ANTELOPE ISLAND, Utah (ABC4) – The Great Salt Lake’s water is at the lowest it’s been since record keeping began in in the 1800s. This may be no surprise, as Utah is one of a few states in the middle of a mega-drought and it has been one of the hottest summers on record. At Antelope State Island, visitors will get an elevated view of the lake’s receding water levels. They are also encouraged not avoid walking out to the water’s edge, as the newly revealed lakebed can be dangerous.   

Antelope Island State Park features panoramic views of the Great Salt Lake. The island rises a few hundred feet above the lake’s water levels and offers a unique perspective of the lake. These views often draw visitors from all over the country, and even the world.

“We were just struck by how arid it really is, and we kept wondering when we were going to find it,” Sean Samson told ABC4. He, along with a few others, was visiting the park from Minnesota. He said as they were driving along the causeway to the island, they were slightly confused. The GPS showed that they were surrounded by water. However, there was very little water to be seen.  

“If I wanted to touch the water it would be a trek to get out there, and that’s the whole point of coming out here,” Dessa Harvey said. “It’s still beautiful though.” Samson replied, “Oh yeah, it’s stunning.” Harvey continued, “Absolutely stunning, but it’s kind of sad,” she said as she looked out at the vast swath of lakebed.  

“Trek” is a good word to use. The water’s edge is now about a mile from the shoreline around the island. This means it really is a trek out to the water from any of the campgrounds or parking lots at the state park.  

“Typically, we would have sand and sandy beaches up to the water’s edge,” Antelope Island State Park Manager Jeremy Shaw explained. “Now, we’ve got exposed lakebed, and it’s different. Because it’s not a sandy substrate, that will drain the water through and hold you up. It’s more of a muddy mess.”  

Antelope Island has gorgeous views of the lake, of downtown Salt Lake City (when the air is clean), migrating birds, and bison. It also offers opportunities for lounging on the beach, that is, when the lake’s water levels are at normal levels. Park officials do not recommend that visitors make the trek to the water’s edge at this time. Shaw added, “It may look to just be wet on the surface, but once you crack through the top of that, you can sink fairly quickly, so there is a fair amount of danger.” 

 Shaw told ABC4 that visitors can easily get stuck in deep mud. So far, the park hasn’t had to rescue any visitors. He said many will walk out, sink to their ankles and turn around. He said all visitors should use such caution if they do walk out toward the water.   

“When I started working out here, I remember water up to the road most of the way out to Syracuse,” Shaw stated. He is talking about the causeway that Samson and Harvey drove down during their visit. What they saw was not what Shaw saw regularly when he started working at the park back in 2011. He emphasized just how high the water was and said that often on his drive home, high winds would blow salt water on his vehicle as he drove down the causeway.   

While walking out to the water may not be safe right now, Shaw encourages people to visit the park to take in the views, see the bison heard as it grazes along the shoreline, and get away from the city. He also encourages people to visit the park to get a better idea of the drought’s magnitude. Hopefully, doing so will keep people motivated to continue conserving water.  

“I think if we can tip that scale, where yeah, we get some more water in the lake, which means more snow in the mountains, which means better winters, which means more water in the lake. So that’s really the goal. To try to tip that from a decreasing negative spiral into an increasing positive one.”