Once known as the Great Salt Lake, this area has a long natural history that most do not think too much about. In just a few years the region can look very different from what it had due to droughts and the constantly changing landscape. In August of 2003 the area was vastly different from what it was five years earlier due to a drought.
While the natives were aware that there was a major change, it took seeing a satellite image to absorb just how different it was. The image showed the difference in coloring of the lake from the norther and southern sections. These differences were primarily due to a railroad causeway built long ago, and before the water levels receded they were not noticeable to the naked eye standing at ground level.
This lake was once part of the much larger Lake Bonneville that once took up most of western Utah. That was during prehistoric times, even when dinosaurs roamed. It is now refereed to as a pluvial lake, which means that it was a basin surrounded by land that filled with rainwater over hundreds of years. This usually occurs when glaciers are developing and rain amounts are far greater than normal.
It is believed that Lake Bonneville was present in the area until just under 20,000 years ago. Some of the lakes drained through a breech near what is now known as Red Rock Pass. After the glacial period ended the remaining water from Bonneville evaporated, leaving what is now known as Salt Lake behind. It is the largest of the four major lakes that remain. The other three are Utah Lake, Rush Lake and Sevier Lake. The three largest rivers that flow into the lake are Bear, Weber and the Jordan River.
Native Americans knew well of this lake for thousands of years. It wasn’t put into written history until Escalante recorded its existence after hearing of it from natives. It was finally mapped in 1824 by a cartographer by the name of Pacheco. Finally, it was settled by Mormons looking for a fresh start free of discrimination.
Salt Lake Utah has a natural beauty that has drawn millions to its banks. Its originality in being the only inland lake that has salt water fascinates adults and children alike. The full history will never be known but that will not end the curiosity.