Last modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area

A wetland shared by people, wildlife and the vast waters of the Great Salt Lake

Wildlife and the changing seasons

During migration, the diversity of sound and color astounds visitors to Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area (WMA). Hundreds of thousands of waterbirds, songbirds and raptors visit this area during the migration and nesting seasons. More than 200 different species have been documented on the management area.

Arrival. Spring is a busy time as migrants flock in to gather food exposed by the melting ice. Ducks and geese are the first to arrive late February. They are quickly followed by several species of shorebirds and wading birds in March and April. Several hundred thousand birds will visit during spring migration.

Nesting. Nesting begins in early March when Canada geese and great blue herons begin preparing for egg laying and incubation; most other species begin nesting between April and June. This makes March through August the critical time since most birds are either sitting on eggs or attending to their young. Biologists have documented 57 bird species nesting at Farmington Bay.

Feeding. July and August is food storage time for Wilson's phalaropes. These tiny shorebirds are commonly observed feeding in the shallows to store up energy for their migration to Argentina. Shorebird migration continues into early fall.

Migration. September marks the beginning of the fall migration for waterfowl. Waterfowl use on Farmington Bay during peak migration can exceed 200,000 ducks. Many ducks have already left by the time the waterfowl hunting season opens in early October. Tundra swans close out the annual migrating pilgrimage during November and December.

Winter. By the end of December most bird species have moved southward. A noticeable exception is the bald eagle which winters at Farmington Bay WMA. Winter is a quiet time as the wetlands rest and wait for spring to return.

History

Farmington Bay WMA was built in 1935. Several agencies and organizations joined forces with the original construction. Utah DWR has managed the area ever since and has purchased and developed additional wetland acreage, increasing the original 3,800 acres to more than 18,000 acres.

In the mid 1980s, the lake rose and flooded the entire management area. This unprecidented high water displaced wildlife and damaged dikes, water control structures and wetland vegetation. Although moderate lake level fluctuations are a natural and beneficial part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, this once-in-a-hundred-year flood event caused severe damage. A massive reconstruction effort has been underway since the lake receded.

In 1991, the Great Slat Lake and associated wetlands including Farmington Bay WMA were dedicated into the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network. This designation reflects the significance of this ecosystem to more than 30 species and millions of individual shorebirds.

Wetland habitats

Farmington Bay hosts an array of wetland habitats including fresh water ponds, marshes, expansive flats and open salt water. These diverse wetland types are vital habitats for a diversity of wildlife along the Great Salt lake.

Fresh-water and brackish marshes support vegetation such as cattail, hardstem and alkali bulrush, saltgrass and pondweed. These are important because of the food and protective cover they provide for wildlife. An abundance of protein-rich invertebrates such as insect larvae provide important food for very young birds. Several species of fish also live in the ponds and provide food for fish-eating birds such as great blue herons and American white pelicans.

Saline mud flats support a range of salt tolerant plants known as halophytes. Salicornia, commonly called pickle weed, is a plant found commonly on these flats. This halophyte produces seeds that are consumed by migrating waterfowl as well as other species. The sensitive western snowy plover nests on the saline flats at Farmington Bay.

The open salt water habitat is too salty for fish but is teaming with two invertebrates; brine shrimp and brine flies. Eared grebes and Wilson's phalaropes are two of the many species that consume large quantities of these invertebrates during migration.

Wetland management

The management area is made up of a complex network of dikes, canals and water control structures. The general idea is to hold back fresh water and spread it out over large expanses of land. Water is kept very shallow (0-14 inches) in order to be the most productive for waterfowl.

The primary water source for Farmington Bay is the Jordan River, with numerous secondary sources during spring runoff. Water flows along the east side of the management area, held back by the dikes and manipulated with water control structures. This selective diking allows managers to control water levels and alter habitats.

As water moves through the management area, it is impounded and used over and over again before reaching the Great Salt Lake. This complex irrigation system gives wetland managers 22 miles of dike and 126 water control structures to manipulate water and manage key habitats.

Viewing tips

  • When? To see the migration, visit March – May or August – October.
  • How? Binoculars or spotting scopes can help you get a closer look at birds. The best viewing is often from you car!
  • Where? Refer to the map to find areas and dates open to viewing. And, please obey "area closed" signs and respect the birds' need for space.
Hunting
  • When? The season usually runs from the first Saturday in October through early January. Check the official Waterfowl Hunting Guidebook for details.
  • How? Farmington Bay offers access for airboats and outboards, canoes and walk-in hunting. The area boasts some of the most diverse waterfowling in Utah.

Open year round 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. seven days a week at the main entrance south and west of Farmington at 1325 W. Glover Lane (925 S.). Extended hours during fall hunting seasons.

For more information contact:

Area Manager, Farmington Bay WMA
515 E. 5300 S.
Ogden, Utah 84405
(801) 451-7386

North entrance to Goose Egg Island

  • Open year round (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Unit 1 dike to Turpin parking lot

  • Open Sep. 25 to Feb. 28 to motorized vehicles
  • Open year round to foot and bicycle

South and east entrances (to parking lot)

  • Open Sep. 25 to Jan. 14 to motorized vehicles
  • Open Jan. 15 to Feb. 28 to foot and bicycle
  • Closed March 1 to July 31
  • Open Aug. 1 to Sep. 24 to foot and bicycle

Other dikes and roads

  • Open to foot and bicycle Aug. 1 to Feb. 28
  • Closed March 1 to July 31
  • Closed year round to motorized vehicles

Special regulations

Dogs are welcome from Sept. 25 through Feb. 28. Please stay on dikes and roads from March 1 to Sep. 25 to reduce disturbance to wildlife. Boating is allowed two weeks prior to the waterfowl season (starting about Sept. 25). Firearms allowed only during waterfowl hunting season.

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