Great Salt Lake

By Williams, Terry Tempest | Sunset, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Great Salt Lake


Williams, Terry Tempest, Sunset


The place of my dreams is the place where I live. Great Salt Lake remains a mystery to me and I have lived near its shore all my life. It is a vast inland sea, a desert sea in the Great Basin of Utah, with no outlets except the sky, through evaporation, drop by drop. Extreme heat, extreme cold color its character, and its briny nature of flies and shrimp is an acquired taste.

Except for the birds.

Day by day, bird by bird, they descend from the sky to rest and feed and breed. Their sheer numbers organically drawn in a single flock or gathered together on any given day on mud flats, marshlands, or open water, during spring and fall migrations, split the imagination wide-open: 10,000 snowy plovers; 17,000 Western sandpipers; 32,000 long-billed dowitchers; 65,000 black-necked stilts; 250,000 American avocets; 400,000 eared grebes; 500,000 Wilson's phalaropes.

And these are only a few of the staggering statistics of migratory birds that grace this body of salt water in the intermountain West.

I love to stand on its edge and simply look up at the passing shadows of wings. …

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