This was published on the Outdoor Research Verticulture website.


Paddling the Great Salt Lake

By Jason Nelson, July 29, 2013

kayaks on car at sunset Many have driven by it. Few decide to swim in it—especially once they inspect it closely. And even fewer seem to paddle it.

The Great Salt Lake must be one of the best-known lakes in the world, but nobody I talk to seems to ever go out on the lake. This is peculiar to me, since Utah is so generally lacking in other bodies of water, and the lake’s so close to the city. Since I need to justify the boat I keep in the backyard, I take it out once in a while on the big salty lake.

Being out on the Salt Lake has been a powerful and solitary experience for me. Everything is so vast. It’s like being between two worlds—you can’t tell where the sky ends and the lake begins. It’s like you’re dipping your paddle into a cloud and pushing it across the sky. Behind the boat, the reflected clouds sway in the breeze, or is it the waves from the boat?

sunset_from_saltairSometimes, I swear, there must be sea monsters out in the lake. It’s so big and mysteriously quiet,  you wonder what might be watching from underneath. I’ve read that folklore supports this theory, though I’m not comforted by that thought when I’m out there next time, miles from shore without a soul in sight.

The southern part of the lake has a post-apocalyptic feel, partially due to the large smokestack of the nearby smelting operation. Once I’ve left shore, I sometimes imagine the world has moved on and bandits roam the land dressed in 80s punk clothing.

In the summer, the brine flies hatch, supporting a wide variety of waterfowl and crawling all over any potential visitors. There’s no escaping them, kayaking great salt lakeeven away from shore, unfortunately. But they don’t bite, making them merely an annoyance, compared to what I grew up with in Maine.

All oddities aside, I’ve enjoyed some of the best sunsets out on Salt Lake. With the reflection so clear, it’s like you get double sunsets!