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Roaming Antelope Island State Park in Utah.

* A deserted island in Utah? It's not a mirage. Rising out of Great Salt Lake, the 28,000-acre Antelope Island State Park offers sandy beaches for frolicking in the lake's buoyant waters, a historic ranch that was one of the West's biggest, and rugged mountains for hiking and biking.

While the lake might be too chilly in April for a swim in Bridger Bay, the mostly bug-free month is perfect for touring the old Garr Ranch. Once home to 10,000 sheep (and, in its final years, cattle), the ranch that Fielding Garr built in 1848 acts these days as a time capsule. It reopens to the public this spring after a lengthy restoration.

The stark Garr homestead buildings echo the harshness of the island's ranching days, when the superintendent's family and a handful of hired hands endured both isolation and arduous work.

The ranch sold its last cow in 1981, when the entire island became a state park, and remains, as writer Wallace Stegner once observed, "the only oasis on Great Salt Lake." Though most of the island is covered by rocks, sagebrush, and grasses, Garr Spring continues to nourish the groves of cottonwood, box elder, and elm trees that shade the former homestead, while also luring mule deer, bison, and other island wildlife.

From the ranch, you might stretch your legs (and lungs) on the demanding, 4-mile-long Frary Peak Trail; newly rebuilt, it offers out-standing views of the homestead, the lake, and the Wasatch Range from the island's 6,595-foot summit. The park's visitor center, overlooking Bridger Bay, is also worth a stop; it details the Great Salt Lake's ecology and the island's human history.
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Author:Repansbek, Kurt
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
Words:277
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