Great Salt Lake: Wikis


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Great Salt Lake
Satellite photo in summer 2003 after five years of drought, reaching near-record lows.
Location Utah, United States
Coordinates 41°10′N 112°35′W / 41.167°N 112.583°W / 41.167; -112.583Coordinates: 41°10′N 112°35′W / 41.167°N 112.583°W / 41.167; -112.583
Lake type Endorheic, hypersaline
Primary inflows Bear, Jordan, Weber rivers
Catchment area 21,500 sq mi (55,685 km²)
Basin countries United States
Max. length 75 mi (120 km)
Max. width 28 mi (45 km)
Surface area ~1,700 sq mi (~4,400 km²)
Average depth 33 ft (10 m)
Max. depth 33 ft (10 m) average, high of 45 ft (14 m) in 1987, low of 24 ft (7.3 m) in 1963
Water volume 15,338,693.6 acre·ft (18.9200000 km3)
Surface elevation historical average of 4,200 feet (1,283 m), 4,196.6 feet (1,279 m) as of 2006 August 24
Islands 8-15 (variable, see Islands)
Settlements Salt Lake and Ogden metropolitan areas.

Great Salt Lake, located in the northern part of the U.S. state of Utah, is the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere,[1] the fourth-largest terminal lake in the world,[2] and the 37th-largest lake on Earth.[3] In an average year the lake covers an area of around 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2)[2], but the lake's size fluctuates substantially due to its shallowness. For instance, in 1963 it reached its lowest recorded level at 950 square miles (2,460 km²), but in 1987 the surface area was at the historic high of 3,300 square miles (8,500 km2)[2].

The lake is the largest remnant of Lake Bonneville, a pluvial lake which covered much of western Utah in prehistoric times. The Great Salt Lake is endorheic (has no outlet besides evaporation) and has very high salinity, far saltier than sea water. The Jordan, Weber, and Bear rivers (the three major tributaries) deposit around 1.1 million tons of minerals in the lake each year,[1] and the balance of evaporated water is mineral-free, concentrating the lake further. Because of its unusually high salt concentration, most people can easily float in the lake as a result of the higher density of the water, particularly in the saltier north arm of the lake, Gunnison Bay.[4] The lake's shallow, warm waters cause frequent, sometimes heavy lake-effect snows during late fall, early winter, and spring.

Although it has been called "America's Dead Sea",[5] the lake provides habitat for millions of native birds, brine shrimp, shorebirds, and waterfowl, including the largest staging population of Wilson's Phalarope in the world.[6]

The lake lies in portions of five counties: Box Elder, Davis, Tooele, Weber, and Salt Lake.



Great Salt Lake is a remnant of a much larger prehistoric lake called Lake Bonneville which, at its peak surface area, was nearly as large as Lake Michigan, which has surface area of 22,400 sq. miles (58,000 and is 923 ft. (281m) deep at its deepest point.[7]Lake Bonneville covered roughly ten times the area of Great Salt Lake[2] and was over 1,000 feet (305 m) deep.[8] It covered much of present-day Utah and small portions of Idaho and Nevada during the Pleistocene Epoch, more commonly known as the Great Ice Age, between 32,000 and 14,000 years ago. Lake Bonneville existed until about 16,800 years ago, when a large portion of the lake was released through the Red Rock Pass in Idaho. With the change in climate, the remaining lake began drying up, leaving Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Sevier Lake, Rush Lake, and Little Salt Lake as remnants.[7]


While the lake was well known by local Native Americans, it entered the annals of written history through the records of Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, who learned of its existence from the Timpanogos Utes in 1776. No name was given to it at the time, and it was not shown on the map by Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, the cartographer for the expedition. It was first seen by Europeans in 1824, apparently independently, by Jim Bridger and Etienne Provost. Shortly thereafter other trappers saw it and walked around it.

Most of the trappers, however, were illiterate and did not record their discoveries. As oral reports of their findings made their way to those who did make records, some errors were made. Escalante had been on the shores of Utah Lake, which he named Laguna Timpanogos. It was the larger of the two lakes that appeared on Miera's map. Other cartographers followed his lead and charted Lake Timpanogos as the largest (or larger) lake in the region. As people came to know of Great Salt Lake, they interpreted the maps to think that "Timpanogos" referred to Great Salt Lake. On some maps the two names were used synonymously. In time "Timpanogos" was dropped from the maps and its original association with Utah Lake was forgotten.

In 1843, John C. Fremont led the first scientific expedition to the lake, but with winter coming on, he did not take the time to survey the entire lake. That happened in 1850 under the leadership of Howard Stansbury (Stansbury discovered and named the Stansbury mountain range and Stansbury island).[9] John Fremont's overly glowing reports of the area were published shortly after his expedition. Stansbury also published a formal report of his survey work which became very popular. His report of the area included a discussion of Mormon religious practices based on Stansbury's interaction with the Mormon community in Great Salt Lake City, which had been established three years earlier in 1847.[10]


Great Salt Lake from airspace over Salt Lake City

Great Salt Lake lends its name to Salt Lake City, originally named "Great Salt Lake City" by then-President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon or LDS Church) Brigham Young,[11] who led a group of Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley southeast of the lake on July 24, 1847.

Salt Lake City and its suburbs are located to the southeast and east of the lake, between the lake and the Wasatch Mountains, but land around the north and west shores is almost uninhabited. The Bonneville Salt Flats lie to the west, and the Oquirrh and Stansbury Mountains rise to the south.

The Great Salt Lake is fed by three major rivers and several minor streams. The three major rivers are each fed directly or indirectly from the Uinta Mountain range in northeastern Utah. The Bear River starts on the north slope of the Uintas and flows north past Bear Lake, into which some of Bear River's waters have been diverted[12] via a man-made canal into the lake, but later empty back into the river by means of the Bear Lake Outlet. The river then turns south in southern Idaho and eventually flows into the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake. The Weber River also starts on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains and flows into the east edge of the lake. The Jordan River does not receive its water directly from the Uintas, rather it flows from freshwater Utah Lake, which itself is fed primarily by the Provo River; the Provo River does originate in the Uintas, a few miles from the Weber and Bear.[7] The Jordan flows from the north part of Utah Lake into the southeast corner of the Great Salt Lake.

A railroad line—the Lucin Cutoff—runs across the lake, crossing the southern end of Promontory Peninsula. The mostly-solid causeway supporting the railway divides the lake into three portions: the northeast arm, northwest arm, and southern. This causeway prevents the normal mixing of the waters of the lake due to the fact that there are only three 100-foot (30 m) breaches. Because there are no rivers, with the exception of a few minor streams, flowing directly into the northwest arm, Gunnison Bay, it is now substantially saltier than the rest of the lake.

Categorically stating the number of islands is difficult, as the method used to determine what is an island is not necessarily the same in each source. Since the water level of the lake can vary greatly between years, what may be considered an island in a high water year may be considered a peninsula in another, or an island in a low water year may be covered during another year. According to the US Dept of the Interior/US Geological Survey, "there are eight named islands in the lake that have never been totally submerged during historic time. All have been connected to the mainland by exposed shoals during periods of low water." In addition to these eight islands, the lake also contains a number of small islands, rocks, or shoals which become fully or partially submerged at high water levels.[13]

The Utah Geological Survey, on the other hand, states "the lake contains 11 recognized islands, although this number varies depending on the level of the lake. Seven islands are in the southern portion of the lake and four in the northwestern portion."[14]

The size and whether they are counted as islands during any particular year depends mostly on the level of the lake. From largest to smallest, they are Antelope, Stansbury, Fremont, Carrington, Dolphin, Cub, Badger, Strongs Knob, Gunnison, Goose, Browns, Hat (Bird), Egg Island, Black Rock and White Rock. Dolphin, Gunnison, Cub, and Strongs Knob are in the northwest arm. The rest are in the southern portion. There are also a number of small, unnamed islands.

Sunset viewed from the western shore of Antelope Island. Carrington Island is visible in the distance.

Black Rock, Antelope Island, White Rock, Egg Island, Fremont Island, and the Promontory mountain range are each extensions of the Oquirrh Mountain Range, which dips beneath the lake at its southeastern shore. Stansbury, Carrington, and Hat Islands are extensions of the Stansbury mountain range, and Strongs Knob is an extension of the Lakeside Mountains which run along the lake's western shore.[15] The lake is deepest in the area between these island chains, measured by Howard Stansbury in 1850 at about 35 feet (10.7 m) deep, and an average depth of 13 feet (4 m).[15] When the water levels are low, Antelope Island becomes connected to the shore as a peninsula, as do Goose, Browns[16] and some of the other islands. Stansbury Island and Strongs Knob remain peninsulas unless the water level rises above average. At high levels, some of the smaller islands become completely submerged.



Due to the warm waters of the Great Salt Lake, lake-effect snow is a frequent phenomenon of the lake. Cold north, northwest, or west winds generally blow across the lake following the passage of a cold front, and the temperature difference between the warm lake and the cool air can form clouds that lead to precipitation downwind of the lake. It is typically heaviest from eastern Tooele County east and north into central Davis County. It can deposit excessive snowfall amounts, generally with a narrow band of snow highly dependent on the direction the wind is blowing.

The lake-effect snows are more likely to occur in late fall, early winter, and during spring due to the higher temperature differences between the lake and the air above it. The water is generally too cold to support lake-effect snow during mid-winter, since the lake temperatures usually fall to near the freezing point. During summer, the temperature differences can form thunderstorms that form over the lake and drift eastward along the northern Wasatch Front. Some rainstorms may also be partially attributed to the lake-effect in fall and spring. It is estimated that approximately 6-8 lake-effect snowstorms occur in a year, and that 10% of the average precipitation of Salt Lake City can be attributed to the lake-effect.[17]


Map of Great Salt Lake

Water levels have been recorded since 1875,[2] averaging about 4,200 feet (1,280 m) above sea level. Since the Great Salt Lake is a shallow lake with gently sloping shores around all edges except on the south side, small variations in the water level greatly affect the extent of the shoreline. The water level can rise dramatically in wet years and fall during dry years. The water level is also affected by the amount of water flow diverted for agricultural and urban uses. The Jordan and Weber rivers, in particular, are diverted for other uses.[7] In the 1880s Grove Karl Gilbert predicted that the lake – then in the middle of many years of recession – would virtually disappear except for a small remnant between the islands.[18]

Great Salt Lake differs in elevation between the south and north parts. The Union Pacific Railroad causeway divides the lake into two parts. The water-surface elevation of the south part of the lake is usually 0.5 to 2 feet (15–61 cm) higher than that of the north part because most of the inflow to the lake occurs from the south.[2]

West Desert pumping project

Record high water levels in the 1980s caused massive property damage for owners on the eastern side of the lake, and started to erode the base of Interstate 80. In response, the State of Utah built the West Desert pumping project on the western side of the lake, featuring a pumping station at Hogup Ridge, containing three pumps with a combined capability of releasing 1.5 million gallons-per-minute (=3340 cfs, =95 m3/s); a 4.1-mile (6.6 km) outlet canal, an inlet canal, which allowed water from the Newfoundland Evaporation Basin to return to Great Salt Lake; 25 miles (40 km) of dikes, and a 10-mile (16 km) access road between the railroad town of Lakeside and the pumping station.[19]

The project was designed to increase the surface area of the Great Salt Lake, and therefore the rate of evaporation. The pumps released Great Salt Lake's waters into the 320,000 acre (1300 km²) Newfoundland Evaporation Basin in the west desert. A weir in the dike at the south end of the Newfoundland Mountains regulated the level of water in the basin, and returned salty water from the basin to the main body of Great Salt Lake.[19]

At the end of their first year in operation, the pumps had released around 500,000 acre feet (0.6 km³) of water. The project was shut down in June 1989, as the lake had dropped almost 6 feet (2 m) since reaching its peak in June 1986 and March 1987. The Utah Division of Water Resources credits the project with "over one-third of that decline."[19] In total, the pumps released 2.73 million acre feet (3.4 km³) of water while they operated.[20] Although the pumps are not currently in use, they are maintained in the event the lake rises to those levels again.[21]


Most of the salts dissolved in the lake and deposited in the desert flats around it reflect the concentration of solutes by evaporation; Lake Bonneville itself was fresh enough to support populations of fish.[22][23] More salt is added yearly via rivers and streams, though the amount is much less than the relict salt from Bonneville.[22]

The salinity of Great Salt Lake is highly variable and depends on the lake's level; it ranges from 5 to 27%, or (or 50-270 ppt).[4] For comparison, the average salinity of the world ocean is 3.5% (35 ppt)[24] and 30.4% in the Dead Sea. The ionic composition is similar to seawater, much more so than the Dead Sea's water; compared to the ocean, Great Salt Lake's waters are slightly enriched in potassium and depleted in calcium.[4]


Mountains of the Great Salt Lake in winter.

The high salinity of the lake makes it uninhabitable for all but a few species, including brine shrimp, brine flies, and several forms of algae. The brine flies have an estimated population of over one hundred billion and serve as the main source of food for many of the birds which migrate to the lake.[25] However, the fresh- and salt-water wetlands along the eastern and northern edges of the Great Salt Lake provide critical habitat for millions of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl in western North America. These marshes account for approximately 75% of the wetlands in Utah.[26] Some of the birds that depend on these marshes include:[27] Wilson's phalarope, red-necked phalarope, American avocet, black-necked stilt, marbled godwit, snowy plover, western sandpiper, long-billed dowitcher, tundra swan, American white pelican, white-faced ibis, California gull, eared grebe, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, plus large populations of various ducks and geese.

There are twenty-seven private duck clubs, seven state waterfowl management areas, and a large federal bird refuge on Great Salt Lake's shores.[28] Wetland/wildlife management areas include the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge; Gillmor Sanctuary; Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve; Salt Creek, Public Shooting Grounds, Harold Crane, Locomotive Springs, Ogden Bay, Timpie Springs, and Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Areas.

Several islands in the lake provide critical nesting areas for various birds. Access to Hat, Gunnison, and Cub islands is strictly limited by the State of Utah in an effort to protect nesting colonies of American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).[29] The islands within the Great Salt Lake also provide habitat for certain mammalian wildlife and for a variety of vegetative species. There are a variety of flora species that occur on the islands within Great Salt Lake; interestingly, there is historic evidence that some species that were earlier documented to occur on the islands are no longer present. For example, the Yellow Mariposa Lily, Calochortus luteus, is documented to have occurred on Fremont Island in the nineteenth century, but is not there now.[30]

There are no fish in the Great Salt Lake because of the high salinity. The only aquatic animals able to live in the lake are tiny brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana). Their tiny, hard-walled eggs or cysts (diameter of about 200 micrometers)[31] are harvested in quantity during the fall and early winter. They are fed to prawns in Asia,[25] sold as novelty "Sea-Monkeys," sold either live or dehydrated in pet stores as a fish food, and used in testing of toxins, drugs, and other chemicals.[6] There are also two species of salt flies[32] and some bacteria and algae.

Salinity differences between the sections of the lake separated by the railroad causeway result in significantly different biota. A phytoplankton community dominated by blue-green or green algae tint the water south of the causeway a greenish color. North of the causeway, the lake is dominated by Dunaliella salina, a species of algae which releases beta-carotene and the bacteria-like haloarchaea[33] which together give the water an unusual reddish or purplish color.[32] These color differences are especially noticeable in satellite photographs. Although brine shrimp can be found in the arm of the lake north of the causeway, studies conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources indicate that these are likely transient.[33] Populations of brine shrimp are mostly restricted to the lake's south arm.

Pink Floyd the flamingo

A solitary Chilean flamingo named Pink Floyd wintered at the Great Salt Lake. He escaped from Salt Lake City's Tracy Aviary in 1987 and lived in the wild, eating brine shrimp and socializing with gulls and swans. (Pink Floyd is often referred to as a "he," although the bird's gender is not actually known.)[34] A group of Utah residents suggested petitioning the state to release more flamingos in an effort to keep Floyd company and as a possible tourist attraction. Wildlife biologists resisted these efforts, saying that deliberate introduction of a non-native species would be ecologically unsound and might have detrimental consequences.[35] Pink Floyd was last seen in Idaho (where he was known to migrate) in 2005. He has not been seen since then and is presumed not to have survived the winter of 2005-2006.[36][37]

Elevated mercury levels

US Geological Survey and US Fish & Wildlife researchers, originally studying selenium levels in the lake, discovered some of the highest levels of methyl-mercury they have ever seen, at 25 nanograms per liter of water. For comparison, a fish consumption advisory was issued at the Florida Everglades after water there was found to contain 1 nanogram per liter.[38]

This prompted further studies[39] and a health advisory warning hunters not to eat Common Goldeneye or Northern Shoveler, two species of duck found in the lake. It has been stated that this does not pose a risk to other recreational users of the lake.[40]

After later studies were conducted with a larger number of birds, the advisories were revised and another was added for cinnamon teal. Seven other species of duck were studied and found to have levels of mercury below EPA guidelines, thus being determined safe to eat.[41]


With its sudden storms and expansive spread, the lake is a great test of sailing skills.[42] Single mast, simple sloops are the most popular boats. Sudden storms and lack of experience on the part of boatmen are the two most dangerous elements in boating and sailing on the Great Salt Lake.[43]

The lake's north arm contains deposits of oil, but it is of poor quality and it is not economically feasible to extract and purify it.[11] As of 1993, around 3,000 barrels (480 m3) of crude oil had been produced from shallow wells along the shore.[44]

Solar evaporation ponds at the edges of the lake produce salts and brine (water with high salt quantity). Minerals extracted from the lake include: sodium chloride (common salt), used in water softeners, salt lick blocks for livestock, and to melt ice on local roadways; potassium sulfate (potash), used as a commercial fertilizer; and magnesium-chloride brine, used in the production of magnesium metal, chlorine gas, and as a dust suppressant. Food-grade salt is not produced from the lake, as it would require further costly processing to ensure its purity. Mineral-extraction companies operating on the lake pay royalties on their products to the State of Utah, which owns the lake.[45]

The harvest of brine shrimp cysts during fall and early winter has developed into a significant local industry, with cysts selling for as high as $35 a pound.[46] Brine shrimp were first harvested during the 1950s and sold as commercial fish food. In the 1970s the focus changed to their eggs, known as cysts, which were sold primarily outside of the United States to be used as food for shrimp, prawns, and some fish.[31] Today, these are mostly sold in the Orient and South America.[47] The amount of cysts and the quality are affected by several factors, but salinity is most important. The cysts will hatch at 2 to 3% salinity, but the greatest productivity is at salinities above about 10%. If the salinity drops near 5 to 6%, the cysts will lose buoyancy and sink, making them more difficult to harvest.[31]

A large resort called Saltair has been operated on the southern shore of the lake off and on for many years. Rising and lowering water levels have affected Saltair, and it has burned down twice. Currently it serves as a concert venue.[48] The new resort built in 1981 after large fires completely destroyed the second and largest in the 1960s, is only a shadow of the resort's former grandeur.

Dramatically fluctuating lake levels have inhibited the creation and success of tourist-related developments. There is a problem with pollution of the lake by industrial and urban effluent. Also, especially when the waters are low, decay of insects and other wildlife give the shore of the lake a distinctive odor, which may keep some tourists from coming near the lake. Despite these issues, the lake remains one of Utah's largest tourist attractions.[49] Antelope Island State Park is a popular tourist destination that offers panoramic views of the lake, hiking and biking trails, wildlife viewing and access to beaches.


The Great Salt Lake as seen looking north towards Antelope Island from Sunset Beach

Spiral Jetty

The northwest arm of the lake, near Rozel Point, is the location for Robert Smithson's work of land art, Spiral Jetty (1970), which is only visible when the level of Great Salt Lake drops below 4,197.8 feet (1,280.2 m) above sea level.[50]

Oolitic sand

The lake and its shores contain oolitic sand, which are small, rounded, or spherical grains of sand made up of a nucleus (generally a small mineral grain) and concentric layers of calcium carbonate (lime) and look similar to very small pearls.[51]

Lake monster

In mid-1877, J.H. McNeil was with many other Barnes and Co. Salt Works employees on the lake’s north shore in the evening. They claimed to have seen a large monster with a body like a crocodile and a horse’s head in the lake. They claimed this monster attacked the men, who quickly ran away and hid until morning. This creature is regarded by some to have simply been a buffalo in the lake. Thirty years prior, "Brother Bainbridge" claimed to have sighted a creature that looked like a dolphin in the lake near Antelope Island. This monster is called by some the North Shore Monster.[11]

See also



  1. ^ a b Great Salt Lake. Encyclopedia Britannica Online
  2. ^ a b c d e f Great Salt Lake, Utah. U.S. Geological Survey.
  3. ^ Large Lakes of the World.
  4. ^ a b c Can I float in Great Salt Lake?. Utah Geological Survey.
  5. ^ Great Salt Lake — a lively recreational jewel. Lynn Arave, Deseret News.
  6. ^ a b Birds and Great Salt Lake. U.S. Geological Survey.
  7. ^ a b c d Morgan, p. 22
  8. ^ Where was Lake Bonneville, how large was it, and when did it exist?. Utah Geological Survey.
  9. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 10, 1971
  10. ^ Howard Stansbury, Army Corps of Engineers (1852). "Exploration and survey of the valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah". Lippincott, Grambo & Co. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  11. ^ a b c Great tales surrounding the Great Salt Lake. Lynn Arave, Deseret News.
  12. ^ Bear Lake by the Utah Division of Water Quality (PDF format)
  13. ^ Hassible & Keck, pp. 11-12
  14. ^ Commonly Asked Questions About Utah's Great Salt Lake and Ancient Lake Bonneville, pg 05. Utah Geological Survey.
  15. ^ a b Morgan, pp 18-19
  16. ^ Utah Islands
  17. ^ - Lake has great impact on storms, weather. Joe Bauman, Deseret Morning News.
  18. ^ Morgan (1947) p.23
  19. ^ a b c Hassible & Keck, p. 22
  20. ^ Fact Sheet: West Desert Pumping Project. Utah Division of Water Resources.
  21. ^ Great Salt Lake Pumping Project. Utah Division of Water Resources.
  22. ^ a b Commonly Asked Questions About Utah's Great Salt Lake and Ancient Lake Bonneville, pg 03
  23. ^ Commonly Asked Questions About Utah's Great Salt Lake and Ancient Lake Bonneville, pg 02
  24. ^ "Ocean Water: Salinity" Accessed 7/31/07.
  25. ^ a b Great Salt Lake Facts.
  26. ^ Utah Wetlands Interpretive Network.
  27. ^ Great Salt Lake, UT - What Shorebird Species Use This Site?. Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.
  28. ^ Utah's Great Salt Lake: An Undervalued Resource. FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake.
  29. ^ R657-15—Closure of Gunnison, Cub and Hat Islands. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
  30. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Yellow Mariposa Lily: Calochortus luteus,, ed. N. Stromberg
  31. ^ a b c Brine Shrimp and Ecology of Great Salt Lake. U.S. Geological Survey.
  32. ^ a b Life in the Great Salt Lake. Weber State University Department of Botany.
  33. ^ a b North Arm (Gunnison Bay). Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
  34. ^ Could Pink Floyd Be Sick.
  35. ^ A Flamingo Flies the Coop to Fame. The Christian Science Monitor.
  36. ^ Feeling Blue About Pink Floyd. The Deseret News.
  37. ^ Reader Tips. Roadside America.
  38. ^ Toxic mercury lurking in Great Salt Lake. Salt Lake Tribune.
  39. ^ Utah Waterfowl Advisory. Utah Office Of Epidemiology.
  40. ^ High mercury levels found in two duck species. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
  41. ^ Duck mercury advisories revised. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
  42. ^ Stum, Marlin; Dan Miller (1999). Visions of Antelope Island and Great Salt Lake. Utah State University Press. p. 4. ISBN 0874212693. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  43. ^ Peter G., Czerny (1976). The great Great Salt Lake. Brigham Young University Press. p. 4. ISBN 0842510737. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  44. ^ Hassible & Keck, p. 20
  45. ^ What minerals are produced from Great Salt Lake?. Utah Geological Survey.
  46. ^ Salt Lake Valley’s Leap of Faith Lisa Moore LaRoe, National Geographic.
  47. ^ South Arm (Gilbert Bay). Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
  48. ^ Saltair Resort. Utah City Guide.
  49. ^ Great Salt Lake.
  50. ^ Pink Water, White Salt Crystals, Black Boulders, and the Return of Spiral Jetty!. William F. Case, Utah Geological Survey.
  51. ^ What are the round, white sand grains that make up the beaches?. Utah Geological Survey.


Further reading

  • Arnow, T. (1984). Water-level and water-quality changes in Great Salt Lake, Utah, 1847-1983 [U.S. Geological Survey Circular 913]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GREAT SALT LAKE, a shallow body of highly concentrated brine in the N.W. part of Utah, U.S.A., lying between 1 18.8° and 113.2° W. long. and between 40.7° and 41.8° lat. Great Salt Lake is 4218 ft. above sea-level. It has no outlet, and is fed chiefly by the Jordan, the Weber and the Bear rivers, all draining the mountainous country to the E. and S.E. The irregular outline of the lake has been compared to the roughly drawn hand, palm at the S., thumb (exaggerated in breadth) pointing N.E., and the fingers (crowded together and drawn too small) reaching N.

No bathymetric survey of the lake has been made, but the maximum depth is 60 ft. and the mean depth less than 20 ft., possibly as little as 13 ft. The lake in 1906 was approximately 75 m. long., from N.W. to S.E., and had a maximum width of 50 m. and an area of 1750 sq. m. This area is not constant, as the water is very shallow at the margins, and the relation between supply from precipitation, &c., and loss by evaporation is variable, there being an annual difference in the height of the water of 15-18 in. between June (highest) and November (lowest), and besides a difference running through longer cycles: in 1850 the water was lower and the lake smaller than by any previous observations (the area and general outline were nearly the same again in 1906); then the water rose until 1873; and between 1886 and 1902 the fall in level was II-6 ft. The range of rise and fall from 1845 to 1886 was 13 ft., this being the rise in 1865-1886. With the fall of water there is an increase in the specific gravity, which in 1850 was 1.17, and in September 1901 was I 179; in 1850 the proportion of solids by weight was 22.282%, in September 1901 it was 25.221; at the earlier of these dates the solids in a litre of water weighed 260.69 grams, at the latter date 302'122 grams. The exact cause of this cyclic variation is unknown: the low level of 1906 is usually regarded as the result of extensive irrigation and ploughing in the surrounding country, which have robbed the lake, in part, of its normal supply of water. It is also to be noted that the rise and fall of the lake level have been coincident, respectively, with continued wet and dry cycles. That the lake will soon dry up entirely seems unlikely, as there is a central trough, 25 to 30 m. wide, about 40 ft. deep, running N.W. and S.E. The area and shore-line of the lake are evidently affected by a slight surface tilt, for during the same generation that has seen the recent fall of the lake level the shore-line is in many cases 2 m. from the old, and fences may be seen a mile or more out in the lake. The lake bed is for the most part clear sand along the margin, and in deeper water is largely coated with crusts of salt, soda and gypsum.

The lake is a novel and popular bathing resort, the specific gravity of the water being so great that one cannot sink or entirely submerge oneself. There are well-equipped bathing pavilions at Garfield and Saltair on the S. shore of the lake about 20 m. from Salt Lake City. The bathing is invigorating; it must be followed by a freshwater bath because of the incrustation of the body from the briny water. The large amount of salt in the water makes both fauna and flora of the lake scanty; there are a few algae, the larvae of an Ephydra and of a Tipula fly, specimens of what seems to be Corixa decolor, and in great quantities, so as to tint the surface of the water, the brine shrimp, Artemia salina (or gracilis or fertilis), notable biologically for the rarity of males, for the high degree of parthenogenesis and for apparent interchangeableness with the Branchipus. The lake is of interest for its generally mountainous surroundings, save to the N.W., where it skirts the Great Salt Lake Desert, for the mountainous peninsula, the Promontory, lying between thumb and fingers of the hand, shaped like and resembling in geological structure the two islands S. of it, Fremont and Antelope,' and the Oquirrh range S. of the lake. The physiography of the surrounding country shows clearly that the basin occupied by Great Salt Lake is one of many left by the drying up of a large Pleistocene lake, which has been called lake Bonneville. Welldefined wave-cut cliffs and terraces show two distinct shore-lines of this early lake, one. the "Bonneville Shore-line," about 1000 ft. above Great Salt Lake, and the other, the "Provo Shoreline," about 625 ft. higher than the present lake. These shorelines and the presence of two alluvial deposits, the lower and the larger of yellow clay 90 ft. deep, and, separated from it by a plane of erosion, the other, a deposit of white marl, 10-20 ft. deep, clearly prove the main facts as to lake Bonneville: a dry basin was first occupied by the shallow waters of a small lake; then, during a long period of excessive moisture (or cold), the waters rose and spread over an area nearly as large as lake Huron with a maximum depth of 1000 ft.; a period of great dryness followed, in which the lake disappeared; then came a second, shorter, but more intense period of moisture, and in this time the lake rose, covered a larger area than before, including W. Utah and a little of S. Idaho and of E. Nevada, about 19,750 sq. m., had a very much broken shore-line of 2550 m. and a maximum depth of 1050 ft. and a mean depth of Boo ft., overflowed the basin at the N., and by a tributary stream through Red Rock Pass at the N. end of the Cache valley poured its waters into the Columbia river system. The great lake was then gradually reduced by evaporation, leaving only shallow bodies of salt water, of which Great Salt Lake is the largest. The cause of the climatic variations which brought about this complex history of the Salt Lake region is not known; but it is worthy of note that the periods of highest water levels were coincident with a great expansion of local valley glaciers, some of which terminated in the waters of lake Bonneville.

Industrially Great Salt Lake is of a certain importance. In early days it was the source of the salt supply of the surrounding country; and the manufacture of salt is now an important industry. The brine is pumped into conduits, carried to large ponds and there evaporated by the sun; during late years the salt has been refined here, being purified of the sulphates and magnesium compounds which formerly rendered it efflorescent and of a low commercial grade. Mirabilite, or Glauber's salt, is commercially valuable, occurring in such quantities in parts of the lake that one may wade knee-deep in it; it separates 1 Besides these islands there are a few small islands farther N., and W. of Antelope, Stansbury Island, which, like Antelope and Fremont Islands, is connected with the mainland by a bar sometimes uncovered and rarely in more than a foot of water.

from the brine at a temperature between 30° and 20° F. The lake is crossed E. and W. by the Southern Pacific railway's so-called "Lucin Cut-off," which runs from Ogden to Lucin on a trestle with more than 20 m. of "fill"; the former route around the N. end of the lake was 43 m. long.

Great Salt Lake was first described in 1689 by Baron La Hontan, who had merely heard of it from the Indians. "Jim" Bridger, a famous mountaineer and scout, saw the lake in 1824, apparently before any other white man. Captain Bonneville described the lake and named it after himself, but the name was transferred to the great Pleistocene lake. John C. Fremont gave the first description of any accuracy in his Report of 1845. But comparatively little was known of it before the Mormon settlement in 1847. In 1850 Captain Howard Stansbury completed a survey, whose results were published in 1852. The most extensive and important studies of the region, however, are those by Grove Karl Gilbert of the United States Geological Survey, who in 1879-1890 studied especially the earlier and greater lake.

See J. E. Talmage, The Great Salt Lake, Present and Past (Salt Lake City, 1900); and Grove Karl Gilbert, Lake Bonneville, monograph i of United States Geological Survey (Washington, 1890), containing (pp. 12-19) references to the earlier literature.

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Simple English

The Great Salt Lake[1] is a massive saline lake in the United States. It is in the state of Utah. It is an endorheic lake, meaning that the water in it does not flow to the ocean. The lake, one of the biggest endorheic lakes in the world, is in the Great Basin, a large area of desert terrain covering parts of the states of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, California, and Arizona. It is a very salty lake, and is many times saltier than the average of the world's oceans.[2]

The lake is about 75 miles (121 km) long and 28 miles (45 km) wide. Its surface area averages 1,700 square miles (4,400 square kilometers) but because of its desert location, its size changes very often. The three major rivers that flow into it are the Jordan, Weber, and Bear rivers. Because of its similarity to the Dead Sea in Asia, it has been called "America's Dead Sea".[3] However, the lake is a rich habitat for many species of bird, shrimp, and other animals.

The lakeshore borders Davis, Tooele, Box Elder, Salt Lake, and Weber counties, all in the state of Utah.[1]


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