Where the Buffalo Roam

Where the buffalo roam.

Both of my children were born in a hospital with a birds-eye-view of the Salt Lake Valley sprawling from the base of the building, the mountainous Wasatch front ringing the eastern half of the valley and The Great Salt Lake to the west.

Salt Lake and its surrounding suburbs are known for many things including pioneers, Mormons, the greatest snow on earth and, of course, The Great Salt Lake.

The Great Salt Lake is one of the most asked about tourist destinations in Utah. The lake, the largest between the Great Lakes and the Pacific ocean is also the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. It’s so massive in size that early settlers, the pioneers, at first thought it was the Pacific ocean. The lake’s salinity is so high (several times saltier than ocean water) people float fairly easily on the surface of the water.

One of The Great Salt Lake’s largest attractions is Antelope Island. The state park is just northwest of Salt Lake City. To get there you drive out over a long causeway, a road that stretches through The Great Salt Lake. The only other way to reach the island is by boat.

One of our family’s favorite activities when we lived in Utah was loading up the car and heading to Antelope Island in search of buffalo and other wildlife that abounds. It is like no place you’ve ever been on Earth, in fact, it doesn’t even look like Earth especially in wintertime when it resembles another planet the likes of which you’ve probably seen featured in an old episode of Star Trek. But whether snowy or sunny, as you’ll see in my photos below, Antelope Island State Park is like no place you’ve ever seen before.

Wildlife is everywhere on Antelope Island and in the lake’s shoreline marshes. Bison, antelope, deer, bobcats, coyotes, and elk roam freely on the island and are often seen by visitors. One time, as Serge and Violet waited in the car, I army-crawled to within twenty feet of an enormous bison and snapped photos as he nonchalantly munched some grass. You can see the resulting photo in the slideshow below. Truly, where else can you get within feet of a buffalo?!

Wildlife isn’t the only high point of a visit to Antelope Island. As mentioned, the white sandy beaches are a great place to catch some rays or have a picnic. Campers can watch sunrises and sunsets in virtual isolation mere minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. Hiking, biking and horseback trails lead to scenic points on the island. A marina serves sailboats, powerboats and kayakers.

Aside from spotting buffalo, hiking and playing on the beach one of the fun things to do with kids is take a tour of the Fielding Garr Ranch, still operational on the island. First built in 1848 by a Mormon settler, you can tour the ranch and see what life was like for folks who lived there more than a hundred years ago.

Antelope Island was one of our favorite ways to spend the day when we lived in Utah, which is why I’m so excited about Coca-Cola’s third annual America is Your Park campaign. Your vote can help your favorite park win the title of “America’s Favorite Park” and a $100,000 recreation grant from Coca-Cola. Every park has a chance, it just takes community action. Last year more than 13 million votes helped Oak Park in the tiny town of Minot, North Dakota win. The reason? Community involvement. Spread the word on Facebook, go to your favorite park and pass out fliers, call your local news station and tell them the story. A little of that goes a long way… and so does $100,000 big ones.

To vote for your favorite park all you’ve gotta do is click here. They even have a leaderboard that shows you which parks are getting the most votes, that way you can keep track of how your park is doing. If you want to join me in voting for Antelope Island State Park (or your own favorite park), click here!

Take a look at my favorite photos of Antelope Island State Park in Utah that I’ve taken over the years.

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  • White Beaches 1 of 18
    White Beaches
    This almost looks like a scene from a tropical destination, doesn't it? You'd never think this is a scene from Utah, home of "the greatest snow on Earth".
  • The Great Salt Lake 2 of 18
    The Great Salt Lake
    That's Serge with the lake and the mainland to his back.
  • Northern Part of Antelope Island 3 of 18
    Northern Part of Antelope Island
    This is the Northern tip of Antelope Island where camping and beach play is most popular. You can see that on this day the water was very low, which makes for a long walk to the beach.
  • Bison! 4 of 18
    Bison!
    This is a typical bison sighting on Antelope Island.
  • Snowscape 5 of 18
    Snowscape
    Like I said, Antelope Island resembles another planet, especially in winter. This causeway is the only way to get to Antelope Island by vehicle. This shot is taken from the island, looking back toward mainland and Salt Lake City which is tucked away in the Wasatch Mountain range.
  • Where The Buffalo Roam 6 of 18
    Where The Buffalo Roam
    These photographs don't do the actual size of these big boys justice. They're huge. They're actually the largest animals in North America (BisonWorld.org)
  • Grazing 7 of 18
    Grazing
    Buffalo will generally ignore you if you mind your business and don't get too close but if you see one raise its tail then you better go on about your business because that means you're agitating the animal and he just might charge you if he's feeling frisky. I've seen a few raised tails in my time and know that this is when the picture taking comes to an end.
  • Fast Runners 8 of 18
    Fast Runners
    Although they appear large and slow they're actually quite fast and can generally run about three times faster than a human. Which means, you know, LOOK OUT, if you make him mad because he can catch you. They're also quite agile and can jump over fences as high as six feet.
  • Family Fun! 9 of 18
    Family Fun!
    This is Serge and Violet during one of our many trips to Antelope Island
  • Tourist Attraction 10 of 18
    Tourist Attraction
    Antelope Island is one of the first places we take any out-of-state visitors. Grammy and Pop-Pop were fascinated and said they'd never seen anything like it. Little ones love it too, especially when you warn them to keep their eyes peeled for antelope (who zing around like overgrown rabbits) and, of course, buffalo.
  • Photo Fun 11 of 18
    Photo Fun
    A buffalo sighting never gets old.
  • Silhouette On The Shade 12 of 18
    Silhouette On The Shade
    This is one of my favorite photos. In the silhouette of his face you can almost see an expression.
  • Home On The Range 13 of 18
    Home On The Range
    There is a still-functioning ranch on Antelope Island that you can tour and visit the animals and see what life was like 100 years ago.
  • Another Silhouette 14 of 18
    Another Silhouette
    Isn't it beautiful country? From sandy beaches to beautiful mountains, all in one small stretch of island.
  • Buffalo Crossing 15 of 18
    Buffalo Crossing
    You don't come across signs like this very often in life.
  • Beach Bums 16 of 18
    Beach Bums
    Another shot of one of Antelope Island's white sand beaches in front of a mountain range. That's the Utah State Bird there, a Seagull. Legend has it the gulls saved the people Utah by eating up hordes of crickets which were destroying the crops in 1848.
  • Old West 17 of 18
    Old West
    I framed this photo and gave it to Serge, who is fascinated by the Old West. It looks like it could be taken straight from a time when Native American Indians and buffalo likely roamed these very same spots.
  • Dogs Love It Too! 18 of 18
    Dogs Love It Too!
    This is Max and Spliffy on one of our many drives around the island. Sometimes we wouldn't even get out of the car, we'd just dry and enjoy the scenery.

This is sponsored content from Babble and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions expressed in the post are my own and not those of Coca-Cola. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Only legal residents of the 50 U.S. (and D.C.) who are at least 13 years old and reside within the U.S. at the time of participation are eligible to vote for a Park. Participate on behalf of a Park by: July 15, 2012. The 3 most popular Parks will be offered a grant and there will be 1 Wild Card drawing at the end of the Contest to award an additional grant. To participate, for Official Rules, and complete details including grant descriptions, visit www.LivePositively.com/parks. Void where prohibited. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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