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The Great Salt Lake is eight times saltier than the ocean and second only to the Dead Sea in salinity. What makes it so briny? There's no outlet to the ocean, so salts and other minerals carried by rivers and streams become concentrated in this enormous evaporation pond. Ready access to this wonder is possible at Great Salt Lake State Park, 16 miles west of Salt Lake City, on the lake's south shore.
The fickle nature of the Great Salt Lake is evident here. From the marina you will see a large, Moorish-style pavilion to the north. This pavilion was built to re-create the glory days of the lake from the 1890s to the 1950s, when first the train, then automobiles, brought thousands of people here for entertainment. Floating in the lake was the biggest draw, but ballroom dancing and an amusement park made for a day's recreation. In addition, three resorts made this a popular place, despite varying lake levels. It was the decline of ballroom dancing together with a severe drop in the
lake level that spelled the end of the pavilion's run in the 1960s. In 1981 the present pavilion, souvenir shop, and a dance floor were built. Two years later record flooding made an island of the pavilion. It sits on dry land today, but its current owners have been unable to re-create its former stature.
The state park used to manage the beaches north of the pavilion, but the lake is too shallow here for convenient floating. The picnic beaches on Antelope Island State Park are the best places to float. If you can't take the time to get to Antelope Island, which is 25 miles north of Salt Lake City, however, you can walk down the boat ramp at the Great Salt Lake State Marina and stick your legs in the water to experience the unique sensation of floating on water that won't let you sink. Your feet will bob to the surface, and you will see tiny orange brine shrimp floating with you. You can also rent boats and stand-up paddleboards here. Shower off at the marina.
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