Sunday, November 10, 2013

Antelope Island

One of the places we visited on a recent trip to Salt Lake City, Utah was Antelope Island located in the Great Salt Lake.  The lake is too salty to support much beyond brine shrimp, no fish or other sea life.  The island is a State Park, game refuge and sanctuary.  It is 28, 800 acres, connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway and is open year round. We did not see any but the information pamphlet said there are several freshwater streams on the island.

Named for the pronghorn antelope seen first by the original explorers in the 1840s the island also supports a variety of migrating birds, a large herd of American bison (buffalo), mule deer, jackrabbits, bobcats, coyotes, small rodents and bighorn sheep.   The bison were introduced to the island in 1893 and now comprise one of the largest herds in the United States.  When I asked the Ranger how many bison were currently on the island she said at the recent annual roundup they counted 700 but since the island can only support 500 the other 200 would be leaving for new homes within a few days.   Bighorn sheep were brought to the island about 100 years later in the 1990s.   They have also adjusted well to the island.

Although we did not see the sheep or the antelope for which the island is named we did see at least 200 bison traveling in long strings of approximately 20 to 40 animals in each group including babies.  We got close, almost uncomfortably close, to several including this one who crossed the road right in front of us.  The photo below was taken through the windshield of the car, as I was not going to get out to take it.  There was a group of bicyclists coming along from the opposite direction and we watched as a large van acted as shield for the biker who remained hidden from the bison until safely past the animal.  I don’t know if they would actually attack or harm a human but they are very large wild animals and do have horns so caution is certainly advised.

The picture above shows a string of bison on the grassy hillside, the salt flats, the lake, the mainland and mountains.  The city is just barely visible at the foot of the mountains at the upper right.

We also saw this mule deer and a fawn hidden in the grass nearby.

The island made up of wetlands, mountains and grasslands is incredibly beautiful in part because it is in a pristine state with minimal trails, roads, the remains of an original farm and a visitor center being the only evidence of men.  We were getting ready to leave and had just stopped at the visitor center for a quick look when the Ranger said, “Stay a few more minutes and you will see the most spectacular sunset.  I never get tired of it.”  So we stayed and were not disappointed, the Ranger was right it was beautiful.

From the visitor center looking down on the causeway that connects the island to the mainland.  The setting sun making the hills turn pink.

The sky turned a blaze of glory the clouds adding drama to the setting sun.

There were a few Black-eyed Susan daisies still in bloom and several different sagebrush-like plants that I could not identify without a proper plant book.

For more about Antelope Island State Park, please see:

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