Tag Archive | Antelope Island

Moab 2015: Antelope Island

We were about to have a wonderful wildlife viewing experience!  We had most of the day to spend at Antelope Island near Salt Lake City, and we were determined to make the most of our day.  We started at the Visitor’s Center (postcards!), which had a board showing where different animals were hanging out that day.  It also had a tank full of brine shrimp, so you could see how little they were.  A fully grown brine shrimp is 12 mm at the largest.

Entering Antelope Island State Park!

Entering Antelope Island State Park!

Then we drove over to check out the Fielding Garr Ranch.  On the way, we were treated to up-close views of several bison, who were lying down resting in the grass.  They were huge!  It was really neat to see them, and they were totally undisturbed as I snapped a million pictures from the car.

A  Bison relaxing at Antelope Island

A Bison relaxing at Antelope Island

The ranch has lots of outbuildings in addition to the main house, so there is lots to check out.  We wandered around looking at old tools, old tractors, old cars, and storage buildings.  The ranch has a couple of root cellars too.  The adobe main house was built in 1848.  It had plumbing and electricity added at some point, but it is still very rustic.  Not a luxury bathroom by any stretch of the imagination.

The Fielding Garr Adobe House - Built 1848- Adobe Architectural Style

The Fielding Garr Adobe House – Built 1848- Adobe Architectural Style

An antique Case Tractor

An antique Case Tractor

The ranch has a cook’s wagon onsite that was really interesting.  I have no idea when it was built, but it was definitely loaded!  It had a bed, and all sorts of cubbyholes for storing cooking supplies!  It was kind of fun to think about the cook with this wagon following the cowboys around and preparing their meals while they were out of the range.

The exterior of the Cook's Wagon

The exterior of the Cook’s Wagon

The interior of the Cook's Wagon

The interior of the Cook’s Wagon

After the ranch, we went and found the trail head for the Frary Peak hike.  Jon chose this hike after having driven by it on the way to the ranch, not knowing that it is the most strenuous hike on the island.  We ate our picnic lunch at the trail head before heading out on the hike.

The hike starts with a fairly steep route up the hillside, so I had to take lots of rest breaks.  It has fabulous views of the island, the Great Salt Lake, and the Wasatch mountains beyond.  The whole hike is 3.08 miles each way, with a chance to see Bighorn Sheep near the mountain peak.

We decided not to go all the way though, because Jon didn’t want to exert himself too much just a couple of days before his half marathon.  Which was fine with me, because it was a tough hike!  We ended up hiking about 1.3 miles each way.

The view on the Frary Peak Hike

The view on the Frary Peak Hike

On the way down, we came across a very vocal, cute striped bird.  Another hiker told me that it was a chukar.  Apparently chukars are not native to the United States; they are native to Europe and the Middle East and were introduced to the U.S. as a game bird.  You wouldn’t know it though, as this guy seemed well at home.

A Chukar!  A type of partridge.  I love those stripes!

A Chukar! A type of partridge. I love those stripes!

After the Frary Peak hike, we checked out the other side of the island.  There is a restaurant there, where you can dine on bison burgers.  It also has good access to the lake, so we walked down the metal gangway to see it close up.  It was much less impressive than I expected.  We did the obligatory pics with the lake and headed back to the car.


The Great Salt Lake - Meh...

The Great Salt Lake – Meh…

As we were driving away from the restaurant, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  I looked over and saw a Burrowing Owl!  He (or she) was hanging out by the burrow, calm as could be.  What a treat to see!  I took many photos of that beautiful, little owl.

A Burrowing Owl!  What an experience to see this guy (or gal)!

A Burrowing Owl! What an experience to see this guy (or gal)!

We wrapped up our day with a few more photos of bison, and of a beautiful Western Meadowlark, before we departed from Antelope Island.

A Bison grazing on Antelope Island

A Bison grazing on Antelope Island

A gorgeous Western Meadowlark

A gorgeous Western Meadowlark

We had a fantastic day; I would recommend it to anyone who wants a great nature experience.

Have you been to Antelope Island?  What was your favorite part of your visit?


Moab 2015: Antelope Island History

What happens when you combine a late night, an early flight, and a herd of bison?  A fabulous experience on Antelope Island – just outside of Salt Lake City!

The mountains below on our flight to Salt Lake City

The mountains below on our flight to Salt Lake City

We had to get up at 2:30 am for our 5 am flight, but it meant that we were in Salt Lake City at 9:30 am! We had the whole day to explore.  The main purpose of our trip was to visit Moab, Utah, but I wanted to check out a couple of places in Salt Lake City too!  We got our rental car, and found out we had been upgraded to a shiny black Buick Enclave.  We drove up to Antelope Island, stopping on the way for some picnic food.  Soon we were there!

Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, 15 miles long by 4.5 miles wide at it’s widest point.  It is a prairie grassland with igneous and sedimentary rocks – the oldest rocks here, from the Precambrian period, are some of the oldest rocks in the United States.  If you are a rock person, you’ll be interested in the fact that these rocks are even older than the rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

Antelope Island is named for the antelope that made their home there when the island was first “discovered” by white men – John C. Fremont and Kit Carson – they were actually pronghorn, but who’s keeping score? Mormon pioneers set up some early ranches on the island, and soon livestock owned by the Mormon Church were grazing on the land. Antelope Island claims the title to the oldest building in Utah still on its original foundation, and built by white people – that’s a lot of qualifiers, isn’t it?  It is the Fielding Garr Ranch.

The Fielding Garr Ranch house was built in 1848, and Garr, a widower, lived there and managed the ranch with his nine children until 1870. At that point, the island was purchased by John Dooly, Sr. Dooly established the Island Improvement Company, which managed the island until the State of Utah purchased it – parts in 1969 and the remainder in 1984. And Dooly is responsible for adding what is arguably the island’s most distinctive feature – a herd of bison.

In 1893, Dooly imported 4 bison bulls, 4 cows and 4 calves to the island. He planned to establish a herd and profit on selling the rights to hunt them. At that time, American Bison were almost extinct in their native range. The bison herd exploded to several hundred animals with no natural predators on the island, but for some reason the idea of organized hunts never really took off.

The Wasatch Mountains from the Fielding Garr Ranch

The Wasatch Mountains from the Fielding Garr Ranch

After using the bison to film Western movies – notably a silent film called The Covered Wagon in 1923, an organized hunt was arranged in 1926 to slaughter the herd. What a shame…  However, small numbers of bison survived and were left alone. They managed to reproduce and reestablish the herd that exists on the island today.

Today there are about 500-700 bison on the island, they are rounded up each year for health checks and vaccinations and excess animals are auctioned off for breeding stock or meat. There are also about 250 mule deer, 200 pronghorn, 200 bighorn sheep, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, porcupines and small rodents. The pronghorn and bighorn sheep were both reintroduced after Antelope Island became a State Park, having been eliminated by hunting and to make more room for sheep and cattle during the island’s ranching days.

Antelope Island is also excellent habitat for migratory birds. Although the salinity of the lake, up to 25% salt content, makes it unable to support fish, the lake has huge populations of brine shrimp (tiny little things) and brine flies that birds love to eat.

Apparently in the early 20th century, there was talk of making Antelope Island into a National Park, but that plan never went anywhere. I could see it being a National Park – the scenic beauty and diversity of wildlife is amazing. Without knowing this, Jon even asked me, “why isn’t this a National Park?” You’ll get an idea of why so many people think it should be when I show you our visit!