Desert Islands

A Salty Salt Lake Trip — July 2021

7 min read by Peter Reilly.
Published on .

While working on my rotating two-week shift in Jal, New Mexico, I sat behind a computer screen at midnight on a frac pad, already pondering what to do in the two weeks when I get off work. I looked at the cheapest flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and low and behold Salt Lake City, Utah caught my eye. I brought two Fujifilm 35mm QuickSnap Superia X-TRA 400 disposable cameras along for the journey.

Frary Peak, Antelope Island.

I had never been to Salt Lake City before, and didn’t know anything about the place other than it was probably really hot, dry, and that there was this really salty lake there. But where there’s a large body of water, there is the potential for islands right?

Looking South towards Antelope Island, Fremont Island.

It turns out that the Great Salt Lake has four main islands. Antelope Island State Park, Stansbury Island, Fremont Island, and Carrington Island. Due to the low water levels, these islands more or less have salty sand bars from mainland Utah that one can walk across without getting your feet wet. Antelope Island and Stansbury Island have road access while Fremont and Carrington Islands only have access via the salty sand bar, water, or air. I had a choice to make, what islands should I visit, how shall I get there, and for how long?

West Jetty, Antelope Island Marina.

I finally came to the conclusion that if I got off of work in Jal, New Mexico at 4:30 AM Wednesday morning, I could get back to my car early enough to make the six-hour drive to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and catch a 2:30 PM direct flight to Salt Lake City, Utah.

I choose to rent a sit-in kayak and a Uhaul van to use as my means to transport myself, the kayak, and to house myself at night. I choose to do a three-day trip; the first day to arrive and grab the Uhaul/Kayak/Antelope Island campsite, the second day to make the 14-mile round trip kayak crossing from Antelope Island to Fremont Island and hike the tallest point on Fremont (Castle Rock), and the third day to hike the tallest point on Antelope Island (Frary Peak) and make it back to the airport to fly back home to Dallas.

Frary Peak Trail Head, Antelope Island.

The white Uhaul van can be seen in the early morning Utah light.

Frary Peak, Antelope Island, looking out towards White Rock Bay.
Lake Crossing from Fremont back to Antelope.
Castle Rock, Fremont Island.

Fremont Island has not always been open to the public. It was recently bought by the state of Utah from a private owner. This allowed the island to be part of public lands. The airstrips on the island are often switching between being open and close due to things like fire hazards or poor sportsmanship of visitors. Water levels are so shallow near the islands that even boats cannot make landfall. Kayaking seemed like the optimal choice for visiting this island.

Making landfall on Fremont Island.

In the above picture, there is a flying seagull, and just below and to the left of this bird is a dark-colored rock. This rock is Castle Rock, the highest point on the salty island, in which I was setting out to climb.

Looking south towards Antelope Island on the shore of Fremont Island.
Old Cabin on Fremont Island.
Antelope Island in the distance, Fremont Island.

What isn’t very clear in these disposable films are the immense heat, ungodly smell, and unlimited supply of bugs. Not a cloud in the sky during the kayak journey nor the island walk. Little nats and flies covered my sweaty shoulders, hat, arms, and hands. The bugs knew that my sweat was the freshest water around town. I was very glad to have gotten the mosquito net to protect my face from being covered by the bugs.

Fremont Island in the far distance.
Frary Peak, Antelope Island.
Antelope Island.
Sunset Gull, Antelope Island.
Shurbs, Fremont Island.
Antelope Island.

I believe if you have an itch to do something a little crazy, with enough passion you can make anything happen. A short trip to the Great Salt Lake definitely scratched the itch of getting outdoors, breaking the monotony of life, and serving as a creative outlet as a photographer.

Thank you for viewing this salty analog series.