Antelope Island is one of the Parks on my Top Ten Utah State Parks to Photograph Before I Die. You can see more pictures from our Antelope Island trip here.
It consists of over 28,000 acres of low mountains, grasslands, marshes, and sand dunes with the Frary peak reaching an elevation of 6,596 feet (2,010 m), which is about 2,500 feet (762 m) above the level of the lake (4200ft).
Antelope Island has 40 major freshwater springs found primarily on the East side, producing 36 million gallons of water each year.
Prehistoric people inhabited the island over 6,000 years ago. Shoshone and Goshute Indians used to live on or near Antelope Island. A son of Ute Chief Wanship and his family was living on Antelope Island when the Fremont expedition explored the lake in 1845.
Jim Bridger and Etienne Provost become the first recorded white men to see the lake in 1824 but the first known non-Native American exploration of Antelope Island was in 1845 by John C. Fremont and Kit Carson.
The more popular stories claim that they named the island after observing several pronghorn antelope grazing on the rangelands. Other stories claim that they hunted and killed two antelope and thus named the island.
Three years after the Fremont Expedition, in 1848, Fielding Garr established the first permanent residence on Antelope Island and the island was continually inhabited until 1981. The Fielding Garr ranch still stands on Antelope Island and is Utah’s oldest Anglo-built structure still standing on its existing foundation. It represents 135 years of western ranching history and is the oldest continually inhabited Anglo home in the state of Utah (from 1848 to 1981 when the island became a state park)
Utah State Parks purchased the northern 2,000 acres of the island in 1969, and the remainder in 1981 when Antelope Island State Park was established as part of the Utah State Parks system making it the largest State Park in Utah.
American Bison were introduced to the island in 1893 and roam wild. They have since grown to a herd fluctuating between 550 and 700, making it one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the nation.
The Antelope Island bison herd is also recognized as one of the oldest in the country and possesses unique genetic characteristics making it of interest to breeders.
By the 1930s the island’s namesake had disappeared from Antelope Island. In 1993, a cooperative effort between the Utah divisions of Wildlife Resources and the State Parks and Recreation resulted in the reintroduction of 24 pronghorn antelope.
By the 1995 fawning season the population had nearly doubled in size. It is hoped that predation from coyotes, bobcats, and eagles will act as population control for the pronghorn on the island. Long-term research by Weber State University monitors the population, helps determine critical habitat and studies behavioral traits of the species.
Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
The Utah State Parks’ Antelope Island State Park Brochure contains the following guide:
- January – Bald eagles, chuckar partridge, winter ducks: common golden eyes, occasional scoters, and old squaws
- February – Coyote Pairs, bald eagles, winter raptors: prairie falcons, rough-legged hawks; winter song birds: occasional snow buntings, long spurs, horned larks, rosy finches
- March – Bald Eagles, first returning migratory birds arrive, California Gulls, pelicans, colonial bird nesting activity on Egg and White Rock Islands
- April – Bison calves, returning avocets, stilts, sanderlings, eared grebes in breeding plumage, phalaropes, peregrine falcons
- May – Pronghorn fawns, bighorn sheep lambs, migratory birds, burrowing owls, long-billed curlews, willets, arriving migrants at ranch
- June – Deer fawns, Canada geese goslings, arriving migrants at ranch, water bird viewing along shoreline
- July – Wilson phalaropes peak, foraging behavior and water bird activity increasing, large animal activity slows down due to heat
- August – Bison mating, returning shorebirds, pelican activity seen over island
- September – Eared grebes and waterfowl returns, phalaropes, Franklin gulls, migrating raptors, pronghorn harems, mature buck deer sightings
- October – Bison roundup, eared grebes, brine shrimp harvest
- November – Bison in corrals, eared grebes, pelicans leaving
- December – Coyote sightings, bison bull bachelor groups on north end, porcupines in Russian olives; wintering ducks; northern shovelers
Facilities include a marina, beach picnic area and primitive camping areas. RVs are welcome but there are no hookups. The campgrounds have vault toilets.
Water is available at the Bridger Bay Beach area on the sides of the beach buildings. Showers are also available at the beach area.
At Bridger Bay on the north end of the island, you can grab a buffalo burger, enjoy a buffalo bratwurst, or eat one of the other scrumptious offerings at the Island Buffalo Grill. You can also become a fan on Facebook at “Antelope Island Buffalo Grill.”
- Lakeside Trail: 5.6 miles easy with a few rocky areas, non-motorized, hiking, biking, equestrian
- Buffalo Point Trail: 0.5 miles moderate with a long slope, non-motorized, hiking only
- White Rock Bay Loop Trail: 7.5 miles moderate with long slopes, non-motorized, hiking, biking, equestrian
- Elephant Head Spur: 2.85 miles moderate to difficult
- Split Rock Loop Spur: 5 miles moderate to difficult with steep switchbacks and a long slope
- Mountain View Trail: 23 miles easy with four points of access, non-motorized, hiking, biking, equestrian
- Frary Peak Trail: 6.5 miles moderate-difficult with steep and rough terrain, non-motorized, hiking only
How to Get There
Antelope Island State Park is seven miles west of I-15 exit #332 near Layton.
Park Hours and Fees
- May through September – 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- October - 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- November through February - 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- March - 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- April - 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Visitor Center and Fielding Garr Ranch Hours:
- April 15 to September 14 - 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- September 15 to April 14 - 9a.m. to 5 p.m.
Park entrance fee – $9 per vehicle, $3 for walk-ins and cyclists.
Camping fee – $13
- Antelope Island State Park, 4528 West 1700 South, Syracuse 84075, 801-773-2941.
- For camping reservations, call 800-322-3770.
- Utah: Ten suggested things to do (telegraph.co.uk)
- Utah auction of 200 bison nets state $300K ()
- Henry Mountain Bison Collared (shadowwolf32.wordpress.com)
- Utah Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Advisory Council Seeks New Representative (shadowwolf32.wordpress.com)
- Audit questions state park efficiency ()