Antelope Island Marina lies at the northern tip of the island, and is an excellent point for launching watercraft into the Great Salt Lake. As the waters are relatively shallow, the GSL is not a good destination for motorized equipment. Sailboats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards, however, are very much at home on the lake. Sunsets as seen from the middle of the lake are incredibly beautiful, and diverse waterfowl abound in their native territories. Egg Island, just north of Ladyfinger Point, is closed to access year-round to protect nesting birds, but you can paddle around it and admire the wildlife there.

The following nearby agencies offer watercraft rentals:

  • Green Adventure Sport Rentals, 2097 W 750 N, West Point, UT, 84015, (801) 725-8094 (), [3]. A residential business just 20 minutes away from the marina. Pull into the west side driveway and back to the large garage in the backyard with a big green paddleboard mounted to the front of it. Drive slowly, watch for children, and do not park on the road.  edit

Saltwater Swimming[edit]

  • Bridger Bay Beach. Turn right once you arrive on the island to get to Bridger Bay Beach. The main attraction to swimming in the Great Salt Lake is that the salty water is heavier than the human body, and therefore you cannot sink. You float on the top of the water like a rubber ducky floats on top of bathwater. Be prepared for lots of insects and brine shrimp, and the unique smell that accompanies the Great Salt Lake (you will get used to it after a short period of time). Thankfully there are showers nearby where you can wash all the salt off. They cost $1.00 for 4 minutes, and there are change machines to get quarters, although they only accept dollar bills. Bring sandals to wear on the beach, and arrive just before sunset for a real treat.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

The Antelope Island Visitor's Center has a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs.

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Island Buffalo Grill, 4528 W 1700 S, Syracuse, UT (Bridger Bay), +1 801-897-3452. M-F 12PM-4PM, Sat 11AM-7PM, Sun 12PM-6PM. Tasty burgers, delicious buns and good fries make this a popular place to eat at Antelope Island. They also have specialty bison burgers. Located at Bridger Bay on the northwest corner of the island. $6-12.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Do[edit][add listing]

Bring your own water and drinks.

Don't[edit]

Drink out of the Great Salt Lake.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Camping[edit]

All reservations for campgrounds at Antelope Island State Park can be made at Reserve America. Camping is available year-round, and can be reserved up to 4 months in advance (or 11 months in advance for the group site.)

None of the campgrounds have shade or drinking water, so come prepared. Flush toilets, hot showers and drinking water can be found at Bridger Bay, approximately 1 mile from each campground.

  • Bridger Bay Campground. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 2pm. Primitive campsites with a fire pit and space for 1 vehicle and up to 2 tents. There are 26 campsites at Bridger Bay, 3 of which are ADA accessible. $20 per day, $122 per week.  edit
  • Ladyfinger Campground. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 2pm. Primitive campsites with space for 1 vehicle and 1 tent. Note that fires are not allowed. However, there are gorgeous views of the lake and of nearby Egg Island. There are 6 campsites at Ladyfinger Point. $20 per day, $122 per week.  edit
  • White Rock Campground. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 2pm. Campsites with space for up to 4 vehicles and up to 16 people. Campsites have a fire pit and a picnic table. There are 20 campsites at White Rock Campground. $40 per day, $244 per week.  edit
  • White Rock Group Site. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 2pm. There is one group site at White Rock Campground that can accommodate up to 20 vehicles and up to 80 people. Fire pits and picnic tables are provided. $180 per day, $900 per week.  edit

Hotels[edit]

A variety of hotel options can be found in nearby Ogden or Salt Lake City.

Get out[edit]

Exit the island via the causeway at the north tip of the island.

For more fun on the Great Salt Lake, consider visiting the following:

  • Great Salt Lake State Park, accessible via I-80 west of Salt Lake City, lies on the southern shore of the lake and offers boat slips, amazing lake views, year-round camping (with water and electricity), a visitor's center, and a search and rescue operations center.
  • The Great Saltair is a concert and events venue with an amphitheater that overlooks the Great Salt Lake. It is adjacent to Great Salt Lake State Park, and is also accessible via I-80. The concert hall has a capacity of 4600.
  • The Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture on the lake's northeastern shore, completed in 1970 by American sculptor Robert Smithson. The Spiral Jetty is a colorful work of art made entirely of mud, salt crystals, and basalt rock. It is a 1500-ft long, 15-ft wide coil jutting out of the lake. The work was named Utah's official "state work of art" in 2017. It is sometimes underwater depending on the level of the lake. It is accessible from I-15 by taking exit 365 in Brigham City and heading west on UT-13, then navigating several dirt roads until you reach the shore of the lake. The drive takes about an hour from exit 365, and about 2 hours from Antelope Island.

Stay safe[edit]

A herd of 500 bison roam Antelope Island

Although Utah State Parks notes that there have only been five visitor-bison encounters in the past 10 years, there are several things you can do to increase your bison safety:

  • If you see a bison and it stops what it is doing and starts paying attention to you, you are too close and should slowly back away.
  • If a bison is in the middle of the road, wait for it to pass. Do not get out of your vehicle.
  • If a bison is on the side of the road, feel free to slowly drive past it. Stay inside your vehicle.
  • If you see a bison in the distance, do not walk across the rangeland to get closer to it. Take your photos from a safe distance.
  • If you are hiking and a bison is close to or on the trail, you should either back away and return the way you came, or leave the trail and give the animal a very wide berth when passing it.

If you do get charged by a bison, play dead. Trying to outrun a bison is futile, as they can run very fast, up to 35mph (56 km/h). Once the bison is no longer paying attention to you, slowly and quietly make your escape.

There is very little shade anywhere on the island, and in the summer it can get quite hot, with highs in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit. As there is also very little drinking water available on the island, you must bring in your own water, especially if you plan to go hiking or do other strenuous activities.

March through May make up the infamous "No-See-Um" season. These practically invisible biting gnats will go after you like a bunch of kids go after ice cream. Head-nets, or at least a hat, are advised. Note that insect repellent is ineffective.

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