The number of islands on GSL has long been a point of contention, mainly because the lake fluctuates so much every year that some "islands" disappear regularly! The largest is Antelope Island, followed by Stansbury, Fremont, Carrington, Dolphin, Cub, Badger, Strongs Knob, Gunnison, Goose, Browns, Hat (Bird), Egg, Black Rock and White Rock. North of the causeway are 4 islands: Dolphin, Gunnison, Cub, and Strongs Knob. The rest reside in the south arm of GSL.
The most popular and accessible island is Antelope Island at 28,000 acres or 42 square miles. There are actually more than 40 freshwater springs on Antelope Island! Exposed gneiss rock on the island is more than 2.5 billion years old, making it the oldest exposed rock in Utah. Gneiss looks like granite but is coarser and often contains alternating bands of rock. Thirty-five miles of non-motorized trails allow for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Bridger Bay is an especially nice spot for swimming, with two miles of Oolitic sand beach (see Oolitic Sand section). Buffalo Point boasts isolated views of mountains, islands, sunsets and vast water. Other notable islands include Carrington and Fremont Islands, which are private and accessible only by boat during average lake levels; Gunnison and Hat Islands, which are owned by the Division of Wildlife Resources and are protected bird rookeries; and Stansbury Island, which is mostly private, but is accessible by car and also hosts a swimming spot at Sandy Beach Bay.
See Birds page.
Duck and Goose hunting is allowed (with permits) in the fall at all State Waterfowl Management Areas, private duck clubs and portions of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
Swimming at the Great Salt Lake has been popular since 1847 because of the incredible buoyancy created by the water's high salt content, as well as the curative aspects of the lake. Brigham Young led the first organized bathing excursion to the lake on July 4, 1851. Many people throughout history have reported that swimming in the lake was refreshing, invigorating, healthy and relaxing. Swimming was so popular that numerous resorts sprang up all around the lake. They provided amenities such as bathing (swimming) facilities, concert halls, dancing, seasonal cottages, bike trails, boats, bowling, shooting areas and orchestras! Passenger trains had regular routes out to one resort from both Ogden and Salt Lake City. Saltair was the last resort to open and by far the greatest. It was so successful that with receding water levels in the 1890s, it easily drove the other resorts out of business! Saltair boasted a better location, was built in over five feet of water, and had the only first-class facilities—complete with electric lights. Unfortunately, low water levels in the 1960s discouraged popularity, followed by fires and floods that racked the facility alternately. Although the facility is now completely restored, it has been slow to regain popularity. Conferences and concerts are held at Saltair regularly.
Swimming in the lake continues to be popular and enjoyed by many. (see Islands) Just don't dunk your head unless you're feeling salt deficient!
Sailing is the most popular boating activity on the lake. Sailors have even called the Great Salt Lake a boating jewel and relish in the relative isolation compared to other lakes. Motor boating is less popular since the lake is so salty and dense. Small waves jar even large boats and the engine and boat need to be thoroughly rinsed in order to avoid corrosion. SLC Yacht Club.
For decades, the Bonneville Salt Flats have been used for car racing and to set land speed records. In 1992–1993 flooding, combined with brine withdrawal for potash production, considerably lowered the ideal level of salt crust for car racing. Consequently, serious and large-scale efforts were undertaken to fix this problem and replenish the salt flats with salt. Ultimately around 1.5 billion tons of salt were added to the area.