Animals Bird watching Camping Utah State Parks

Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island State Park

We had an awesome day at Antelope Island State Park today. As avid birders, we are really excited to visit the island every spring. There are a lot of activities there, including the beach, hiking, a Visitor’s Center with a Junior Ranger Program, camping, bird watching and other wildlife viewing, and a historical ranch.

 

Animals

I’ll start with the animal viewing and bird watching, because that is our favorite part of Antelope Island. The lake is really low this year due to the drought, but you can still see many birds along the causeway as you drive out to the island. We saw geese, sandhill cranes, and long-billed curlews right where you pay your fee ($10 per vehicle). A little farther along we got really lucky and saw a coyote running alongside the van about 25 yards away. We rolled along with him for probably a mile, and he (or she) was absolutely gorgeous– usually coyotes look about as raggedy as Wile E Coyote from the cartoons.

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This was a pretty coyote.

 

Later we saw several other mammals, including cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits, pronghorn antelope, and the island’s specialty, bison. These are a major attraction, and there are 500-700 on the island. They also claim deer and the more rare bighorn sheep, which were transplanted to the island in the late ’90s. We haven’t seen the big horns, though.

Lots of people come to see the Bison!

Lots of people come to see the Bison!

We were super-excited for all the birds we saw. Here is a list:

Mourning Dove

Canadian Goose

Starling

Crow

California Gull

Green-winged Teal

Tree Swallow

Barn Swallow

Loggerhead Shrike

 

Great Blue Heron

Chukar

American Avocet

Willet

Cinnamon Teal

Eared Grebe

Northern Shoveler

Western Meadowlark

Cormorants

Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

White Crowned Sparrow

Long-Billed Curlew

Magpie

White Pelican

Red-Tailed Hawk

Burrowing Owl

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Western Meadowlark–they have the most beautiful song.

We saw tons of Chukars. They are a really fun sighting.

We saw tons of Chukars. They are a really fun sighting.

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We have never seen Burrowing Owls before. We saw 4 different owls. It was awesome!

 

We were especially excited about the burrowing owls, because it was a first for us. They are hanging out near the Visitor’s Center. (Take a left as you leave the Visitor’s Center and go toward the RV dump station. There are a few burrows built on the left side of the road. You might be as lucky as we were!)

 

Beach 

We ate at the Buffalo Island Grill, which has really good food. Our family of 5 ate for $35. They even serve a real buffalo burger, but I am partial to their BLT! This restaurant is only open Spring through Fall, and they are only open from 12-4 pm, so don’t plan on dinner on the island. You can check their Facebook page before you go to make sure they are open because sometimes weather will even close them up. Sorry we didn’t snap photos of our food, but it is really delicious.

 

Next we headed down to the beach. With the water level so low this year, we had to walk almost a half-mile one way to get to the water, but the boys loved throwing rocks and wading. At the wrong time of the year, the midges and brine flies will carry you right off the beach, but we didn’t see a bug today. You could easily spend a couple of hours just down by the water. It’s amazing how shallow it is, too. You could probably walk out into the Great Salt Lake for miles without it getting above your waist (you’d likely be up to your ears in mud, though!) Lots of people love to wade in the Great Salt Lake or like our boys…taste it!

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You can walk right down to the Great Salt Lake from the restaurant parking area.

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When we went a few years ago, we had to do a little more wading in the water to get to the lake. This year was bone dry.

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We love walking the shore, wading, and throwing rocks here at the beach.

 

There is tons of sand near the restaurant and on the entire walk down to the water, so bring some sand toys for young kids. We always forget ours, but all that our kids want to do, other than throw rocks in the water, is dig in the sand.

The sand is nice and soft!

The sand is nice and soft in some places. Other places have lots of rocks, so look for a good spot.

 

Hikes

We also hiked a few hikes near the Visitor’s Center. There is a short 1/4 mile hike that takes you to an overlook for Egg Island.  It is a simple trail but there are a few rocks to climb.  You can walk out and look over the Great Salt Lake. There is a small parking lot just before the Visitor’s Center where this trail starts.

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There trail is flat, but a little rocky.

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There is a pretty view from the overlook.

 

We also walked a small trail right behind the Visitor’s Center (I don’t think it has a name on their trail map). If you walk out the back of the Visitor’s Center to the end of the paved trail, there is a small information sign. If you go slightly to the left you will see a trail leading down into the rocky terrain surrounding the Visitor’s Center. The trail is simple and easy. You can hear the people back at the Visitor’s Center the whole time, but we did see a jack rabbit and a cottontail, as well as many birds on this trail.

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This small trail makes a small loop just below the Visitor’s Center. The trail is defined like that the whole way.

The other hike that we tried was Buffalo Point. This trail climbs up a small peak and then you can walk across the peak to an viewpoint for the Great Salt Lake on both sides. Our boys loved this hike because there were lots of rocks that they could climb. The trail is steep on the way up, but across Buffalo Point it is flat and relaxing. This trail is .6 roundtrip. At the trailhead for this hike there is a deck that has picnic tables if you bring your own lunch.

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The first half of the hike climbs up to that flat.

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Once you’re on the top, it’s flat as you walk across.

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There are some beautiful views from the top of Buffalo Point.

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Our boys LOVED climbing on all the rocks.

 

Fielding Garr Ranch

The Fielding Garr Ranch is also located on the island. It is a bit of a drive from the Visitor’s Center because it’s all the way at the southern end. The ranch is no longer a working ranch, but you can still see the old buildings and the farm house. We always love seeing old pioneer relics, and the old farm equipment is very interesting. Our boys have two favorite activities here: one is ringing the old bell, and the other is trying to rope the wooden cattle. Even grandpa loved this activity. As far as animals, there are a few horses, and we always see deer here for some reason. Supposedly there are Great Horned Owls that live up in the silo, but we have never seen them. There is a huge grassy area where you can picnic or let the kids run wild for a little bit.

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There is one building filled with old farm equipment and pioneer antiques.

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They love ringing that bell!

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Inside the old farmhouse, there are lots of fun things to see including this old record player.

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We had tons of fun trying to rope these cattle.

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There are horses down at the ranch still.

 

Visitor’s Center

The Visitor’s Center is very small, but they do have a Junior Ranger program geared for ages 4-12. The small museum has information on the brine shrimp and the salt in the lake. There is also a table with different animals bones or horns that is always fun because it’s a hands-on activity. You are allowed to touch and hold anything on the table. Our favorite part of the Visitor’s Center is the bird feeder. There is a large window where you can watch the birds. We even saw big chukars coming to the feeder. The ranger told us that there is a rabbit that lives in the rock behind the feeder so if you are there early you can see him. We did not, but we watched for a long time. You can also watch the movie which is 15 minutes long and is filled with interesting facts about the Island. If you decide to do the Junior Ranger program, make sure to bring a small bag to collect garbage as that is one of the activities for all ages to complete.

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You can’t miss the Visitor’s Center. It’s one of the few buildings on the island.

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Inside the Visitor’s Center is small, but informative.

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We had fun touching all the items on the table.

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We had fun watching the birds here. In the background, you can see the road that drives out to Antelope Island through the Great Salt Lake.

2 Comments

    • The midges are worst in the spring (around late April and early May) but they are never really good. You’ll see them a lot during the year, especially if you go to the beach. –UAF–