This is what I really came to see, the Great Salt Lake, from which the city takes its name. This is what remains of a gigantic prehistoric lake, Lake Bonneville, which I think was fresh water and is still the largest body of water between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean in the USA. The current lake became intensely salty when it evaporated, got smaller and has no outlet. Three large rivers and other streams feed it but the level of the lake goes up and down with our weather systems. It is also responsible for lake effect snow in the area, as the water is quite warm.
There are very few fish in the lake but it is full of brine shrimp, otherwise known as sea monkeys, brine flies and bacteria. All of which leads to a rather interesting smell….it’s a bit stinky! Do you remember when Sea Monkeys were for sale, usually on the back of comics? I begged my mum for one but she was convinced that it was a con. They can actually dehydrate and magically come back to life when put in water. They are a tremendous source of protein for the various migratory birds coming through and our tour driver told us that sometimes the birds gorge on this buffet and then can’t take flight because they are stuffed. I thought that was hilarious – just like after Thanksgiving.
Did you notice in the first photo of me in the lake that there was a dot in the water behind me? This was one of my fellow passengers on the tour bus. She was a young English girl and as soon as she stepped on the bus we laughed because we were wearing the same shorts. Mine were white with gold embroidery and hers were black. Curiously, they were from transatlantic manufacturers but I guess they are all made in Bangladesh or some such. The other two passengers were an older couple but us ‘girls’ wanted to go in the Salt Lake. I was only prepared to paddle but the English girl stripped straight down to her swimsuit and ran into the lake. The cool thing about salt lakes is that their salinity is greater than sea water so you float. I asked her what it was like out there and she said, “lots of brine flies and dead birds”. Lovely – at least we can hope that the minerals were good for us!
Despite that, it is exquisitely beautiful, with endless blue skies and mountains in the distance. There are a number of islands – eleven presently. It must be serene to take a sail boat out although there aren’t fish. There are very many hunters at different times of the year – fat, waddling birds make an easy shot.
At various times, people have tried to make it more of a tourist destination and this is a replica of Brighton Pavilion type venture, named the Saltair Pavilion that was incredibly popular until it burned down. There is no point in building hotels close to the lake because it evaporates and then floods, all the while being stinky. Our tour driver had been a professor but needed to work in retirement so we had a marvelously informative trip. The Salt Lake has tremendous revenue because of various grades of salt which can be for the table or road quality, along with minerals, hunting and tourists.
It was my favorite afternoon on the trip just gazing at the beautiful water and sky. More tales to follow.