Bison Range on Antelope Island? A Great Salt Lake Treasure!
In late June ’16, part of our mission to Utah was a ‘working’ one. I attended the Young Living Essential Oil Convention in Salt Lake City while Dan stayed behind at Hill AFB FamCamp. While I was gone, he perused area maps and tourism brochures to see what we could do while in the Salt Lake City area. Once the convention was over, I relocated back from my hotel room back to Liberty so we could go on a few field trips during our remaining stay in SLC.
One weekday morning following the convention, we woke with the sun, ate a hearty breakfast and ventured out to the Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island State Park as recommended by Tim and Emily of OwnLessDoMore (fellow RVers we network with). We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather.
Not far from the city itself, Antelope Island links itself to the mainland by a causeway. You could see the vast Great Salt Lake from both sides; both of us in awe at the white salt beaches. There was an entrance booth to collect our fee of $10 for our vehicle.
We were however, advised to avoid walking on the beaches and we could see why. First, it wreaked of dead something or another. Second, the ‘Brine Flies’ were in such abundance, it was crazy…they were everywhere and TONS of them! Though they say they are harmless and move away from you with each step, the smell alone kept us from finding out.
What we did learn though from a placard display near one of the beaches is each year, over 5 million birds of over 250 species visit the island to feast on the Brine Shrimp and Flies. Remember when we were kids we had ‘sea monkeys’? Well, those were really Brine Shrimp. Such a disappointment to learn that now. Shucks!
On our way onto the island, we took a small detour to check out a military memorial.
Sadly, it marked the military helicopter crash that took the lives of 12 U.S. Army Soldiers and U.S. Air Force Airmen from the Special Operations Command on October 29, 1992.
The memorial was dedicated to the memory of the five U.S. Army Soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment and 7 U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 1st Special Operations Air Wing who died when the MH-60G Pave Hawk they were being transported in crashed about 100 yards off the northern tip of Antelope Island. The group was participating in a mobility and readiness training exercise in bad weather at the time of the 9:15 pm crash.
As always, we paid our respects to the Fallen and said a prayer before moving on.
We then took a small hike to check out some of the distant views of the Great Salt Lake.
One of the things we wanted to see were the Bison on this 42 square mile island.
Ummmmmm, but not ‘this’ kind of Bison! We wanted to see the real deal.
We’ve heard and read about them so this was a definite must-do. We drove around the island and found them near the Fielding Garr Ranch…AWESOME!!! We were so blessed to watch them in their natural habitat with little human interaction. There were hundreds of them! Over 600 to be exact!
The Antelope Island bison herd is significant because it is one of the largest and oldest publicly owned bison herds in the nation. It is one of the two bison herds managed by the State of Utah, the other being the Henry Mountains bison herd.
The Antelope Island bison herd currently numbers between 550 and 700 individuals. Other large free-ranging, publicly controlled herds of bison in the United States include the Yellowstone Park bison herd (3,500 bison), the herd in Custer State Park,South Dakota (1,300 bison), the Henry Mountains bison herd in south-central Utah (300 to 500 animals), the herd at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota (350 bison), and the 400-strong National Bison Range Herd near Flathead Lake, Montana.
In addition, though the bison on Antelope Island are Prairie bison, which was the most common bison subspecies in North America, the bison have a distinct genetic heritage from many of the other bison herds in the United States and they are considered to be desirable as part of the breeding and foundation stock for other bison herds, because of their separate genetic heritage and some of the distinct genetic markers that are found in the population.
We also toured the island and had a little fun. Shhhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone!!
We also visited the Antelope Island State Park Visitor Center to learn a bit about the island, the wildlife and how the bison got there.
Oh, and we have to add…if you have arachnophobia, you might want to stay away. The spiders (harmless, they say!) were FREAKING HUGE!! I certainly wasn’t about to find out by getting too close. They were everywhere!!
There were webs and eight-legged, creepy crawlies in every nook and cranny in the rocks…and walls…and doors. *shudder*
Though we didn’t get to see any because time of day, Antelope Island is also home to Pronghorn Antelope, Big Horn Sheep, Bobcats, Mule Deer, Coyotes, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and smaller game to complete the circle of life.
We spent about five hours at the State Park and really left impressed. Such a great place to see.