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 Utah Travel Center State Parks • Antelope Island

Description. Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. It is reached via a 7.5 mile causeway. Though the island's 28,022 acres appear barren and deserted, it is home to bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, upland game birds, and waterfowl. A visitor center, which is open year-round, acquaints guests with the unique geology, biology, and history of the island. More than 18 miles of trails are open to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Activities include saltwater bathing, bird watching, camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, sunbathing, exploring historical sites, photography and viewing wildlife in its natural habitat.

The historic Fielding Garr-Ranch House is open seasonally for tours and activities. Antelope Island also features a beach with showers, restrooms, picnic shelters, group-use pavilion, boat launching ramp, and marina. Antelope Island is seven miles west of I-15 Exit #355 near Layton.

Park Information

Acres - 28,463 Maximum RV Length - 35 ft.
Elevation - 4200 ft Tent Sites - 13
Highest Peak - 6597 ft Camping Fee - $7-12
Park Open - Year round Group Camping - $1 per person,
Stay Limit - 14 days Advanced reservations accepted
Total Units - 75 Fees - call 800-322-3770
RV Trailer Sites - 64  

The park also includes a visitor center, picnicking, group pavilion, drinking water, modern rest rooms, vault toilets, showers, waste disposal and concession service.

Some of the activities at the park include, boating, swimming, hiking trails, biking, watchable wildlife, and winter activities.

For updated information regarding facilities for the physically challenged, contact the park.

Camping Reservations. Reservations may be made by calling Utah State Parks and Recreation, 322-3770 in the Salt Lake City calling area or toll-free 1-800-322-3770, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Individual campsite reservations may be made from three days to 16 weeks in advance from the date of departure. A $6 nonrefundable reservation fee will be charged for each site reserved. A $10 nonrefundable fee is charged for group sites and building rentals. An additional reservation fee will be charged for any changes to existing reservations. Visa, MasterCard and personal checks are accepted. A $5 fee is charged for an extra vehicle and is collected at the park.

Permits and Passes. The Single Park Permit is $50 and allows the cardholder and up to seven guests in the same private vehicle day-use entrance into Antelope Island State Park.  The permit is valid for the current calendar year. The Five-Day Pass is $15 and allows day-use entrance to most Utah state parks for five consecutive days.

Getting There. To reach Antelope Island, take I-15 to exit 335 (Syracuse/Freeport Center). Travel west nine miles west on Antelope Drive to the entrance gate.

Antelope Island State Park
4528 West 1700 South
Syracuse, Utah 84075-6868
(801) 773-2941

WILDLIFE ON ANTELOPE ISLAND. Perhaps the most alluring feature of Antelope Island is its unique array of wildlife. The island is most famous for its large bison population. The herd fluctuates between 550 and 700, making it one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the nation. The Antelope Island bison herd is also recognized as one of the oldest in the country and possesses unique genetic characteristics making it of interest to breeders.

Prior to European settlement, biologists estimate between 50 to 60 million bison roamed the continent. By the 1890s, the population had been decimated, and it is believed only 800 remained. Conservationists, faced with the eminent extinction of bison, began to take steps to save the species. Two Utahns, William Glassman and John Dooly, were instrumental in this effort. They brought bison to Antelope Island in 1893. The bison herd is managed to maintain a stock population of 550. The bison calve primarily from March through May, and new calves balloon the population to more than 700. Studies indicate that this is near the maximum population of bison that the island can support without overgrazing the grasslands. Careful management allows a large herd to thrive while maintaining forage and nesting cover for other wildlife species.

The bison roundup, which occurs the end of October, is one of the great fall spectacles of northern Utah. The bison are driven to corrals on the north end of the island by a combination of volunteer horsemen and helicopters. Here they are allowed to rest for four days before being worked through the corrals, vaccinated and checked for general health the first week in November. The excess animals are sold at auction and a small number designated for the annual bison hunt conducted by the Division of Wildlife Resources in December. Other mammals found on the island include, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, porcupines, jackrabbits and several species of rodents.

Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake attract numerous migrating and nesting birds. Along the shoreline avocets, black-necked stilts, willets and sanderlings can be observed. The island grasslands provide habitat for long-billed curlews, burrowing owls, chuckars and several species of raptors. The Great Salt Lake attracts incredible numbers of eared grebes, Wilson's phalaropes and California gulls. The Great Salt  Lake is one of the most important natural features in in the country for migrating birds. The birds are drawn here to take advantage of the large number of brine flies and brine shrimp associated with the lake. One of the most interesting sights on the island is to watch these beautiful birds gorge on brine flies along the shore. The combination of abundant large mammals located alongside of rich salt marshes provides Antelope Island with a truly unique blend of wildlife.

PRONGHORN RETURN TO ANTELOPE ISLAND. In 1845 John C. Fremont and Kit Carson made the first European exploration of Antelope Island. They shot two antelope and Fremont wrote "in grateful supply of the meat they furnished, I gave their name to the island." By the 1930's the island's namesake had disappeared from Antelope Island. In 1993 a cooperative effort between the Utah divisions of Wildlife Resources and the State Parks and Recreation resulted in the reintroduction of 24 pronghorn antelope. By the 1995 fawning season the population had nearly doubled in size. It is hoped that predation from coyotes, bobcats, and eagles will act as population control for the pronghorn on the island. Long term research by Weber State University monitors the population, helps determine critical habitat and studies behavioral traits of the species.

ANTELOPE ISLAND HISTORY. John C. Fremont and Kit Carson made the first known visit by people of European descent to Antelope Island in 1845. They killed several antelope on the island thus giving Antelope Island its name.

Fielding Garr established permanent residency on the island in 1848. He not only tended his own herds, but those of other stockmen as well. In 1849 Brigham Young asked Garr to manage the LDS Church's Tithing Herd, which was kept on the island until 1871. The Tithing Herd was utilized by the Perpetual Emigration Fund which was established to help needy Mormon converts immigrate to Utah. Recipients would reimburse the fund when circumstances would allow them to do so. Reimbursement was made in the form of livestock, which was considered better than cash. During this time the LDS Church also invested thousands of dollars in valuable stallions and brood mares which were turned loose on the island.

Antelope Island was used as a base camp for a government funded survey of the Great Salt Lake by Captain Howard Stansbury during the years of 1849-50. During the 1870's several private homesteads were established, with George and Alice Frary staying the longest. Alice requested to be buried on her island home, and a marker stands to commemorate her grave site.

On February 15, 1893 , twelve head of bison were transported to Antelope Island. John Dooly and George Frary loaded the bison into a small sailboat and nearly capsized as they sailed to the island. The Island Improvement Company owned most of the island from 1884 through 1972. Cattle and sheep were the company's primary ranching commodity, although buffalo and horses were always on the island. In the 1930's , Antelope Island was the largest private sheep sheering operation west of the Mississippi. Recognizing the recreation potential of the island, the north 2,000 acres were acquired by the state in 1969. In 1981 the state purchased most of the rest of the island thus preserving it as a state park for all the people to enjoy.

ANTELOPE ISLAND TRAILS. Our trails are designed to be equally enjoyable for both the beginner and expert trail rider. You can look forward to spectacular views of the Great Salt Lake and surrounding areas. The trails also offer excellent opportunities to view the island's wildlife. The backcountry trail currently consists of 16 miles of double track traveling south from White Rock Bay. The heart of the trail is the 9.2 mile White Rock Bay loop. One of the three spurs off the loop travels to Beacon Knob, which is the highest point on the trail towering 800 feet above the Great Salt Lake.

Split Rock Bay is another spur and consists of a short climb and dramatic descent to a pristine white sandy beach. The Elephant Head spur leads to a dramatic overlook. Three shorter trails exist on the north end of the island. The longest is the Lakeside Trail at three miles one way. The trail follows the shoreline around Buffalo point and connects White Rock Bay to Bridger Bay.

The Buffalo Point Trail is extremely popular and consists of a .5 mile hike ascending 300 feet from the Buffalo Point overlook/parking area. The visitor is greeted with a fantastic 360 degree view on the northern point of the island.

The Ladyfinger Point Trail is a .25 mile long hike winding across a rocky point to overlook both Egg Island and Bridger Bay. All three of these scenic trails offer excellent opportunities to view the wildlife and geology of Antelope Island.

Utah State Parks and Recreation has established a number of guidelines designed to protect the island's wildlife and unique resources, yet still allow trail access. Please help us protect the island by observing all guidelines. A volunteer trail patrol has been organized for the safety of trail users and to help us protect the islands backcountry. If you are interested in becoming part of this effort, please contact a ranger.

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