My mom texted me the other weekend and said, “Do you want to have a picnic on the beach?”

For half a second I thought Mom, my sister and I would transport to California and spend a miraculous evening on the beach, watch the sunset, and then transport back to Utah. But then I remembered I live in Utah. And there are no beaches. Except for the Great Salt Lake.

I texted her back with a stubborn “…Fine” mumble mumble, we’ll go to this so-called “beach.” And she texted back, “Great! Bring a towel and a swimsuit!”
We drove to Antelope Island and found a small parking lot next to the sand. To my surprise, there were no bugs. None! We put our flip flops on and walked to the water.
“Okay, time to get in,” Mom said.
We slowly walked into the water. I looked down and expected to see the the clumps of brine shrimp. I saw a few, but not enough to bother me. Not enough that could swim into unpleasant areas. (…I wore a one piece just for that reason). Three steps in and they were all gone. Just clear water.

So let’s back track. Here are all of the things the majority of Utahns will tell you about the Great Salt Lake:

-Brine shrimp. How can you swim when you’re worried about them getting into your swimsuit?
-Giant mosquitos.
-Giant flies.
-The salt burns.
-Mucky dirt and sand.

But hold on. Here’s what they don’t tell you:

-You don’t have to swim because you float. If you bend your knees and lean back, you can float there all day. You don’t even have to get your hair wet.
-It is silent. It’s just you and the water lifting you up.
-The water is so clear. You can’t even see the horizon. The sky and water are one.
-Everything is white.
-The water is warm. So, so warm.
-Birds of all kind fly past you.

Photo by One Magpie

Here’s how to “do” The Great Salt Lake the right way.

1. Go in late summer/early fall. 
The bugs are gone and the water is still warm!

2. Bring bug spray.
You won’t have the major bug issue, but mosquitos will still get you during sunset.

Me taking a picture of  Magpie while we run away from mosquitos. 

3. Ignore the shrimp. 
Take five bigs steps into the water and the shrimpies will be gone. They hang out where the waves take them and that’s on the shore.

4. …And the smell. 
Haha! The point is, once you’re in the water, you can’t smell anything (because then you’re smelly…) And once you’re in the water, you’re not going to be thinking about anything except that you are floating. Floating!

5. Bring extra clothes. 
Because of all of the salt and good ol’ lakey stuff, it’s a good idea to bring extra clothes to change out of soon after. Unfortunately it’s not like Hawaii, where you can get out and wear your swimsuit all day.

6. Keep your head above the water. 
The Great Salt Lake is SALTY. If you have any cuts on you, you might feel them burn a little bit, so don’t get that water in your eyes. Once you’re ready to float, just bring your legs up and lean back a little and your head will stay dry.

7. Pick up your feet and float! 
It’s not a sandy floor at the bottom of the lake–kind of goopy, :). So pick up your legs whenever you’re ready to float and the floor won’t bother you.

8. Stay for the sunset. 
Nothing is better than a sunset on water. 

9. Check out the bison! 
Go to antelope island where a herd of bison has been hanging out since the late 1800s. There are tons of other animals like antelope (duh), bighorn sheep, foxes, and more.

10. Take your bikes. 
The water is beautiful, but also the landscape. You can bike around the whole island. Again, this is a good time for early spring or late fall so the big bugs don’t get you!

It is so worth it. I can’t believe I spent 21 years of my life without it. The best thing about swimming in the lake is that you don’t realize how beautiful it is until you’re in it. I couldn’t capture the moment for you, so do it yourself and tell me all about it.

Thanks for taking me, Mom!

For more of the Great Salt Lake, check out my winter sunset post.

Have you been to the Great Salt Lake? What was your experience?
What are your favorite local places in your towns? I’d love to hear!


  1. Thanks for this post, I’ve never read anyone write anything about the Great Salt Lake other than about racing cars on the salt flats. It is like it doesn’t exist for the rest of Utah.
    I admire your mom for thinking this up. Smart lady.

    • I couldn’t believe it. I tried googling “swim great salt lake” and there’s only like three posts (other than the .gov sites) that talk about it. A lot of my foreign exchange friends ask about it all the time, and I always felt bad saying “meh, it’s not all that great.” I’m kind of determined to try out the other things to do in Utah that we “sort of” now about. Have a good week, Heather.

  2. Floating on the great salt lake is the best; it’s all you say. I missed the sunset, though. I’ll have to go again.

    • The sunset was gorgeous. I want to hit up the bird refuge soon!

  3. Paula Parker

    I love your optimism. It made my day! Beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks Paula. 🙂

  4. All photos are so beautiful! I would love to go for a swim there as the water looks so clean and calm. Such a great place to spend a day!

    • Yes, definitely an adventure!

  5. I can’t believe I didn’t know go the whole time I lived in Utah because everyone told me it was awful. We will have to put it on the list next time we visit.

    • Yes. It is nasty and gross. And totally worth it. 😉

  6. That looks so fun! I would love to make my way to Utah – it looks so beautiful! And your pictures are absolutely gorgeous – I am so impressed! Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you, Morgan! Love following you!

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