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Utah Travel Headlines

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Detailed Look At The Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake is one of Utah's most recognizable and most intriguing attractions. Located just northwest of Salt Lake City, the lake is a draw for tourists who have heard about its ultra-buoyant water.

Antelope Island, one of Utah's most popular state parks, is located at the lake. But the big lake also offers many other options for recreation, many of which are not well known. The Great Salt Lake offers wonderful areas for bird and wildlife watching, sailing, kayaking, hunting and other activities.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has this new guide (in pdf format) providing detailed information about the lake. It talks about everything from science and history to recreation and animal life. Here are tidbits we found interesting:

Great Salt Lake is believed to have first formed about 11,000 years ago when the lake rose from a smaller saline body to about 4,250 to 4,275 feet at the Gilbert Level. At this time it was about three times as large as present Great Salt Lake and was salty.

The lake is used extensively by millions of migratory and nesting birds and is a place of solitude for people.

Great Salt Lake is divided by a rock-fill railroad causeway constructed in 1959 to replace the wooden trestle built in 1903. During the high water years of 1983-87, additional fill was added to raise the structure and a 300-foot breach was added. Most of the surface inflow from the Bear, Weber, and Jordan Rivers enters the lake south of the causeway, and only a small amount of water flows north through openings in the causeway. Water north of the causeway (Gunnison Bay) often has a salinity of 25 percent or higher; water south of the causeway (Gilbert Bay) has varied from about 6 to 27 percent salinity.

The Bear, Weber, and Jordan Rivers contribute about 66 percent of the annual inflow of 2.9
million acre-feet (one acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons, or the amount of water that it would take to cover one acre to a depth of one foot) to the lake, precipitation into the lake contributes about 31 percent, and ground-water inflow about 3 percent.

Harvest of its best-known species, the brine shrimp, annually supplies millions of pounds of food for the aquaculture industry worldwide.

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