antelope island state park
About Antelope Island State Park
Visitors to Antelope Island State Park drive across the causeway, a narrow two-lane road spanning from mainland to island, leaving the bustle of the Wasatch Front for a refuge of rangelands floating on a desert sea. Visitors will want to hike, bike and look for wildlife, as well as experience the best place to access Great Salt Lake. Be sure to visit the Fielding Garr Ranch located on the southeast side of the island. The Fielding Garr Ranch House is distinctive for two reasons: first, it is the oldest continually inhabited Anglo home in the state of Utah (from 1848 to 1981 when the island became a state park), and second, it is the oldest Anglo built house in Utah still on its original foundation.
4,200 feet at the shore. Frary Peak is the island's highest point at 6,596 feet.
John C. Fremont and Kit Carson made the first known Anglo exploration of Antelope Island in 1845. The Island was named after the explorers observed several pronghorn antelope grazing on the rangelands.
Fielding Garr established the first permanent residence on the island in 1848. The ranch house he built is the oldest Anglo-built structure in Utah still on its original foundation.
The island and ranch passed from owner to owner until 1981 when the State of Utah purchased the 28,000-ace island for a State Park.
Antelope Island is part of what is known as the Basin and Range, stretching from the Wasatch mountains on the east to the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the west. Antelope Island is the largest island on Great Salt Lake at just over 28,000 acres, stretching 15 miles long and about 5 miles wide.
The oldest exposed rocks on the island are from the Farmington Canyon Complex, called gneiss. These metamorphic rocks have been dated to 1.7 billion years old, and are the same age as rocks found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. These rocks can be seen on the southern two-thirds of the island.
Tintic Quartzite, found on the northern one-third of the island, is 550 million years old and was deposited in a shallow marine environment. This metamorphic rock can be seen around the Park's visitor center, Lady Finger Point and Buffalo Point.
The youngest rocks on the island are tufa, a sedimentary rock deposited from concentrations of calcium carbonate during the time of Lake Bonneville. Tufa deposits typically resemble concrete and can be viewed from the Buffalo Point Trail.
Although surrounded by salt water, Antelope Island has over 40 fresh water springs producing over 30 million gallons of water each year. This water supports the islands abundant wildlife.
Bison are the most famous residents. Twelve animals were brought to the island in 1897 and were the foundation for today's herd of 550 - 700. An annual bison roundup is held each fall to assess the health of the hard and sell extra animals.
Pronghorn antelope are native to Utah and to the island. These small, deer-like animals are the fastest animals in North America and can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
Mule deer and California bighorn sheep are the other large herbivores on the island. Predators include coyotes, badgers, bobcats and numerous birds of prey such as owls, hawks and falcons.
Antelope Island Field Trip Opportunities
Antelope Island State Park is a great resource for educational tours and is the best location to experience the wonders of Great Salt Lake. The island's many resources offer a great outdoor classroom to conduct different experiments and educational opportunities for students of all ages.
The rate for educational groups, whether as a guided tour or conducting self-guided activities is $1 per person with advanced reservations. Reservations must be made at least one week in advance (sooner is recommended to ensure availability). Schools arriving without a reservation may be charge the regular commercial group rate of $3 per person.
Staff Guided Opportunities
Listed below are general outlines of activities that are available at the park. Specific details regarding content of the presentation can be determined with your reservation. We can accommodate all ages from Pre-K through High School and College/University groups.
Reservations are required for these field trips and should be made at least one week in advance, however earlier reservations will help ensure you get the date you would like.
1. Visitor Center Tour – 1 hour
The visitor center tour consists of three 20-minute rotations of an age appropriate scavenger hunt, watching a video about the park, and a naturalist presentation which might focus on any of the following topics: information about Great Salt Lake, wildlife, birds, ecology, plants and geology.
2. Fielding Garr Ranch – 2 hours
The Historic Fielding Garr Ranch offers teacher-/parent-guided activities focusing on life aspects of the early Anglo settlers of Antelope Island. Eight groups rotate through various fun and educational activities designed to help teach students about early pioneer life.
Note: Schools should choose one or the other of the visitor center or the Ranch. We cannot accommodate both due to time constraints and travel distances.
3. Beach Basics – 1 hour 15 minutes
Staff/Teacher guided Beach Basics are for groups of 65 or less. Larger groups are encouraged to experience the beach on their own (see below for details and opportunities). Beach Basics takes students to the waters of Great Salt Lake and guides them through activities that teach about the unique sand, salt water plants and their adaptations, how and why the lake is so salty, and life in the lake, including Brine Shrimp and Brine Fly life cycles. Students will have the opportunity to wade out into the lake to look for Brine Flies and Brine Shrimp.
4. Buffalo Point Hike – 1 hour
Schools electing to take a guided hike to Buffalo Point will take a half-mile hike to a fun and breathtaking overlook of Great Salt Lake and the north end of the Island. Discussions and activities will focus on the geology of the area; how Antelope Island got here, the type and age of the rocks, and the life of Great Salt Lake, including Lake Bonneville.
Many groups elect to come to Antelope Island and explore on their own. Following is a list of possibilities for a self-guided visit. These can be mixed and matched according to your needs, desires and time-frame.
There are a number of hikes of varying degrees of difficulty, including the ¼ mile Lady Finger Point, the ½ mile Buffalo Point, 2.7 mile Lake Side Trail and others. Topics could include plants, animals, birds, geology, Great Salt Lake, Lake Bonneville, etc.
2. Beach Visit
Many schools elect to come to the park and spend part of the day at the beach. Schools can develop their own outline of activities, or simply have a beach day, and let their students wade/swim in the water.
For schools wishing to visit the beach on their own and would like additional teaching tools, the park offers a Teacher Toolbox for free checkout. This toolbox contains a variety of lesson plans with all necessary supplies to conduct those activities. The Teacher Toolbox lesson plans include:
These lesson plans are geared mainly toward a 4th grade education level, but can be adapted to fit your individual needs.
Many schools elect to combine a Staff Guided Activity with something they do on their own. How you organize and arrange your visit is up to you, and really is based on your time availability and educational goals.
Other Guided Tours/Activities/Programs
For schools or groups who would like a guided discussion or tour not covered in the topics above, please contact the park and we can arrange a special program geared toward your needs.
To schedule a field trip, guided tour or discussion, or to check out the Teacher Toolbox, contact Wendy Wilson, Park Naturalist at 801-721-9569 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hours and Fees
Park hours: 6:00 am - 6:00 pm
Day-use fees (includes causeway and wildlife fees):
Day-use fee: $10 per vehicle up to 8 people
Senior day-use fee (Utah residents over 62 of age): $5 per vehicle up to 8 people
Bicycles and Pedestrians: $3 per person
Commercial Groups: (over 8 people per vehicle): $3 per person and $5 per bus
Educational Groups: $1 per person with prior reservation
Bridger Bay Campground: $15 first night, $12 each additional night; includes entrance fee to the park. Fee covers the first vehicle. $13 fee for an additional vehicle. Maximum site capacity is eight people and two vehicles.
White Rock Bay Campground: $30 first night, $24 each additional night; also includes entrance fee. Fee covers the first two vehicles. $13 fee for additional vehicles. Maximum site capacity is sixteen people and four vehicles.
Fielding Garr Ranch
Visit the historic Fielding Garr Ranch and its 133 years of ranching history. The ranch's hands-on exhibits are a perfect place to immerse your family in Utah's history.
History of Antelope Island:
Prehistory: Native American habitation of the Island. Fremont people lived 500-2000 years ago. We have found their camps on the island. By the early 1600s Spanish explores came across the Ute people in the Great Basin area. The Ute people frequented the island until the late 1840s.
1843: John C. Fremont mapped the topography of Great Salt Lake and its islands.
1845: Fremont returns to Utah, naming Antelope Island for the meat they acquired there.
1847: First Mormon pioneers arrive in the Salt Lake Valley.
1848: First Mention Of Daddy Stump living on the island. Stump is not mentioned by Fremont during his expeditions to the island.
1848: In the fall Lot Smith, Heber P. Kimball and Fielding Garr bring the church’s cattle to the island with the help of Daddy Stump.
1848-49: Fielding Garr builds the ranch house.
1849: Formation of the Perpetual Emigration Fund formed on September 9th, with Fielding Garr as foreman of the tithing herd.
1849-50: Capt. Howard Stansbury conducts surveys and explorations of the Great Salt Lake and its islands.
1854: Brigham Young builds the boat, the Timely Gull because rising water levels made wagon access to the island impossible.
1854: Grasshoppers deplete the island of feed. The cattle were taken to Cache Valley.
1855: Fielding Garr dies on June 15th and is replaced by Briant Stringham.
1856: Daddy Stump believed killed by Indians in Cache Valley during the winter.
1856: The LDS Church transports several hundred head of horses to the island for breeding purposes.
1864: William Ashby is put in charge of the church’s cattle herd on the island.
1867: Ebenezer Farnes is put in charge of the ranch.
1871: Bryant Stringham Dies on August 4th.
1872: Christopher Layton is awarded a five-year contract to manage the church sheep herd on the island.
1874: Slate Mining on the island.
Deseret News August 12, 1874. An inexhaustible body of slate, unsurpassed in fineness of texture and richness of color, has been recently examined and thoroughly tested by Mr. Dunn, of Salt Lake City, and Gen. W.W. Lowe and Mr. H.H. Vischer of this city, assisted by experts and experienced slate workers from the old country, and is pronounced equal if not superior, in purity, strength and colors to any in the world.
1875: LDS Church lost interest in the island because of homesteading and patents to the Union Pacific Railroad requiring every odd section of land.
1878: Garr ranch are deeded to John Layton by the United States. Layton deeds it to Davis County Co-op on December 24th.
1880: Davis County Co-op sells its section to Adam Patterson.
1880: Union Pacific, the agents for the homesteading on the island sells island grants to Robert Harkness.
1884: Robert Harkness sections are forclosed on by John Dooly of Wells Fargo who in turn sells them to Fredrick Meyers who becomes Dooly’s partner. On June 4th they organize the Island Improvement Company.
1885: Meyers sells his interest to John White and Son’s Company, which leases the Dooly land at the same time.
1885-1903: William Walker ranch foreman.
1891: George Frary established a homestead four miles north of the ranch house.
1893: 12 bison purchased on January 7th from William Glassman by White and Dooly and brought to the island by Frary and Walker in February.
1893: Four Mountain Sheep, a number of deer, and Chinese and English pheasants were brought to the island on March 1st.
1894: Ten elk brought to the island. These elk were later killed by vandals.
1897: Alice Frary dies and is buried near the Frary homestead.
1899: Mining on the island.
Davis County Clipper March 17, 1899. Of late considerable prospecting has been done on the west side of the first island (Church or Antelope) west of here, and since Prospector Leeche was killed over there still more interest has been aroused in mining in that locality.
Salt Lake Mining Review April 15, 1899. The Antelope Gold and Copper Mining company filed its articles of incorporation on Friday of last week, the capitalization of the association being placed at $20,000 divided into shares of a par value of five cents each. The officers and directors of the company, as named, are Alma Tanner, president; John Haston, vice- president; Joseph W. lee, Treasurer; George E. Cox, secretary, and George H. Knowlden.
Davis County Clipper May 19, 1899. George Payne, George Frary, “Bid” Young, A.E. Hyde and Albert Richter incorporated their mining property over on Antelope Island last Friday. They own a number of Valuable claims, some of them right down to the waters edge in fact, the ore cars can be dumped into the boat.
Davis County Clipper May 26, 1899. George H. Payne came over from Antelope Island Monday evening. He estimates that there are about fifty men over there working at the mines. Mr. Vahrenkamp is going to put up a large boarding house on the island in the near future; he spoke to Messrs. Frary and Payne about boating 10,000 feet of lumber to build the same.
Salt Lake Mining Review June 30, 1899. Claim Holders on Antelope Island have filed a protest in the local U.S. land office against the issuance of patents to certain portions of the island as agricultural land, as they claim the ground is more valuable for mineral than for raising corn, wheat, Lucerne, or potatoes. With the magnificent showing of copper ore in the holdings of the mineral claimants it looks as if it would be an outrage on the part of the government to bar them out and to give this barren section to individuals who merely want the island as a grazing place for their cattle.
1903: Ernest Bamberger, son-in law to Dooly buys John White’s shares of the company and becomes co-owner of the Island Improvement Company.
1904: Oil wells on the island.
Ogden Standard Examiner February 11, 1904. Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake may be the location of some large gas and oil wells in the near future. A derrick is to be set up over there within the next few weeks. It was learned from an authentic source and the drills started on their journey to the deep. The work is to be done by the Fountain Oil & Asphalt Company, recently incorporated, which has acquired by lease and otherwise something over 6000 acres on the north end of the island.
Davis County Clipper April 8, 1904. The Fountain Oil & Gas Co. has three rigs ordered and contracted for delivery not later than May 1st. One is to be set up near Farmington, another on Antelope Island and the third on the west side of the Great Salt Lake. It is expected that in a few weeks there will be six rigs in operation in this vicinity.
Davis County Clipper April 22, 1904. Frank H. Rudy has located all the oil land on the east shore of Antelope Island from the south to the extreme north end of the same. He controls about 43,000 acres. He has contracted with an eastern firm to give them four sections of land, retaining a tenth interest if they strike oil. The company is to go down 2000 feet or forfeit a $5,000 bond.
1911: 100 buffalo on the island comprise one of the largest herds in the U.S.
1915: John Dooly Jr. takes over the company bringing sheep to the island
1922: Scenes from the movie The Covered Wagon using the buffalo herd was filmed at what is now called Camera Flats.
1938-42: J.B. Harward moves to the ranch as foreman.
1941: Island Improvement Company trades its land in Rush Valley for the Bureau of Land management land on Antelope Island. The BLM owned every other section of the island prior to this trade. This transaction gives the Dooly’s control of all but a few small parcels of the island.
1942: William H. Olwell appointed manager of the Island Improvement Co.
1951: The Island Improvement Company land in Skull Valley is taken by the Federal Government for Dugway Proving Grounds. As a result the company sells its sheep and stocks the island with cattle and builds the southern causeway.
1955: Island Improvement Company becomes the Island Ranching Company.
1967: The Road to Nowhere is started.
Geology of Antelope Island Davis County, Utah pg. 131. In 1967, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) investigated two potential sources of sand and gravel on the northern part of the island for the use of the construction of the causeway from Syracuse to Antelope Island. Material from this deposit, at least until 1969, was used as fill on the causeway
1969: State of Utah buys 2,000 acres on the north end of the island and creates a state park.
1969: North causeway from Syracuse finished.
1972: The Island Ranching Company sells to Anschutz Corporation.
1979: Island conveyor belt built.
Geology of Antelope Island Davis County, Utah pg. 134. In 1979 and 1980 about 16 million cubic yards of material were excavated from this part of the island for interstate highway construction. The excavation essentially removed the top 10 to 15 feet of the surficial deposits. The material was loaded onto a 13 -mile-long conveyor belt and carried south- easterly to a stockpile and loading facility near 5600 West and the I-80 route west of Salt Lake City. At the time, this conveyer belt system was the longest ever built in the world. The excavated areas were graded, contoured, and revegetated.
1981: State of Utah purchases the Southern 26,000 acres of the island.
1983: Rising lake waters floods causeway, park closes.
1987: Lake reaches its highest point of 4,211.85’ above sea level. Due to flooding problems, massive pumps operated pumping water into west desert. First bison round up.
1992: Northern causeway is rebuilt.
1993: Antelope Island State Park opens to the public. Pronghorn reintroduced to the island.
1997: 23 Bighorn sheep reintroduced to the island.
2000: Fielding Garr Ranch reopens to the public.
2003: 99 Pronghorn antelope reintroduced to island to increase herd size.
Volunteer & Service
Current Hosting Needs
Hosts: Positions: Gift Shop, Visitor Center (Information), Fielding Garr Ranch Host, Volunteer Curator, Volunteer Naturalist
Months Needed: Year-round
Adopt a Park
- For information please contact Ranger Ellen Labotka at email@example.com.
Volunteer Naturalist Position Application
Volunteer Curator Position Application
Volunteer Ranch Visitor Services Position