Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake is a endorheic saline lake in northern Utah, much saltier than the ocean. It is the remnant of the prehistoric pluvial Lake Bonneville in the Great Basin. Salt Lake City and its suburbs are located east of the lake, between the lake and the Wasatch Mountains. The Great Salt Lake Salt Flats lie to the west, and the Oquirrh Mountains to the south.
The Great Salt Lake is fed by three major rivers and several minor streams. The Bear River starts in the Uinta Mountains and flows in to the northeast arm of the lake. The Weber River also starts in the Uinta Mountains and flows into east edge of the lake. The Jordan River starts at Utah Lake and flows into the southeast corner of the lake. Railroad tracks run across the lake at the southern end of Promontory Peninsula. The mostly-solid causeway supporting the railway divides the lake into three portions: northeast arm, northwest arm and southern. Since there is no river flowing directly into the northeast arm, it is now noticeably saltier than the rest of the lake. The salinity also causes noticeably different colors from satellite photos.
Satellite Photo of the Great Salt Lake
The only animals that live in the lake are tiny brine shrimp, the eggs of which are harvested in quantity. They hatch easily and are fed to prawns in Asia and also were sold as a novelty as "Sea Monkeys." Many water birds feed on the brine shrimp and insects in the wetlands near the lake.
Water levels have been recorded since 1843. The water level is variable, rising dramatically in wet years and falling during drought years. The water level is also affected by the amount of water flow diverted for agricultural and urban uses. Since the Great Salt Lake is a shallow lake, a small variation in the water level can greatly affect the extent of the shoreline. During low levels, the lake is difficult to approach because it is fringed by mud flats, and the southermost islands become peninsulas.
Shallow artificial ponds at the edge of the lake are used to produce salt and other minerals for commercial sale.
There is a problem with pollution of the lake by industrial and urban effluent. Also, especially when the waters are low, decay of insects and other wildlife give the shore of the lake a distinctive odor, which may keep some tourists from coming near the lake.
A resort called Saltair has been operated on the southern shore of the lake. Rising and lowering water levels have affected Saltair, and it has burned twice.
The Great Salt Lake is the location for Robert Smithson's piece of land art, Spiral Jetty (1970).
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