According to the brochure you get after you pay $10 to get into Antelope Island State Park:
Salinity is too high to support fish and most other aquatic species. However, brine shrimp, brine flies, and several types of algae thrive in the lake and are primary food sources for millions of migrating birds.
What they don’t tell you in the brochure is that the flies are like a quaint plague for about 40 feet from the water line and the shrimp aren’t just hanging out in schools here and there but float everywhere like chia in kombucha.
Which totally ruined my idea of trying to float peacefully in the lake.
What was funnier, my travel partner got totally grossed out by this passage that I read out loud:
Oolitic sand is a unique feature of Great Salt Lake. These round grains of sand are formed when mineral grains or brine shrimp fecal pellets are coated by concentric layers of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate. This is similar to how pearls are formed.
He was not too keen about walking on coated shrimp fecal pellets.
I have to say, nothing could have really prepared us.
The parking lot was quite far from the shore line. We walked and joked and threw a frisbee around until I noticed something that my brain just couldn’t comprehend. My eyes saw it but processing what I saw was not happening. There were little kids playing in the water and right by them, this black “cloud” rolled up from the ground, settled back down, and then rolled up again and settled. Blink…blink….blink….
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!?!!?!?!?”
We both stood there for a moment not comprehending. Then we kept walking…closer and closer until we met up with the edge of this phenomenon. It was brine flies. When disturbed, it causes a domino effect which causes a cloud of them to surge and roll away from the stimulus. It was gross, intriguing, oddly biblical, and definitely surreal. If I hadn’t been squeaking out eeks as these flies rolled away from my feet, I could have had alot more fun with it. Like pretending like I was some evil master mind and releasing my minions to take over the world.
Once we situated where our belongs would not get over run with flies and made it to the water’s edge, we kicked off our flip-flops and waded into the bath-tub warm water. And waded…and waded….and waded. According to the brochure:
Great Salt Lake is currently 75 miles long by 28 miles wide, covering 1,700 square miles. At this level, maximum depth is about 33 feet. Size and depth vary greatly with seasonal evaporation and precipitation.
About 300 feet away from the shoreline, the water finally went above our knee caps. When I said the shrimp float everywhere like chia in kombucha, I shit you not, they are EVERYWHERE. If I had known this in advance, I would have taken the shower cap from the hotel with me so I could try to float in this wonder of the world. The idea of all these tiny little orange shrimp getting caught in my dark curly hair did not appeal to me. I did NOT feel like being a walking surf n turf.
With my dreams of floating peacefully with no effort dashed upon the oolitic sands of reality, we decide to just hang out in the water and play some frisbee.
Plague of tiny flies, plague of shrimp, bath-tub warm water, salt cakes on your skin… yes, you should totally do it!
After taking a freezing cold shower by the parking lot, we jaunt off to check out the rest of the island. We stop at Buffalo Point Trail and take a short yet quite steep stroll up to the top. It’s actually a great view! Just be mindful that the bison roam freely on the island which includes this peak.
Next time I’m in Salt Lake City, I will definitely make sure I have time to hit some of the other trails that are further down Antelope Island. Apparently, the rocks in Farmington Canyon are the same age as rocks in the bottom of the Grand Canyon (1.7 BILLION years old…). Sounds like a geek-tastic time to me! Seriously….my dad is a rock hound. Apples do not fall far from trees.
Up next: The Moab Detour to the San Luis Valley