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Can You Swim In The Great Salt Lake In 2022? (Read This First)

Yes, you can go swimming in the Great Salt Lake, but it isn’t very common. 

The biggest reason people don’t often go swimming in the Great Salt Lake is because of all the salt, the bugs, and the smell. In a nutshell, it can be a hassle. 

Whatever you think Climate Change is a real thing and the Salt Lake is the proof of it. A lake that once was so big has shrunk by more than 40% since the federal monitoring began in 1875 because humans have siphoned its water, poured sewage, dumped industrial wastes, and other so-called humane uses that diverted much of the water that naturally flows toward it.

During such scenarios, is it still possible to swim in the Great Salt Lake? and what will be the consequences? Let’s find out.

Is It Easy To Swim In The Great Salt Lake?

The lake is formed because water from several streams and rivers comes and collects into it. There are no outlets, and the lake itself is not very deep – about 15 feet – so the water that comes in gets evaporated very quickly. This leaves behind a lot of salt.

The current density of the Great Salt Lake is about 20% more than that of the ocean. There are more than 4 billion tons of salt, just within that lake. Because of the extremely high salinity, swimming in the lake becomes much easier because you can float better.

Read Also: Can You Swim In The Salton Sea?

Why Is The Great Salt Lake Smelly?

The Great Lake itself isn’t smelly. Towards the northern side of the lake where the freshwater comes in, the lake smells just like the ocean. However, the smell comes from Farmington Bay, which is a portion of the lake closest to urban areas. The wastewater treatment plants from these urban areas dump their water into Farmington Bay, and more than half of this water is treated as sewage. This makes Farmington Bay smell bad.

On top of that, Farmington Bay is also close to the causeway that leads to Antelope Island, and this prevents the wastewater with all those nutrients from escaping. The nutrients attract algae, which suck up the oxygen during their life. Eventually, when they die, they drop to the bottom of the lake, where bacteria can feed on them. During this process of decomposition, hydrogen sulfide gas – which is smelly – is released.

The mixture of smelly wastewater and hydrogen sulfide gas moves across the surface as the wind blows, which makes the entire lake smell.

Creatures In The Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake mostly only has brine shrimp and brine flies as its inhabitants, and the water itself is very clear. There are generally more flies towards the southern part of the lake, and some of these can bite. However, the brine shrimp are very small and harmless and do not disrupt swimming at all. 

For brine flies, keeping some bug spray on hand can do the trick.

Since there are no fish in the lake, swimming in the lake is safe. Because of all the salt, there is no plant life either. Though this means that the water is clear, it also means that there are no trees that provide shade.

Salt In The Great Salt Lake

Again, because rivers and streams only run into the lake, while none flow out, there is a lot of salt. This makes the river extremely dense and accumulates heat. Most rivers and streams run because of melted glaciers and snowcaps, which makes them cold and chilly, but the Great Lake is different. Because of the greater density, it retains more heat and the water remains warm. This makes it suitable to swim in.

However, due to the salt, any injuries or cuts you may have will sting when you are swimming. Saltwater is also good for certain skin conditions and can help exfoliate the dead skin cells from your body. However, after some time, the water in your body may start diffusing out, which can make you dehydrated, so swimming in the lake for long periods is not recommended.

Why Is Swimming In The Great Lake A Hassle?

It is because of all the salt in the water, some of which is not fully dissolved. This means that when you swim in the lake, you will be covered in salt when you come out. The lake is also remote, which makes it hard to find showers nearby with fresh water to rinse off in.

Due to these reasons, swimming in the Great Lake is not very common, even though it is possible. If you want to swim in the Great Salt Lake, you should do so towards the northern side, where the water is not as smelly and you will come across fewer brine flies.

However, the problem of saltwater remains, regardless of which part of the lake you swim in. The water is only about ankle deep for a good half a mile in, so if you want to swim properly, you’ll have to walk quite a bit. The density of the water also makes it easier to float in, and the shallowness makes it relatively safer for younger children. 

Read Also: Can You Swim In Wailua Falls, Hawaii?

Citations:

  • https://www.audubon.org/news/water-shortages-are-shrinking-great-salt-lake-and-killing-its-corals