On a recent trip to the west coast, we decided to stop at Utah’s Great Salt Lake. However, by the time we reached Salt Lake City, it was going on 7pm, and the sun was dipping towards the horizon. Not to be deterred, we pulled into the parking area outside of Saltair in Great Salt Lake State Park and set out across the salt flats to the lake itself. We could wade in the lake, and take pictures of the mountains rising up beyond. The sun was setting over the lake, so most of our pictures were silhouettes. And, when the sun went down we were able to get some really pretty pictures of the sun over the water.
To get to Saltair and Great Salt Lake State Park, take I-80 through Salt Lake City (or around the Great Salt Lake, depending if you are coming from the east or the west) to Exit 104. At the end of the exit ramp, turn towards the northwest towards the lake. The road will go straight into the Saltair parking lot. Perhaps I should explain that Saltair is a replica of a popular resort on the Great Salt Lake in the 1920s. It is definitely unique in style, and could have come from the oceanfront in New York City during that era. Inside is a small gift shop (where they sell great saltwater taffy) and some of the history of the building. However, its hours are 9am to 6pm, so the gate was locked and the large parking lot empty when we got there. That was ok, because there is limited parking along the fence that separates the Saltair parking area from the road that goes to the marina. You can still access the outside showers when the building is closed.
From the parking area, you can access the salt flats, which you will have to walk across to get to the water of the lake. How close to the parking area the water is will depend on how high the lake is. The first time we visited the lake, it was wetter, with more mud on the salt flats, while the second time the flats were dryer, and I’m guessing the water was lower.
We’d been to Saltair once before several years earlier, and enjoyed ourselves, but this time was totally different, even though both times were in September. For one thing, we’d been in the morning the first time, but this time the sun was setting over the lake, giving the entire picture a very different look. In the morning, you can get great pictures of the lake itself. The sun is at your back, so the mountains show up very nicely on the other side of the lake. In the evening, the sun is right in your eyes across the lake. This is great if you want silhouette shots, and awesome sunset pictures, but if you want the lake itself, you should probably try in the morning.
As soon as we reached the water, we pulled off our socks and shoes and waded in. It was amazingly cold (both times), although not at all bad once you got used to it. Some teens were swimming down the way from us, but as we didn’t have bathing suits on, we decided to settle for wading in the water up to our knees. The water is amazingly shallow, and we could walk out a very long ways and not get much above our knees. The really weird thing is that if you stick your hand in the water and then let it dry, you can see the salt all over your hand. The wind blew my hat off, and even though I rinsed it under the shower when we got back to Saltair, there was a little rim of salt on the brim the next day when it dried.
The sunset itself was gorgeous. Several people came out on the flats just to take pictures of it. They told us later how much they liked having our silhouettes against the sun. We also took silhouette shots, as well as regular just-the-sun-and-water pictures. Although I didn’t bother taking a picture of it, the factory to the left of the lake was also pretty when the lights came on in the evening.
After the sun went down it got pretty cold, so we headed back to the parking area, stopping at the outside showers to rinse our feet, legs, hands, hats, etc, to get the salt off of them. I don’t think I quite succeeded in getting all of the salt off, but, hey, it’s pretty sticky, and a shower later can do wonders!