With proper funding, development and restricted use, Antelope Island could become one of Utah's tourist jewels - a place to view the Great Salt Lake, the Wasatch Mountains and wild animals.
Geologists from the Utah Geological and Mineral Survey emphasized that potential Monday in discussions with Utah Geological Association members of an island study begun in August 1987.Geologist Hellmut Doelling, who is leading the study team composed of Grant Willis, Mark Jensen and others from the UGMC, said the 15-mile-long island in the Great Salt Lake is unusual, with its undisturbed, pristine nature, and containing some of both the oldest and youngest geology in the state.
"Our study should be complete this summer and our recommendations to the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation will be to develop the north end of the island and leave the southern two thirds or more fairly undisturbed"
Doelling said a paved road could be built around the island, with access constructed at the south end from the shore of the Great Salt Lake and at the east from Syracuse over a reconstructed causeway.
The island has become inaccessible to tourists except by boat since the lake rose several years ago and destroyed the 7-mile-long causeway from Syracuse to the island.
Doelling said the causeway was at about 4206 feet and the lake rose to about 4212 feet - the highest since 1870. "If the causeway were to be rebuilt, it should be built at 4217 so as to be safe from any future lake rise."
He said deer, buffalo, badgers, coyotes, porcupines and many other small animals live on the island, along with various birds, including eagles, falcons and many water birds.
"Animals that are close to extinction could be transplanted onto the southern portion of Antelope Island and it could be made into a game preserve," Doelling said.
"Antelope Island affords one of the most spectacular views of the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains and its geology is fascinating. Everything present at the Grand Canyon is missing from the island - from about 900 million years ago to 40 million years ago - but everything not present at the Grand Canyon is on the island - dating to 2.5 billion years ago and later than 40 million years ago."
Doelling said few, if any, mineral deposits worth developing have been found on the island. "Early pioneers believed there might be gold or silver on the island and in this century there have been several attempts to find minerals there, but there is no evidence of any gold or silver worth mining. There is copper on the island, but not enough to be economically valuable.
"The real value of the island is its potential for tourism and recreation," he said.
He said the study, which he and others will be complete this summer, will suggest to park officials that a pioneer ranch built in the mid-1800s be restored as a museum and the geology of the island and its rich history be highlighted through tourist facilities, signs and view areas.
One of eight islands in the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island, he said, contains 40 square miles, is 6,600- feet high at its highest point and looks like a little sea horse on the map. It has Fremont-type artifacts in four locations.
Discovered by Jim Bridger in 1824-1825, the island was visited by John C. Fremont in 1843 and 1845 and a ranch was established there by Mormon pioneers in 1849.
Many famous people have visited the island and hunted there, and a Hollywood Western was filmed there in 1922, Doelling said.