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Where the Buffalo Roam

By Monica Bielanko |

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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Scenes From Antelope Island State Park

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".

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 Void where prohibited. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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About Monica Bielanko


Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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22 thoughts on “Where the Buffalo Roam

  1. Cici says:

    Gorgeous photos! I have a few friends in Utah, so I’ve visited a few times. The winters are tough, but wow, the vistas.

  2. Wendy says:

    Amazing photos! You’ve basically sold me on a Utah vacation when usually I am strictly an East Coast, European city kind of girl. Well done!

  3. Shanna says:

    Wow, is it weird that i had never heard about antelope island until reading your post? Sounds like we just might have to make a stop off in Utah on our next cross country trip, it looks so beautiful there!

  4. Aviv says:

    That park does look pretty freakin awesome. I’ve wanted to go skiing in Utah for a long time, but have never been able to. But whenever I do make it out (and I will!) I’m definitely gonna do some sight seeing around the GSL. I’m from upstate New York, though, so my votes are going up there!

  5. Sally H. says:

    What am amazing contest! A round of applause for Coca-Cola on forking out $100,00 to renovate and preserve our natural parks. I’m a go-greener, so let’s vote vote vote for the park that needs it most!

  6. Rita says:

    I agree with the other commenter..i never thought utah would be on my list of places to go, but now it is!

  7. cynthia says:

    Okay I feel extremely in awe of these pictures… but also insanely dumb because I had no idea buffalo were still alive and roaming around the US! (I swear I remember something about early pioneers over-hunting them to the point of extinction…) Anyway, thanks for teaching me something new haha

  8. Cecily says:

    I’ve lived in Utah my whole life and I’ve never been to Antelope Island. I think my little girlie and I will have to check it out this summer!

  9. Heather says:

    What an awesome memory!!! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Jessa says:

    wow i really never knew about all the wildlife over there! what a treat for you to be able to experience that…i’m all the way in new york so it might be a while till i make it out there, but now im intrigued!

  11. Carol Ann says:

    Wow — I’ve always wanted to visit all 50 states of the US, and THIS is exactly why! Simply GORGEOUS!!

  12. Stephanie Judith says:

    people are always so quick to want to leave the country for their vacations, the America is sooo diverse in its landscapes and the proof is in these pictures!! WOW

  13. Texas Mom says:

    We have longhorns down here that might amaze some people, but those buffalo are something else! Definitely a must-see!!!

  14. Rosie says:

    LOVE these pictures! We try to take one outdoorsy, adventurous vacation a year (last year it was Yellowstone!) and you’ve got me pushing for Great Salt Lake in the near future!

  15. Selena Mae says:

    Stunning park. I thought we had it good with our beach front park…but the wildlife? White sandy beaches? Jealous.

  16. Amber says:

    Wow. That is stunning. I never knew how beautiful Utah could be. Now I kind of want to book a flight there just to take a gander at this park in person. Plus, I’ve always wanted to see a buffalo. :)

  17. Aela says:

    I went to Salt Lake City when I was 17 (many moons ago…) and I *cannot* believe I didn’t visit the Great Salt Lake when I was there! What was I thinking?? Thanks for reminding me to go back!

  18. laurenjimeson says:

    These are beautiful photos! The park looks amazing! Utah is definitely on my must see list now! Stunning.

  19. marylweimer says:

    Oh wow, what amazing photos. I have always wanted to visit Utah. Someday…

  20. Casi says:

    These photos are beautiful — I am so jealous of the white beaches and LOVE the wildlife. This park makes me really want to go to Utah. Just gorg!

  21. mackicayloma says:

    Your photos have tempted me into putting Antelope Island on my list of must see places. All I can do is think about how much fun my kid would have seeing the wildlife and beauty.

  22. Meghan says:

    I had no idea that such a place existed. How cool! There are buffalo on Catalina Island, here in CA, and it’s always so fun to see them in such a random spot.

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