Winter wonderland on Antelope Island

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A hawk (I think) gazing across frozen Great Salt Lake toward Antelope Island

I had never heard of Antelope Island until my trip to Utah last year. This largest island on the Great Salt Lake (about 40 sq miles) in the summer provides a great place for hiking, biking, horseback riding and everything in between with miles of picturesque trails. But a visit there in winter is also well worth it – breathtaking in fact. First, there is getting there. Driving on a narrow road that connects the island to Salt Lake City mainland is like skating seven miles straight across a giant empty ice-rink. Frozen lake surface is bare and quiet, dotted only by a few moving black spots. Just squint your eyes… coyotes. Once you’re there the key attraction is a free-roaming herd of 500 bisons. Introduced on the island in 1893 (just 12 animals to start with brought there by boat – I guess they liked this romantic seclusion), today they are an intergal part of the landscape. Seeing dozens of them just hanging out in a distance, their dark silhouettes sharply contrasting with milky white show and the backdrop of the island’s mountainous interior is quite unreal.

Grazing on clumps of dry grass that peak through the snow, bisons for the most part mind their own business, treating awe-struck, picture-snapping visitors with utter indifference. But occasionally one of them standing closer to the road looks up right at you with indeterminate intent in the eye. There wasn’t really a good reason to be scared given how tame those bisons are but let’s just say I made a few hasty retreats to the car nonetheless after such stare-downs. Looking at the bisons in a strange way also made me homesick. Białowieża forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site in eastern Poland on the border with Belarus, is home to over 450 European bison. It is also the source of world-famous bison grass that lends its unique flavor to Żubrówka, traditional Polish vodka and my personal favorite. Unfortunately the real Żubrówka is not available in the U.S. (only adulterated versions) due to a hard to justify FDA restriction regarding the chemical compound coumarin that comes from the bison grass that makes Żubrówka what it is – but I digress.

Antelope Island bisons

You don’t often see this sign

This guy makes me nervous =)

Although bisons are definitely number one attraction here, Antelope Island is also home to many other animals: its namesake pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, badgers, bobcats, deer, rabbits, and dozens of different bird species. Our most memorable close encounter was with a porcupine. My husband and I spotted this funny looking creature on a tree branch and for the life of us couldn’t figure out what it was. Our best guess was a cross between a beaver and a giant hedgehog =)

As we were driving around the island, we also saw something truly unexpected – a wedding. A wedding photo session to be exact. Apparently the place was chosen by a local couple as the backdrop for commemorating their most special day. I can’t blame them. The haunting, austere beauty of snow-shrouded island makes this place really unforgettable. I truly admired the bride for enduring the January temperature in a wedding dress but the sacrifice was worth it. Judge for yourself – I couldn’t resist crashing the party with my uninvited lens:

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6 responses »

  1. I was reading through the Almost Fearless travel blog, and when I saw the screen shot of your blog highlighting Antelope Island, I wondered if it was “our” Antelope Island. Indeed it is! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Pingback: Into the Dreamscape of Antelope Island « Transplanted Tatar

  3. Pingback: San Diego beyond the zoo | Sandstone and amber

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