Swimming in the Great Salt Lake, Utah - Rachel's Crafted Life (2022)

Salt Lake City is named after the Great Salt Lake located nearby. The Great Salt Lake in Utah is the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere and you should probably add swimming in the lake to your Utah itinerary on your next vacation.

The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of the ancient Lake Bonneville which covered 20,000 square miles of land (Utah.com)! Swimming in the Great Salt Lake will take a little bit of planning but here is everything you need to know to make your outing as smooth as possible.

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Can People Swim in The Great Salt Lake?

Yes! It is completely allowed and harmless to do so. Because the salinity of the lake is 12% it is actually a very unique and fun experience to swim in the Great Salt Lake.

My mom grew up in Utah and made sure that all of her kids (me!) experienced swimming in the Great Salt Lake. I remember visiting as a young pre-teen and thinking it was so cool!

The lake’s water levels have been considered “low” for the last 15-20 years so once you have found a place to park, be prepared to walk for roughly ¼ – ½ a mile before you actually reach the water’s edge. Once you reach the water though you will find it to be shallow and warm. Perfect for kids to play in and enjoy.

The water will be shallow for a decent way out, so to swim and be fully immersed or to try floating on the extra buoyant water you will have to trek out a little further. It will be worth the effort though!

Before getting in the water be aware of any cuts or scrapes on yours or your kids skin. The salt in the water will cause them to burn slightly and it is better to realize that beforehand rather than be caught unaware. Telling your kids beforehand as well can help them gear up for it and feel brave and strong when they get in the water anyways. The burning will stop soon after the wound has been fully immersed and coated in salt.

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Do People Swim in the Lake?

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should, however in this case the answer is still yes!

People swim in the Great Salt Lake for the novelty of it. As a tourist you definitely should too.

However if you’ve already swam in the great Salt Lake and you’re looking for a fun lake day then there are nearby lakes where the water is not salty where you can have a more traditional lake experience at.

It is a further drive but my favorite Utah lake to visit is Bear Lake!!

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake, Utah - Rachel's Crafted Life (1)

Can You Float in the Great Salt Lake?

Because the salinity of the lake is 12%, far greater than the ocean, you can easily float on the surface of the water. The Great Salt Lake is not as salty as the dead sea but it will still hold you up far easier than the ocean. You can take some fun photos like casually reading while floating!

Best Beaches and Places to Swim on the Great Salt Lake

You can stop and swim most places along the shore of the Great Salt Lake however there are a few locations I particularly recommend.

  1. Antelope Island State Park

This is the location we swam at when we visited and it is definitely the best place to swim in the Great Salt Lake in my opinion.

The state park does have an entrance fee of $10 per car. However unlike the other locations it has amenities that will help make your visit more enjoyable.

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There is a beach area where kids can play with sand toys and run around. The park has nice picnic areas to eat and sit at while you enjoy being outdoors. The best part is there are shower stations so that you can rinse the salt off without having to haul your own water and shower with you.

There is a free outdoor shower area where you can rinse off in your swimsuit before changing in your car or there are coin operated private showering stalls.

  1. Spiral Jetty

Another fun place to swim is at the Spiral Jetty. The Spiral Jetty is a large outdoor art installation on the banks of the Great Salt Lake. You could knock out two birds with one stone by visiting both at the same time.

The only major downside is that there are no showers so you will want to bring your own water and a portable outdoor shower.

  1. Great Salt Lake State Park Marina

The Great Salt Lake State Park is another great place to visit and swim in the lake. They also have a marina where you could launch a boat from if you wanted to go boating on the lake.

  1. The Great Saltair

The Great Saltair is an old concert venue on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. You can park in the Saltair parking lot and easily walk to the water’s edge. This is also a very popular photo location!

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Are there Fish in The Great Salt Lake?

Because of the salt content of the lake there are no fish in the lake. In fact the only living things that can survive living in the Great Salt Lake are the brine shrimp. The brine shrimp are tiny and harmless so although you will see them in the water you can confidently ignore them.

There are also brine flies that hang out on the water’s edge and can be annoying. However once you get past the shoreline and go further into the water the flies will not follow. The flies are at their worst on hot days with no breeze.

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Swimming in the Great Salt Lake, Utah - Rachel's Crafted Life (2)

Negatives of The Great Salt Lake

The flies are one of the biggest negatives of the lake but they are not so bad that they should keep you away. Bring some bug spray to help deter them and just enjoy your time swimming in the Great Salt Lake. Try not to spend too much time where the water meets the beach since that is where the majority of the flies will be.

The second negative of the Great Salt Lake is the smell. There is a unique smell at the salt lake because the water is fairly stagnant. Water from local rivers flows into the Great Salt Lake but there is no outlet. You will quickly get used to the smell though and there is no reason to let that stop you from visiting.

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Tips for Swimming in the Great Salt Lake

  • Because of the salt deposits on the Great Salt Lake beaches and shoreline nothing can grow. This means there is absolutely no shade. Make sure you bring sun protection like sunscreen and hats.
  • Bring a change of clothes! The salt will harden as it dries making any material that got wet very stiff and uncomfortable. Make sure you don’t suffer during your drive home and bring a change of clothes for everyone.
  • The salt water will also make your skin feel tight and itchy. Bring water to rinse off with and lotion to rehydrate your skin.
  • Since you have to walk so far to the water’s edge only bring the belongings you need with you. Leave the rest of your belongings in the car. You most likely won’t want to haul coolers and tons of stuff with you. It can also be handy to leave your towels in the car so that they don’t get salt water on them.
  • Lastly, bring bug spray to ward off those pesky flies if they start bothering you too much.

Where is The Great Salt Lake?

The Great Salt Lake is located just Northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. The drive from Salt Lake City to the lake is about thirty minutes to two hours depending on where you decide to visit.

Facts About the Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake Depth?

The Great Salt Lake has a maximum depth of only 33 feet (UGS). With an average depth of only 14 feet (LiveScience).

Great Salt Lake Temperature?

The water temperature of the Great Salt Lake varies by month but in the summer months it is usually between 70 and 80 degrees fahrenheit.

Great Salt Lake Size?

The Great Salt Lake is roughly 75 miles long and 35 miles wide. It covers an area of 1,034,000 acres (UGS).

Great Salt Lake Elevation?

The Great Salt Lake has a surface elevation of 4,200 feet (UGS).

Are there Sharks in the Great Salt Lake?

No! The salt content is so high that no sharks could survive in the water of the Great Salt Lake. This means you are completely safe to swim in the lake.

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Swimming in the Great Salt Lake, Utah - Rachel's Crafted Life (3)

Camping, Boating and Kayaking

As well as swimming in the Great Salt Lake you can also boat, kayak and camp on its shores. When boating the best place to put in is the Great Salt Lake State Park Marina just be aware that the salt is hard on boats and you will want to carefully clean the boat and its engine afterwards.

Camping is fun and easy as there are both RV and tent camping sites available with electricity and water. You can book a campsite here.

Of course if you prefer hotels then Salt Lake City is only a short drive away!

Great Salt Lake Tours

If you would prefer a guide or organized activity to see the lake then you can book a tour instead of going alone. This guided tour from Salt Lake City is affordable and has good ratings!

Practical Information For Visiting Salt Lake City, UT

Find accommodation, sign up for a local tour, or buy your Utah Travel Guide.

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake is a unique, bucket list worthy activity! If you’re in Utah I highly recommend doing it at least once. If you have any other questions I can help answer about a visit to the Great Salt Lake let me know.

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FAQs

Can you swim in the Great Salt Lake Utah? ›

Swimming and sunbathing are popular on the clean, white sand beaches at Antelope Island State Park. The salinity of the water averages about 12%, making it much saltier than the ocean. The water is so buoyant that people can easily float. Freshwater showers are available to rinse off after swimming.

What happens if you swim in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake is a very different experience. Even in the early summer, we found the water to be warm and pleasant. Even though the salt warms the water up, there are other drawbacks to salty water. Any cut, scrape or injury (even if you didn't know you had it) will sting in the salt water.

Why can't you swim in the Salt Lake? ›

Most simply forsake the lake in the summer when the brine flies are thickest. Year-round, though — and there are swimmers who take to the lake no matter how cold the air and the water — the salt is painfully corrosive on bare skin. "It's almost like sandpaper rubbing against you," Gridley explains.

Will a car float in the Great Salt Lake? ›

As long as the density and salinity is high enough, you can float in any large body of salt water.

Are there sharks in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Are There Sharks in the Lake? There have been many rumors of sharks in the Great Salt Lake. There have also been rumors of an old sea captain capturing whales and transporting them from the ocean to the lake. However, no one has proven these claims.

Has anyone ever drowned in the Great Salt Lake? ›

ANTELOPE ISLAND, Utah – A man drowned while kayaking in the Great Salt Lake near Antelope Island Saturday. Sgt. Susan Poulsen, Davis County Sheriff's Office, said a driver looked into the bay and saw an empty kayak.

Is Salt Lake good for your skin? ›

A Great Remedy for Various Skin Conditions

Magnesium, calcium, and potassium are all skin-friendly minerals that can be found in sea salt. These minerals are great benefits of salt water since they help combat acne-causing bacteria, skin infections, and speed up the healing process.

Why does Great Salt Lake smell? ›

The heavy brine traps organic material (i.e., algae and plant and animal remains) and gases at the bottom of the lake. When the bottom of the lake gets stirred up, lots of bubbles rise to the surface. The bubbles release the gas that forms from the decaying organic matter, and this gas smells anything but pleasant.

Can dogs swim in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Dogs are allowed on the beach but as a courtesy to others should remain leashed when not actively swimming. For more freedom away from other beach goers, consider taking your dog to the west end of the lake near the dam.

What are the bugs at the Great Salt Lake? ›

If you visit Great Salt Lake during the summer or early fall, you will probably encounter masses of brine flies along the shoreline. While their numbers are intimidating, brine flies aren't interested in humans.

Which is saltier Dead Sea or Great Salt Lake? ›

The Dead Sea has a salinity of 34 percent; the Great Salt Lake varies between 5 and 27 percent. Earth's oceans have an average salinity of 3.5 percent.

Is the Great Salt Lake saltier than the ocean? ›

Great Salt Lake Is No 'Dead Sea' : NPR. Great Salt Lake Is No 'Dead Sea' Parts of Utah's Great Salt Lake are 10 times saltier than the ocean. But the lake is host to plenty of life, including salt-loving microbes that can turn the lake's water bubblegum pink.

Are there whales in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Today, no one talks much about the whales of Great Salt Lake. The animals live in the deepest sections of water, far from shore, and they mainly keep to themselves. But, they're there. While unlikely, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a breaching whale from the shore of Great Salt Lake.

Can you eat salt from the Great Salt Lake? ›

You can, yes. Historically salt was mined from there and used for food. Natives and early settlers would have used the salt for food preservation. These days most of the salt mined on the Flats is mined for Magnesium , the salt by-product is used as road salt for winter driving.

Is there fish in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Because of the abundant algae and halophiles, as well as the high salinity, the lake does not support fish — but it teems with brine shrimp and brine flies, which provide essential nutrition for migrating birds.

How deep is the Great Salt Lake? ›

Great Salt Lake averages approximately 75 miles long by 35 miles wide at a surface elevation of about 4,200 feet. At this elevation, the lake covers an area of 1,034,000 acres, and has a maximum depth of about 33 feet.

What is the deepest the Great Salt Lake has ever been? ›

Bonneville reached 923 ft (281 m) at its deepest point and covered much of present-day Utah and small portions of Idaho and Nevada during the ice ages of the Pleistocene Epoch.

What is the largest fish in the Great Lakes? ›

Musky or Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)

Indeed, muskies are second only to sturgeons as the Great Lakes' largest fish. Individuals have weighed in at more than 100 pounds and exceeded six feet in length! The average adult size is an impressive 28-48 inches (0.7-1.2 m) long with a weight of 5-36 pounds (2 to 16kg).

How deep is the salt in Salt Lake? ›

Why don't we drown in Dead Sea? ›

The Dead Sea is landlocked and in the lowest valley on earth. All the minerals of the surrounding countryside get washed into one pool, which in turn gets baked by the sun. This concentrates the salts so much so that the Dead Sea becomes times as salty as the ocean, which defines why people don't drown in the dead sea.

Why does it take longer to drown in saltwater? ›

When salt water enters the lung, the high salt content prevents it from crossing the membranes of the capillaries. Instead it causes blood and water from the bloodstream to cross over the membranes of the capillary walls and into the lungs.

Why is the Great Salt Lake toxic? ›

Researchers have found that for over a century, the lake bed has been slowly accumulating byproducts of human activities like mining, smelting, and agricultural runoff. As the lake disappears, the exposed bed turns into dust that contains elevated levels of potentially toxic heavy metals and chemicals like arsenic.

Is it good to wash your face with salt water? ›

Washing your face with salt water can be harsh and irritating, according to Shirazi, who warns that overuse can compromise your skin barrier. “This can worsen some skin conditions like acne and eczema, or potentially cause hyperpigmentation and scarring as a result.

Is salt water good for your skin and hair? ›

Salt water is naturally loaded with vitamins, minerals and amino acids; especially potassium, sulfur, and magnesium, which can have a therapeutic effect on the hair and skin. Sea salt is also naturally exfoliating, which can help promote clarity in the scalp.

Whats at the bottom of Salt Lake? ›

Under its surface are the wrecks of an unknown number of aircraft, train car parts and sandbars. And beneath its bed it harbors oil, layers of salt-encrusted minerals and fetid masses of pickled sewage.

Why is the Great Salt Lake pink? ›

Pigments in these salt-lovers' cells, including carotenoids like those found in carrots, give the lake and its salt crust a distinctive pink hue.

Does anything live in the Great Salt Lake? ›

A) The Great Salt Lake is so salty that the only living things in the lake are algae, bacteria, brine shrimp and brine flies.

Is Utah dog-friendly? ›

SafeWise's new report, titled “The Most Pet-Friendly States in America,” ranks Utah as the 49th state in the nation when it comes to having safe environments for pets.

Is Utah Lake dog-friendly? ›

The lake itself is 96,600-acres. So, there's plenty of places to play! Dogs are also allowed, so your pooch can come along for fun in the sun, as well! Utah Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Utah and does have some sandy beaches as well as some shallow water to play in.

Why are there so many flies in the Great Salt Lake? ›

In the spring they feed mostly on cyanobacteria (one of the few life forms that can survive the very high salinity of the lake). When water temperature becomes warm enough the larvae metamorphose by growing a hard brown pupal case around their bodies. Inside that pupal case they begin to transform into adult flies.

Why are there so many flies at the Great Salt Lake? ›

Saline and alkaline lakes grow a lot of algae. Adult brine flies eat some algae while foraging under water but eat much more of the algae that collects in windrows along the shore. With an abundance of food and a paucity of competitors, brine fly populations grow to amazing densities.

Do brine shrimp turn into flies? ›

Just like caterpillars, brine fly larvae form a "chrysalis," or casing, before they turn into adult flies!

Will the Great Salt Lake ever fill up again? ›

Laura Briefer, director of Salt Lake City's public utilities department, said that without diverting more water from the Great Salt Lake, the city's supply of water will fall below demand by 2040. The shrinking lake seen from Antelope Island State Park. As the water recedes, the island has become a peninsula.

Is the Great Salt Lake man made? ›

Great Salt Lake is the remnant of Lake Bonneville; a great ice age lake that rose dramatically from a small saline lake 30,000 years ago.

How old is the Great Salt Lake? ›

What we now know as the Great Salt Lake started as Lake Bonneville, a predominantly freshwater lake that formed about 32,000 years ago, and at its greatest extent, covered about 20,000 square miles — almost a quarter of present-day Utah.

How warm does the Great Salt Lake get? ›

Its shallow depth means that much of its surface area is exposed to the air, and is subject to its seasonal temperature fluctuations. Water temperatures vary from below freezing in the winter to more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

Does the Great Salt Lake freeze? ›

Even when the water temperature is in the 20's (°F), the lake does not freeze, due to the high salt content of the water; but icebergs have been ob- served floating on the lake's surface, formed from freshwater that flows into the lake from tributaries and freezes on the surface before it mixes with the brine.

How much of Utah was under water? ›

One-third of Utah was underwater until relatively recently.

Are there dolphins in the Great Lakes? ›

There are no dolphins in the Great Lakes. The University of Toledo marine biologist quoted in the story is fictitious. 13abc acquired a statement from a real aquatic scientist at the University of Toledo, Dr. Christine Mayer, professor of ecology.

At what temperature does the Great Salt Lake freeze? ›

This mystery is solved in Thursday's edition of Nature, thanks to some serious computing power at the University of Utah. The answer is minus 55 degrees, according to Valeria Molinero, an assistant professor of chemistry, who employed the U. Center for High Performance Computing to make the necessary calculations.

Is there lithium in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Lithium concentrations within the ambient brine of the North Arm of the Great Salt Lake range from 55 to 60 parts per million (ppm), while concentrations in the company's pond-derived magnesium chloride product reach up to 1,000 to 1,600 ppm after three years in the solar evaporation process.

Is Salt Lake toxic? ›

In the 1980s, the Great Salt Lake spanned more than 3,000 square miles. Now it sits at less than 1,000 square miles. Its soil contains toxic chemicals, including arsenic.

Can I lick the salt flats? ›

You can even taste the salt! However, I wouldn't recommend more than just a lick. It almost feels like you on another planet as you get farther out on salt flats. It is an awesome experience.

Why is the ground white in Utah? ›

Because of Utah's dry climate, the impressive clear mirabilite crystals that formed the mounds tend to dehydrate to form a white, powdery, easily erodible mineral called thenardite (Na2SO4).

Is there shrimp in Salt Lake? ›

Brine shrimp are a valuable food source to migratory birds that congregate in and around the Great Salt Lake. Around 10 million birds, representing over 250 species, pass by the Great Salt Lake annually.

Can you take a boat on the Great Salt Lake? ›

Great Salt Lake Boating

Great Salt Lake is Utah's largest body of water, with almost twice as much surface area as Lake Powell. It makes for a great cruising destination. Great Salt Lake is definitely a worthwhile boating destination.

Does Great Salt Lake have beaches? ›

Antelope Island is the largest island on the Great Salt Lake, and thanks to its facilities and white-sand beaches, it is the most popular place for swimming in the lake. According to Utah.com, Bridger Bay Beach on the northern part of the island is possibly the nicest beach there.

Why does the Great Salt Lake stink? ›

The heavy brine traps organic material (i.e., algae and plant and animal remains) and gases at the bottom of the lake. When the bottom of the lake gets stirred up, lots of bubbles rise to the surface. The bubbles release the gas that forms from the decaying organic matter, and this gas smells anything but pleasant.

Which is saltier Dead Sea or Great Salt Lake? ›

The Dead Sea has a salinity of 34 percent; the Great Salt Lake varies between 5 and 27 percent. Earth's oceans have an average salinity of 3.5 percent.

Is the Great Salt Lake saltier than the ocean? ›

Great Salt Lake Is No 'Dead Sea' : NPR. Great Salt Lake Is No 'Dead Sea' Parts of Utah's Great Salt Lake are 10 times saltier than the ocean. But the lake is host to plenty of life, including salt-loving microbes that can turn the lake's water bubblegum pink.

What are the bugs at the Great Salt Lake? ›

If you visit Great Salt Lake during the summer or early fall, you will probably encounter masses of brine flies along the shoreline. While their numbers are intimidating, brine flies aren't interested in humans.

Is the Great Salt Lake toxic? ›

The Great Salt Lake is shrinking, and toxic metals contained in the exposed lakebed — cancer-causing toxins — are blown toward us with every dust storm. The Great Salt Lake is shrinking and receding from Antelope Island and other shores, endangering wildlife and Salt Lake County residents.

Is Salt Lake good for your skin? ›

A Great Remedy for Various Skin Conditions

Magnesium, calcium, and potassium are all skin-friendly minerals that can be found in sea salt. These minerals are great benefits of salt water since they help combat acne-causing bacteria, skin infections, and speed up the healing process.

Why are there no boats on the Great Salt Lake? ›

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Nearly 100 boats have been pulled out of the Great Salt Lake State Park Marina near Saltair due to low water levels brought on by the extreme drought.

Whats at the bottom of Salt Lake? ›

Under its surface are the wrecks of an unknown number of aircraft, train car parts and sandbars. And beneath its bed it harbors oil, layers of salt-encrusted minerals and fetid masses of pickled sewage.

Is the Great Salt Lake man made? ›

Great Salt Lake is the remnant of Lake Bonneville; a great ice age lake that rose dramatically from a small saline lake 30,000 years ago.

Can you eat salt from the Great Salt Lake? ›

You can, yes. Historically salt was mined from there and used for food. Natives and early settlers would have used the salt for food preservation. These days most of the salt mined on the Flats is mined for Magnesium , the salt by-product is used as road salt for winter driving.

Does any fish live in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Because of the abundant algae and halophiles, as well as the high salinity, the lake does not support fish — but it teems with brine shrimp and brine flies, which provide essential nutrition for migrating birds.

Are there whales in the Great Salt Lake? ›

Today, no one talks much about the whales of Great Salt Lake. The animals live in the deepest sections of water, far from shore, and they mainly keep to themselves. But, they're there. While unlikely, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a breaching whale from the shore of Great Salt Lake.

How warm does the Great Salt Lake get? ›

Its shallow depth means that much of its surface area is exposed to the air, and is subject to its seasonal temperature fluctuations. Water temperatures vary from below freezing in the winter to more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

Why is the Great Salt Lake pink? ›

Pigments in these salt-lovers' cells, including carotenoids like those found in carrots, give the lake and its salt crust a distinctive pink hue.

How old is the Great Salt Lake? ›

What we now know as the Great Salt Lake started as Lake Bonneville, a predominantly freshwater lake that formed about 32,000 years ago, and at its greatest extent, covered about 20,000 square miles — almost a quarter of present-day Utah.

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