Sunset from behind Antelope Island Sunset over Antelope Island by Andrea Nez.

At this time of year, many of us yearn for an island getaway. Luckily, a placid island paradise is within reach. Head towards Layton, get off at Antelope Drive (exit 332) and head west. From there, it’s a seven-mile drive to the causeway that leads to Antelope Island.

Antelope Island State Park, located in Salt Lake City’s backyard, has something for everyone year-round. The 42 square mile island is home to a diverse and unique ecosystem as well as a rich and interesting history.

Get your binoculars and cameras out at the entrance stand, as even the causeway offers beauty along its route, including thousands of shorebirds, a military memorial, and quiet bays on either side.

The Visitor Center is a good starting point for your island adventure. It offers an art gallery, as well as educational exhibits on the island’s wildlife, history, and geography. A video presenting the characteristics of the island can be viewed in a small auditorium.

You can get maps and expert advice from volunteers and park rangers regarding the topography, geography, and geology of the island. The visitor center gift shop includes bird and wildlife identification cards as well as seasonal items such as hats and nets to protect against “no-see-ums”, also known under the name of biting midges. You will also find staff and volunteers who love and have fully experienced the island.

Rachelle Maughan works in the gift shop. With her sons, she enjoys exploring the unique character of the island. “I was impressed by its beauty, even in winter,” she said. It is a photographer’s paradise. Her 16-year-old son also captured the beauty of the island in his photos.

The island can be explored on foot, by bicycle, on horseback or by car. There are trails ranging from easy to challenging backcountry adventures where camping is permitted. All wild animals have the right of way. Take photos, but above all, respect the wildlife and keep your distance.

From Lady Finger Point you can see Egg Island, a vital nesting ground for migratory and local bird species. To protect the habitat, humans are strictly prohibited on Egg Island.

Burrowing owls can often be seen in the area past the visitor center driveway. Bison can be seen almost anywhere on the island as they roam freely. Pronghorns are native to the island, which is also home to mule deer, bighorn sheep, porcupines, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, owls, bats, chukars , scorpions, lizards, gopher snakes and rabbits, to name a few.

Bridger Bay has the best beach for swimming when water levels are normal. Parking, restrooms, fresh water showers and the Island Buffalo Grill are available. With the current drought, it is 1.5 km from the sea front to the water.

Buffalo Point Trail is a prime spot for a half mile hike with great views. Buffalo Point has a public telescope, picnic tables and restrooms. Park visitor Andrea Nez completed the Buffalo Point Trail. At the top, she stopped to take pictures of her daughter and the sunset reflecting in the lake. “I feel there is a sacred connection between this island and the heavens. There is such peace here. I feel it every time I come,” she said.

Below Buffalo Point you can go to White Rock Campground. Antelope Island is an International Dark Sky Park and White Rock is great for observing the night sky. Bring a telescope if you have one, or come to a Star Party, where astronomers bring huge telescopes and teach you about the constellations.

On the south side of the island you will find the Fielding Garr Ranch. It’s a scenic 12-mile jaunt from the Visitor Center, and the slower you drive, the more scenic it will be.

Bison on Antelope Island. Photo by Golda Hukic-Markosian.

After the calving season in late spring, there can be up to 700 bison head. Mothers and cubs will stay in groups, while males tend to be more solitary. Mothers and calves often wander to southern ranch areas where they like to congregate near one of 40 freshwater springs before heading to higher ground to continue grazing. This means that they will frequently cross the road.

When asked why she loved coming to Antelope Island, 15-year-old Dentallia Betony replied, “The buffalo of course! Remember to keep your distance and don’t try to pet the fluffy cows!

Antelope Island.
Antelope Island. Photo by Golda Hukic-Markosian.

Trees can contain camouflaged delights. Look closely and you might see a porcupine, or you might be thrilled by a number of other species. The flora and fauna are unique, as are the geological features. If you blink, you might miss them. Retirees Lynne and Lynn Child enjoy coming to Antelope Island because of its rich ecological landscape. “We love nature and peace here, and it’s so close to home,” she says.

At Fielding Garr Ranch, the diversity continues. Built in 1848 and standing on its original foundations, the ranch is Utah’s oldest Anglo building. You can walk around the farm buildings, see the tools that were used and how hard life was in the 19th century.

Native American artifacts found at this site date back 6,000 years. The Northwest Shoshone people resided on the island until the 1840s.

Events and educational programs are held year-round at the ranch. Director Carl Aldrich explained the importance of the region. “It’s a place where everyone connects. It’s the story of the people of Antelope Island.

To plan an island adventure at Antelope Island State Park, or to view a list of events, please visit their website.

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