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Canoeing the Great Salt Lake

Canoe GSL

Last year we got a canoe and have since enjoyed taking it out to a few different lakes, including Lost Creek Reservoir. We thought we had become canoeing pros, we thought it was time to take our little boat into bigger adventures, we thought the Great Salt Lake would be the perfect place to do this. We thought wrong.

I should amend this by saying I thought wrong. The whole way driving out to the Great Salt Lake Kyle kept saying over and over “this is a bad idea”. I ignored him as easily as I ignored the heavy winds threatening to blow the truck over. But I digress.

Living so close to the largest body of water in Utah leads us here often. We’ve hiked Stansbury and Antelope Islands, visited the shores of the lake, and even frequent the visitors center. It’s not like we aren’t familiar with the Great Salt Lake.

The last time I got in the water here, I remember walking for what seemed like forever trying to get deep enough to just float. With every step out I took the water never seemed to get any deeper, resting the entire trek just below my knees. With that in mind we took our little canoe out to the marina, ready for what I expected to be an easy adventure.

 

Canoeing in the Storm

 

Maybe our experience wouldn’t have been so bad if we would have gone on a better day. The wind was simply howling, we could barely carry the canoe from the trailer to the water, and yet we still didn’t turn around. In hindsight, there are a few other obvious signs that should have made us pack up immediately:

 

  • We could barely control the canoe even after first setting it in the water, the wind was blowing us every direction as we tried our hardest to row out of the marina.
  • There was a rowing team practicing in the marina. There were eight full grown men who instead of venturing out, were simply practicing rowing circles around the bigger boats.
  • The fact that besides the rowing team, there wasn’t a single other person out at the marina, not even at the visitors center.

 

Maybe we need to try canoeing the Great Salt Lake on a day when it isn’t blowing in a storm. On this day however, it was nothing short of miserable. By the time we made it out of the marina, I was feeling pretty good. Between the salty air, the fresh yet strong wind, and the wide expanse of the lake, it was a liberating feeling. We rowed in silence for a while, trying to avoid the worst of the waves but still getting completely drenched. It felt good being out there with nobody else around.

It wasn’t until half an hour later when we decided to turn around that panic struck. I turned around to start rowing back. Where was the shore? In just under half an hour we had gone way further out than either of us had anticipated.

 

Saving the Canoe

Canoe the GSL

While we did eventually make it back to safety, it wasn’t without a lot of effort, blaming each other, and resolutions to sell the canoe the moment we got out alive. Every time we managed to get close to the shore, massive waves would pelt the canoe, forcing us to push away as fast as possible to avoid smashing our poor little boat against the unforgiving rocks. Many times I was positive we were going to sink our trusty boat.

It took us so long (one hour four minutes and thirty two seconds) to just get back into the marina that thankfully the rowing team was gone so we didn’t have to be even more embarrassed. For all they knew we canoed all the way out to Antelope Island through the storm.

So would I recommend canoeing in the Great Salt Lake? Yes I would, but with a few stipulations first. Choose a day when the winds are slow and the weather is nice. The lake is dangerous enough without the extra challenge. Make sure that you are comfortable canoeing, and strong enough to handle unexpected waves. Always be aware of your surroundings, and how far out you’ve paddled. And finally, don’t go too deep into the lake. With a surface area of 1,699 miles be sure you’re prepared, and have the energy to make it back to shore.

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Cassie
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Whether it's hiking, camping, canoeing, mountain biking, or basically anything else, I'm always ready for an outdoor adventure. Together with my husband and our two crazy dogs we try to find the most beautiful and exciting places around.

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