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In Our Back Yard - Antelope Island

Jun 29, 2019 07:35PM

Driving north up I-15 through the big city traffic congestion is not a favorite thing to do. However, up toward Ogden, if you get off I-15 at Exit 332 and turn left on Antelope Drive, your world will change. As the street name implies, heading west will take you to Antelope Island State Park. Being a State Park, there is an entrance fee and it is very reasonable, $10 per vehicle and $5 for seniors. Once you pay at the entrance gate, you have a 7-mile causeway to drive before you get to the island. Now a few minutes after the congestion of the city, you will find yourself in what feels like a remote wilderness environment. It is an amazing transition, like you are suddenly in a different place and time.

Antelope Island Buffalo
Photo: Ed Helmick

The island is 15 miles long and about 8 miles wide, covering 42 square miles. The first non-natives to explore the island were John Fremont and Kit Carson in 1845. Legend has it that Kit Carson shot an antelope for meat and in gratitude, he named it Antelope Island. In 1848, Fielding Garr established a ranch on Antelope Island which operated continuously until 1981. The ranch house is the oldest building in Utah still on its original foundation. Guided and self-guided tours of the ranch are available. It is fascinating to see the progress and innovation in ranching during its 133 years of operation.

Most impressive is the scenic beauty of the island and its wildlife. The east side of the island is mostly flat beaches and upsloping plains to mountains that rise to 2,500 feet above the Great Salt Lake. The west side of the island is more rugged. The island has a variety of wildlife but is most famous for its Buffalo herd. Other animals on the island include mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, porcupines, rabbits and squirrels. It is also a popular place for bird watching.

Antelope Island
Photo: Ed Helmick

As far as amenities for visitors, there is a small and informative visitors center overlooking the north end of the island and causeway access road. On down the road is the Island Buffalo Grill where you can buy a 1/3-pound Buffalo Burger for $11.25. It comes with French fries and is excellent. If you have not had buffalo meat before you should try it. A traditional 1/3-pound hamburger is $8.25. Drinks are only a dollar or two. The restaurant overlooks a nice sand beach and makes a great place for a rest stop.

Three primitive campgrounds are available and what that means is that there is no water or electricity. There are vault toilets at several locations in the campgrounds. Bridger Bay campground has 26 campsites, White Rock Bay campground has 20 campsites, and Ladyfinger campground has 5 campsites. During a mid-June weekend, only about half the campsites were occupied. A word of caution, Buffalo like all wild animals can be very dangerous and should only be viewed from a safe distance. The photos of the Buffalo were taken with a 100-400mm lens on a Canon 7D camera body. A few weeks before these photos were shot a jogger startled a cow buffalo with a calf and was charged and critically injured. Give the animals the space they need, after all, it is their home.