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Posts Tagged ‘Great Salt Lake’

 “This seems to be the law of progress in everything we do; it moves along a spiral rather than a perpendicular; we seem to be actually going out of the way, and yet it turns out that we were really moving upwards all the time.” Frances E. Willard.

The Spiral Jetty -- Photo by Michael David Murphy

Travels With Maggie

Sometimes you just have to do something even if it makes no sense. This was true the day my good friend, Kim, and I drove out to Rozzel Point on the northern end of Utah’s Great Salt Lake to see the Spiral Jetty.

The earthworks sculpture was created from black basalt rock by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 at a time when the lake was near its historic low. Within 10 years, however, the rising waters of the lake hid it from view.

Kim and I viewed the jetty in 2003, when the lake level was once again on the low end of its spectrum. By this time, the dark basalt rock was encrusted with salt, and its now white and jagged outer coat outlined in pink. The color of the lake water is a result of bacteria and algae that thrive in the heavy salt content now present in this section of the lake because of decreased water circulation due to a railroad causeway across the lake.

Looking out at the jetty, my friend Kim and I shared the same thought. There was no way we could come this far without taking a walk to the center of the spiral. It was as if there would be a magic reward for doing so. But afterward, all we had to show for our difficult efforts were salt encrusted legs and wet tennis shoes full of grainy crystals that made walking difficult.

Well, there was our great sense of satisfaction.

If you visit the jetty, which is once again now visible, don’t pass by the nearby Golden Spike National Historic Site without stopping. It was here where the Union and Pacific railroads joined their rails in 1869. A visit here, where the first transcontinental rail line became a reality, makes more sense than walking the spiral jetty, or as some might say, creating such a nonsensical structure in the middle of nowhere in the first place.

Sometimes, however, a person has to do what a person has to do.

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A view of Antelope Island, which appears moody this day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Antelope Island is a favorite place of birders wanting to add a chukar to their life list.

 Antelope Island is a 28,000-acre bird haven in Utah’s Great Salt Lake accessed by a seven-mile toll causeway. It is home to a thriving herd of bison, playful antelope, sly coyotes and prickly porcupines.

 Migrating warblers visit, as do shorebirds and ducks that feed on the surrounding lake’s tiny brine shrimp and brine flies. California gulls nest each year on the rocky outcrops along the shoreline, bald eagles drop by in winter, and every spring hundreds of western meadowlarks, with their brilliant golden throats and song, nest on the island. The males sit on a high perch to melodiously proclaim their brooding territory while the females sit on nests hidden so well in the grasses below that you can walk within inches of them and not know they are there.

I visited this island almost every single week for two years after I caught bird-watching fever in 1999. It was my birding 101 lab. And every time I go back home to Ogden these days, I make time to once again visit this protected — the entire island is a Utah state park — wonderland.

A buffalo sculture looks out over the lake. Photo by Pat Bean

 

While a live version takes a sandy bath. Photo by Pat Bean

This trip, the drive across the causeway was made with more land than water to the sides of me. Once again, Great Salt Lake is nearing the 1960s record low of 4,191 feet above sea level. In the mid-80s, it was at a record high of 4,212 feet. I was present during this latter period when its high levels and wind-pushed waves tore out the causeway to the island as well as chunks of Highway 80 that stretches across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats to Wendover, Nevada.

Now, 25 years later, I was getting to see it at its lowest. Was it Mother Nature’s drought and warm weather affecting the level, or was it the human diversion of water before it reached the lake driving the lake’s current low level? The question taunted the edges of my brain as I watched a pair of ravens circle overhead where the causeway curved. I wondered if these were the same ravens I had watched raise chicks in a huge nest several years earlier.

Antelope seen on the way to the island's historic Garr Ranch. Photo by Pat Bean

I spent four hours on the island this day. I watched with camera in hand as a buffalo took a sandy bath and kept my eyes glued to rocks for the sight of chukars surveying the landscape. Maggie and I took a hike around the point from the Bridger Bay Campground. Meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds joined their voices to the drum beat of the lakes’s waves against the shoreline. I found the tune calming and marveled at the purepeacefulness of the day.

  While I still had questions and concerns about the lake and the island’s ever-changing future, Mother Nature’s magic was still all around me. I look forward to my next visit, and hope she can still be found.

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