ANTELOPE ISLAND, Davis County — Even though Antelope Island is known for its large population of buffalo, few people know the island has so much to offer.
The Great Salt Lake is an important stop for migratory birds, and a lot of people come to Antelope Island to see dozens of different species. One group visiting the island Thursday came to learn more about the birds and how to protect the various species.
"We were here for two hours and I'd seen 50 species," said teacher Michael Francis.
Francis is from Saskatchewan, Canada, and is a science teacher at a small school. He was hoping to bring whatever he learned on Antelope Island back to his students.
"To show how the different birds go from one place to the other and how the environment on one might affect the environment in the other," Francis said.
Even though the bird trip was a lot of fun for Francis' group, it is also something they feel is very important. The visitors are a group of teachers from Canada, Mexico and the United States learning about the migratory patterns of the various birds who breed in Canada and then go to Mexico for the winter. Along the way, the birds stop at the Great Salt Lake during their migration.
I hope they preserve (Antelope Island) forever. It's worth keeping.
"The hardest part in this job we face is going back home and teaching our own people the importance of where they live," said Lori Wilson, who works at a nature center in Canada.
Since birds don't know borders, what happens environmentally in one country could affect them during their migration to another country.
"The border provide us no use in terms of conservation," said Weber State University zoology professor John Cavitt.
Cavitt said, in Utah, Antelope Island has the reputation "as being a wasteland." However, he said, worldwide, scientists know how important it is for birds.
"I hope they preserve (Antelope Island) forever," Wilson said. "It's worth keeping."
And while Antelope Island is known worldwide for its migratory birds, the island has an estimated 300,000 people visit each year, with approximately 60 percent of visitors not from Utah. Park managers say it is a popular place with lots to offer.
The island will never be mistaken for Yellowstone, unless free-roaming buffalo was all you saw.
"It's amazing," said California resident Janelle Eimer. "I just love God's creatures."
Eimer is with a photography group from California, who came to Antelope Island to see the buffalo in person.
Once (Utahns) get out here and they experience that, I think that need for facilities and utilities goes away and they actually appreciate what this place is.
"He's just so peaceful, sitting there just in the moment in the midst of all of us, not disturbed at all," Eimer said.
The island houses approximately 500 buffalo and is the main attraction of the place. However, there is also a beach. It will never be mistaken for Cancun or the Caribbean, but it does have its own beauty.
"It's pure nature and silence," said Michael Kleinau from Germany.
Kleinau is making a trip throughout the western United States and Antelope Island was high on his list because he wanted a chance to swim in the Great Salt Lake. He couldn't believe how swimming in salt water was so different.
"You swim and the head, the head is dry," he said. "It's beautiful. It's beautiful."
The island is also a great place to go camping, enjoy picnic areas and to relax at the restaurant Buffalo Point, which sits on the highest point of Antelope Island. Despite the numerous things to do on the island, many Utahns believe there is not much to do.
"Once (Utahns) get out here and they experience that, I think that need for facilities and utilities goes away and they actually appreciate what this place is," said Jeremy Shaw.