See the Bison on the Great Salt Lake

Not far from the Salt Lake City, Utah, Antelope Island links itself to the mainland by a causeway.  We could see the vast Great Salt Lake from both sides. But that wasn’t white sand beaches we saw. It was salt; hence, why it’s called “the Great Salt Lake”. But ironically we didn’t go to see the Antelope. Instead, we went to see the Bison!

In late June 2016, part of our visit to Utah was a working one.  I attended the 4-day Young Living Convention in Salt Lake City. Dan stayed behind at Hill Air Force Base FamCamp to catch up on some maintenance on our fifth wheel. Once the convention was over, he picked me up from my hotel room and headed back to Liberty so we could do some sightseeing.

The 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 some RV friends who visited prior.

 

They warned us to avoid walking on the beaches for two reasons. First, it wreaked of dead stuff.  And second, the Brine Flies were by the millions. Though they are supposed to be harmless and move away from you with each step, the smell alone kept us from verifying the fact.
From a placard display near one of the beaches, we read each year, over 5 million birds of over 250 species visit Antelope Island to feast on the Brine Shrimp and Flies.  Now, think back to when we were kids when ‘sea monkeys’ were the rage?  Well, those were actually Brine Shrimp.

Unexpected stop…

On the causeway before reaching Antelope Island, we stopped to check out the U.S. Army Ranger and Air Force Memorial.

The memorial was dedicated in the memory of the five U.S. Army Soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment and seven U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 1st Special Operations Air Wing who died October 29, 1992. Their MH-60G Pave Hawk crashed approximately 100 yards off the northern tip of Antelope Island.  We read the Servicemen were participating in a training exercise in unfavorable weather at the time of the 9:15 pm crash.

 

 

After spending a few minutes reading the names and paying our respects, we got back in the truck to drive onto the 42 square mile island.

 

 

 

We drove around the island and found the big beasts near the Fielding Garr Ranch. It was incredible watching them in their natural habitat with very little human interaction.  There were hundreds of them; 600 to be exact.

 

Notice the white salt flat in the distance with the bison in the foreground

The Antelope Island bison herd is significant because it is one of the largest and oldest publicly-owned bison herds in the Nation.  This herd is one of the two bison herds managed by the State of Utah. The other herd is in the Henry Mountains.

About the Antelope Island Bison herd…

The Antelope Island Bison herd currently ranges between 550 and 700 bison. Other large free-ranging, publicly controlled herds of bison in the United States include:
    • Yellowstone Park (3,500 bison)
    • Custer State Park ,South Dakota (1,300 bison)
    • Henry Mountains in south-central Utah (300 to 500 bison)
    • National Bison Range Herd near Flathead Lake, Montana (400 bison)
    • Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota (350 bison)

 

The bison on Antelope Island are Prairie Bison; 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. 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 those distinct genetic markers that are found in the population.
We also toured the island and had a little fun.

 

Shhhhhhhhhh!  Don’t tell anyone I didn’t ‘stay on the road’. Don’t worry, no bison around there.

Antelope Island State Park Visitor Center

We also went to the Antelope Island State Park Visitor Center to learn a bit about the island, the wildlife and how the bison got there.

 

 

Oh, and by the way.if you have arachnophobia, consider yourself warned! The spiders (harmless, they say!) were FREAKING HUGE and repulsive!!  I certainly wasn’t about to get 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*

 

Other wildlife

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. Because of time of day, we didn’t really see any.
We spent about five hours at the State Park and really left impressed.  Such a great place to see. To read about the History of Antelope Island. Next time you’re visiting Salt Lake City, Utah, put this on your list of things to visit.
Antelope Island State Park Visitor Hours
    • Open Daily 6:00 am – 10:00 pm
    • Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas
    • Visitor Center Hours:  9:00 am – 5:00 pm
    • Fielding Garr Ranch Hours:  9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Visit the Antelope Island State Park website for current Park and Camping Fees and Policies and Park Rules. Lastly, Antelope Island State Park is a participant in the International Dark Sky Association. So plan accordingly if you intend on visiting or camping during evening hours.

Another blog post we wrote about the American Bison…

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