The Great Salt Lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. At present level, the Great Salt Lake is about 75 miles long and about 35 miles wide. Located in several large and flat basins, a slight rise in the water level significantly increases the surface area of the lake. The first scientific measurements were taken in 1849 and since then the lake level has fluctuated by 20 feet, moving the shore in some places up to 15 miles.
Life in the great salt lake
“There is no life in the Great Salt Lake!”? This is even said by people who KNOW about harvesting the brine shrimp from the lake itself! It is still a mystery how animals are supposed to survive without a primary producer to provide them with food and oxygen. Well it is now safe to say that wherever there is natural water, no matter how good it is, there will be life. In recent years, we have discovered life in places where we thought it was impossible. When we first discovered life in extreme environments, we still resisted the fact that they were active and not passive in such contexts. We now have proof that living organisms can not only tolerate but prefer extreme environments. Bacteria, and sometimes algae, have been found under extreme conditions: cold water (psychrophiles), hot water (thermophiles), highly acidic environments (acidophilic), high hydrostatic pressures such as on the ocean floor (barophiles) , and in high salt concentrations such as the Great Salt Lake (halophiles). In fact, the salt concentration of the Great Salt Lake is too low to support high populations of certain algae as we will see later. Lakes like the Great Salt Lake which are hypersaline are considered rather simple ecosystems with a simple food web because they contain fewer species than freshwater lakes.
In Salt Lake City, the summers are hot, dry, and mostly clear and the winters are very cold and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 23°F to 93°F and is rarely below 10°F or above 100°F. The best time of year to visit Salt Lake City for warm-weather activities is from mid June to early September.
Facts about the Great Salt Lake
- Its sheer size dwarfs any other body of water on the western side of the country. It starts near the northernmost part of the state and makes its way gradually in a southeastern direction.
- With an average depth of only 14 feet, it doesn’t take much to adjust everything from its volume to its width and length. But on average, the lake is about 75 miles long from north to south and about 28 miles at its widest point from east to west.
- This large body of water has a varying salinity between 5% and 27% based on how full it is at the time. This places it among the top ten saltiest bodies of water in the entire world.
- Occasionally you’ll see gulls and other migratory birds that come to feast on brine flies. These flies tend to gather around the edge of the lakeshore and have been estimated with a population of over one hundred billion in the area.
- With the flow between the north and south restricted, the north side of the lake became much saltier than that of the south, leading to the growth of red algae which caused the pink color to appear. But within the past couple of years, a breach was created between the two sides in an attempt to regulate the free flow and water levels.
Best Things To Do
The salt level will cause you to comfortably float on the surface with nothing but a few rice-sized brine shrimp to keep you company. Bridger Bay Beach is one of the most popular spots for swimming, picnics, and lounging on the soft sand. Many visitors enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking on the lake for both recreation and exercise. Others take out their sailboats or go with loved ones on a romantic dinner cruise. A great stop for a day visit is Antelope Island, where you can go horseback riding, hiking, and even head a bit further inland for a possible glance at some free roaming buffalo.
Why is the Great Salt Lake half red and half blue?
The water north of the causeway is a deep red, reflecting its highly saline chemistry. The 20-mile rock-filed roadbed isolated the lake’s Gunnison Bay, allowing salinity levels to reach saturation levels, while the South Arm—with its regular infusion of fresh water from the Bear, Weber and Jordan rivers—has much lower salinity that rises and falls with fluctuating lake levels. An eastbound freight train as it approaches the causeway’s western terminal on Promontory Point, cutting a line between the contrasting waters of the lake’s North and South arms. The red hue of the North Arm comes from a type of bacteria, called halophilic bacteria, that just flourishes when the salt level rises.