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Antelope Island State Park

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Antelope Island State Park

American avocets at Antelope Island State Park (causeway)

Melissa Mayntz

The Bottom Line

Antelope Island State Park is an ideal birding hotspot located conveniently close to I-15 and major metropolitan areas in northern Utah, including Salt Lake City. The island offers a productive environment for birding and dedicated birders can spend hours at the island's top two hotspots: the causeway and Fielding Garr Ranch. As a state park, the area also offers a range of outdoor activities for non-birders as well, ensuring there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Pros

  • Detailed visitor center has trail maps and bird checklists.
  • Interpretive signs at key areas provide orientation.
  • Diverse habitats promote avian diversity.
  • Extra activities available for non-birders.
  • Restrooms and refreshments available in select areas.

Cons

  • Annual events draw crowds that may disrupt birding.
  • Birding is relatively sparse between key island hotspots.

Description

  • Name: Antelope Island State Park
  • Location: Davis County, Utah; west of Layton
  • Size: 28,000 acres (44 square miles) plus causeway
  • Hours: 7 a.m. to dusk year-round (visitor center hours vary)
  • Fees: $9 per vehicle or $3 per cyclist or pedestrian
  • Suggested Birding Time: 6-8+ hours

Guide Review - Antelope Island State Park

Conveniently located northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, Antelope Island State Park offers a range of unique birding venues. The largest of the nine islands in the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island has more than 28,000 acres (44 square miles) of habitat to explore, including open saltwater areas, miles of shoreline, riparian corridors, grasslands, scrub woods and wetlands that attract a wide range of avifauna.

Visitors can access Antelope Island State Park either via boat or from a single causeway. Maps and bird checklists are available from the causeway gatehouse, but checking in at the visitor center on the island itself is highly recommended. There, guests can learn about the island's history, ecology and wildlife as well as ask about recent bird sightings.

There are two primary birding hotspots on Antelope Island: the causeway and Fielding Garr Ranch. The causeway connects the island to the mainland near Layton and offers superb viewing of gulls, shorebirds and waterfowl. Fielding Garr Ranch is 11 miles south of the park's visitor center and offers agricultural fields, scrub woods and a small wetlands area. Together, these habitats attract not only the island's resident species, but also a range of migratory songbirds.

A spotting scope is highly recommended for birding on the causeway but is less useful in the Fielding Garr Ranch area. Prepared birders will also be equipped with adequate sunscreen, water and snacks, since it is easy to spend a full day or more birding on the island.

Throughout the island, the wide, paved roads are easy to navigate and directional signs are available at most crossroads, though an island map is recommended. There are several picnic and camping areas available, and a small grill restaurant offers bison burgers and other casual fare for reasonable prices.

In addition to birding, Antelope Island State Park is an ideal destination for other outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping and boating. The park regularly hosts special events such as races and roundups, and birders should inquire about these events prior to visiting – crowds for the events can disrupt the birds and limit the birding.

More than 250 bird species have been recorded at Antelope Island State Park, and the island is a critical oasis along the Pacific Migratory Flyway. While the exact species seen will vary by season, weather, location and time of day, birds frequently seen on Antelope Island include burrowing owls, white-faced ibis, American avocets, chukars, loggerhead shrikes, western tanagers, black-necked stilts and a wide range of waterfowl, migratory warblers, sparrows and thrushes.

With so many birds to see and a wide range of other nature-oriented activities to enjoy, Antelope Island State Park can be a fantastic place to visit for birders and non-birders alike.

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.

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