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ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK — Antelope Island State Park is rich with history and wildlife and offers several activities to get Utahns outdoors.
Antelope Island was named by explorer John C. Fremont in 1845. His group was surveying the Great Salt Lake and surrounding areas, and while staying on the island, they killed and ate an antelope, according to Antelope Island State Park Manager Jeremy Shaw. Fremont decided to pay homage to the island by naming it after the animal.
In 1848, Fielding Garr settled the island and created a ranch where he managed a herd of sheep and cattle that were donated to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as payments of tithing, Shaw said. Garr managed the ranch for around 10 years before it changed ownership. The ranch house he built was converted into a hands-on museum and is the oldest Anglo-built structure in Utah that's still on its original foundation, according to the park website.
The northern 2,000 acres of the island were established as a state park in 1969. The ranch passed from owner to owner until 1981 when it was established as a 28,000-acre state park.
Along with having a rich history, the park offers a variety of activities. Here are a few reasons to visit Antelope Island State Park:
Bison roundup and other wildlife viewing
Antelope Island State Park has a variety of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, badgers and of course, antelope. Bison are the most famous residents of the island, and an annual roundup is held each fall to check the health of the animals and to auction some, Shaw said.
On Oct. 30-31, the animals will be vaccinated, weighed and the cows will be checked for pregnancy. Then the live public auction will be held on Nov. 6-7. Proceeds from the auction are counted as revenue for the park, Shaw said.
Access to Great Salt Lake for water sports
Antelope Island State Park is known as "the best place to experience the Great Salt Lake," Shaw said. The island offers great sandy beaches for locals and tourists wanting to float in the salty water. The park also has a ramp for launching motorized and nonmotorized boats on the north end of the lake.
The park has a concessionaire that rents kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and offers tours of the lake on a jet boat. The tours take between one to four hours.
Hiking, mountain biking and horse riding
The park has 28 miles of trails that can be used for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, Shaw said. The shore is about 4,200 feet in elevation, but hikers can climb to the 6,596-foot summit of Frary Peak, the island's highest point. The 7-mile roundtrip hike will take the better part of a day.
People can also go on guided horseback rides on the trails. R&G Horses offers the horse rides year-round from Fielding Garr Ranch, but in the winter, the rides are by appointment only, Shaw said.
Shaw said the island only gets about 10 inches of snow each year and is a great destination for hiking and mountain biking during the winter months.
"It's a great place for winter recreation if you don't ski or snowshoe," he said.
The park has three campgrounds: White Rock Bay and Bridger Bay. The White Rock Bay Campground has 20 primitive, double capacity campsites that allow campers to have two trailers at the same site, Shaw said. The Bridger Bay Campground is single use and has 28 primitive campsites.
The park recently opened a new campground on Lady Finger Point that offers five primitive campsites that are walk-in only. Campers can't access the sites from a vehicle so they are only for tents.