Exploring the Great Salt Lake in Utah
At the end of our Utah road trip, we explored the Great Salt Lake area. This lake (originally known as Lake Bonneville) once covered almost a quarter of the state of Utah. Several thousand years ago, the lake was almost eliminated after severe droughts, but a small portion of it still remains. Today’s lake has no outlet, it is unable to discharge the salt and other incoming minerals, making it extremely salty. The salinity ranges depending on its level, but it is at least two times saltier than the ocean!
Bonneville Salt Flats
We started by checking out the dried basin of where Lake Bonneville used to extend to, now called the Bonneville Salt Flats. The salt flats are about 100 miles west of Salt Lake City. It’s a long straight drive on a highway with not much to see on the way. We navigated to the Salt Flats Rest Area Westbound. Don’t miss the pull off, as there is not another turnaround for many miles, and it would take some time to get back there.
We started by parking in the parking lot and walking around on the flats and taking pictures. We noticed many people were driving out there that day, so we assumed the current conditions were safe. Ashley drove right out and had a blast speeding and doing donuts on the flats. The beautiful mountains made an awesome backdrop. One thing to note: the white flats are very bright, so don’t forget your sunglasses!
Great Salt Lake State Park
After we were done at Bonneville Salt Flats, we visited the portion of the lake that remains, the Great Salt Lake. The state park surrounds the lake. We visited two islands within the park.
The first island we visited was on the way back from the Bonneville Salt Flats, Stansbury Island. There are certain portions of the lake that do not have as much fresh water coming in from rivers, so the salinity is much higher. This causes a salt-loving algae to grow, which is pink in the summer and fall! We wanted to check out this other-worldly phenomenon while we were here.
Before we went out on the island, we stopped at the Visitor Center, which is a little east of Stansbury Island. We purchased a drone permit for the time we were there, which costs $10 per day. We also got some souvenirs in their small gift shop. Then, we made the drive to the end of Stansbury Island, at the Stansbury Viewpoint. We passed a salt factory on the drive and saw several trucks hauling minerals back and forth. The road on Stansbury Island is a dirt road with a few potholes. We felt fine driving it in our small rental SUV.
The parking lot is right next to the area where you can walk up to and see the lake. It looked so surreal! The “sand” is made of salt and the water was bright pink. We took some pictures and flew the drone. You can really see how pink it is from up above.
For our final stop of the night, we headed to Antelope Island where we would be camping. I was surprised by how different the terrain was on Antelope Island. The edges of the island along the lake are wetlands. This island felt completely different from anywhere we had been on our trip. To make it even more interesting, there are buffalo all over the island! They are not at all afraid of cars and we passed several either in the middle of the road or right next to it. Be careful if driving at night because they tend to sleep standing in the road.
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the island because the sun was starting to set. We found our way to our campsite at Bridger Bay, one of the four campgrounds on the island.
We got to our campsite, which we had reserved in advance, spot number 2. The view was epic, and we loved watching the sun set over the water as we were setting our tent up. Since we still had some sunlight left and we had an early flight the next morning, we decided to reorganize our suitcases and pack up what we could.
While we were packing, we started to notice mosquitoes hovering around us. The longer we were out there, the bigger the swarm of mosquitoes became. We started to put on more layers to protect them from biting us, because they were already biting through the clothes we had on. It kept getting worse and worse and we could literally see a black cloud of mosquitoes following us around. Our plan was to cook dinner at the campsite and eat there. We figured once we had cooked, we could eat our food in the car. As we were starting to cook our food, the gas on our camp stove ran out, which we were not upset about!
We hopped in the car and high-tailed it into town, which is only about a 20-minute drive. As we were driving, it sounded like it was raining because the bugs were so bad. As we passed through the Antelope Island gate, we saw a sign that said, “no refunds because of bugs”. Apparently, they’re usually this bad! As we were driving, we passed a truck that was spraying some sort of chemicals. We are assuming it was for the bugs.
We ended up finding a Chinese restaurant to eat dinner at. On our drive back, there were hardly any bugs out. I don’t know if it was because the sun had completely set, or if the truck spraying had killed all of the bugs. We quickly hopped into our tent and slept until our early flight the next morning.
I really loved Antelope Island and the campsite was very nice. It’s a shame our camping experience was ruined by the mosquitoes. If you are going to camp here, make sure to bring heavy-duty bug spray. We hadn’t thought to bring any because it was mid-October, and we expected the bugs to be gone by then.
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Hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park
The Narrows in Zion
Logistics of a Six-Day Utah Road Trip