GRKAT SALT LAKE
PRKSKNT AISm 1'AST.
13 West from, 6rre(;fuich.
II. Map of the Great Suit Lakr.
III. Flock of Young Pelicans, Hat Island.
IV. Gulls on Hat Island.
Photograph by Johnson.
V. Saltair Pavilion: bird's-eye view.
VI. Side View of Salmir I';i\ ilion. (Suit Lake and Los Angeles Kailway.)
X. Inland Crystal Salt Co.'s Works. (Salt Lake and Los Angeles Railway.)
XI. Coarse Salt. Inland Crystal Salt Co. f s Ponds.
(On line of Salt Lake and Los Angeles Railu ;iy. i
Brine Shrimp, Artemia fertilis (Verril) ; or Artemia gracilis; from the Great
Salt Lake. XII, male; XIII, female.
From photomicrographs by J. E. Talmage.
XIV. Map of theUrciit Hasin and its Lakes:
Copied from U. S. G. S., Monograph I: IMatcII.
XV. Map of Lake Bonneville.
Copied from Gilbert's map; U. S. G. S., Monograph I.
XVI. Shore Lines on Oquirrh Mountains, West Salt Lake Valley,
XVII. Shore Lines of Lake Bonneville; north mil of D.niirrh Mountains.
After sketch by Holmes (U. S. G. S., Monojfrsipl' 1 : >''"te I.)
XVIII. Bonneville and Intermediate Embankments, near Wellsville,
Utah, showing contrast between littoral and sub-aerial
topography. (After Gilbert, U. S. G. S.,
Monograph I; Fig. 21.)
XIX. View on Salt Lake Desert, showing
sediments. (After Gilbert, see U. S. G. ;
mountains half buried by lake
i., Monograph I: PL XXXVI.)
XX. Ripple Marks in Argillaceous Sandstone.
Shore of Lake Bonneville.
XXI. Section of Moraine, Mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon,
Suit Lake Valley.
XXII. Glaciated Stone, from Little Cottonwood Moraine.
GREAT SALT LAKE
JAMES . TALMAGE,
PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY, UNIVERSITY
THB DKSKRKT Nicws,
SAI.T LAKE Omr, UTAH.
BY J. E. TALMAGE.
In some parts the following pages are reprints of
articles that have appeared over the writer's signature
in local and scientific periodicals ; in other portions they
are little more than a compilation of facts already of
record. Perhaps sufficient excuse for the present publi-
cation may be found in the fact that reliable informa-
tion regarding the Great Salt Lake is of difficult access
to the general reader, inasmuch as it is mostly con-
tained in the valuable though ponderous tomes of the
national surveys. The popular writings on the subject,
with some exceptions, have been criticized as extrava-
gant and untrustworthy. The truth regarding Utah's
Dead Sea is sufficiently impressive without recourse to
fabulous embellishment, even if such were in any sense
The writer has drawn freely on the valuable records
of investigators, and acknowledgment of authorities has
been made in place. J. E. T.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH,
I. Introductory 21
II. Descriptive 26
III. The Lake as a Pleasure and Health Resort. ... 33
IV. Statistical and General 43
V. The Lake Water 55
VI. Life in the Lake 67
VII. Economic Importance of the Lake 77
VIII. The Great Basin 87
IX. The Ancient Lake Lake Bonneville . 96
THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
PRESENT AND PAST.
The record of fact and tradition concerning the
Great Salt Lake, as written by the hand of man, dates
back a little more than two centuries; but a history of
times far more remote may be read from Nature's manu-
script, inscribed on the stony pages of ancient shores
and in the sediment which formed the floor of the lake
of by-gone days.
Though generally designated by the adjective
"Great," the Salt Lake, as we shall presently see, is but
a shrunken remnant of a vastly larger water body, which
once existed as a veritable inland -sea, completely filling
the valley in the lowest portion of which the modern
lake rests, and extending beyond the northern and
western boundaries of the present State of Utah. To
this ancient sea the name "Lake Bonneville" has
But the geological past of the ".Dead Sea of Ameri-
22 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
ca" may well be left for later consideration; we can the
better interpret such after an examination of existing
conditions. It is, therefore, the lake of present and his-
toric times to which attention is first invited.
Long prior to the time at which white men first
trod the shores of this briny sea, strange stories of its
existence and of the marvelous properties of its waters
had found their way into civilized lands. In 1689 Baron
La Hontan, a French traveler and explorer of note,
gathered from the Indian tribes of the Mississippi val-
ley their traditions of a great salt sea lying amid the
solitude of the western mountains; and these stories,
doubtless embellished by additions from his own imagi-
nation, the traveler sought to perpetuate. His narra-
tive was first published in English in 1735. No facts
of value were given by La Hontan concerning the lake;
indeed there is room for doubt as to whether the water-
body about which the Indians had talked to him was
the Great Salt Lake.
In 1776 Padre Escalante, a Spanish official exploring
for routes of travel, crossed the south-eastern rim of the
Great Basin region, and followed the Timpanogos or
Provo River (by him named Purisima) down to its
termination in Utah Lake. From the Indian tribes
of what is now Utah Valley he learned of a lake many
leagues in extent, with waters extremely noxious and
salty, lying in the valley northward. Escalante appears
to have contented himself with this hear-say informa-
tion, for there is no record of his having reached the
shores of Great Salt Lake.
Perhaps the truth regarding the first white man's
visit to the lake may never he known. There have
been many rival claimants for the honor of having dis-
covered the briny waters, and historians have failed
in their efforts to decide the question of priority.
There are many accounts of occasional visits to the
lake or its vicinity by traders and trappers between 1820
and 1833; among such venturesome travelers may be
named Miller of the Astor company; Provost (after
who Provo City has been named), and Bridger, for
whom some strongly claim the honors of discovery.
Hubert Howe Bancroft, the voluminous writer on
Pacific Coast history, is one who accords this credit to
Colonel James Bridger. Bridger is said to have de-
scended Bear River to its mouth in the lake, the jour-
ney having been undertaken to settle a wager as to the
course of the river named.
Between 1831 and 1833 Captain Bonneville, a
Frenchman in the service of the United States as an
army officer, while traveling on leave, explored portions
of the lake shores and wrote short descriptions, mostly
geographical, which have proved of value. Several
years later an account of Bonneville's explorations was
given publicity by Washington Irving, whose book,
"Adventures of Captain Bonneville," is well known.
An attempt was made to attach Bonneville's name to
24 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
the salty lake, but without success. As already stated,
the designation "Lake Bonneville" has now been ap-
plied to the ancient sea which preceded the Salt Lake
In 1843 John C. Fremont,, then Brevet-Captain U.S.
A., sighted the lake from an elevation in Weber County
now known as Little or Low Mountain, and considered
himself the first discoverer of this mountain-sea. He
likened himself to Bilboa discovering the Pacific.
Fremont reached the lake and rowed upon its waters;
but history denies him the distinction of having been
first to discover or to navigate the lake. Fremont's
visit was made in the course of a government expedi-
tion to the Rocky Mountains; and his report* is re-
garded as the earliest authentic record of the physical
conditions of the region. His party included the re-
nowned hunter and scout, Kit Carson, and tradition has
it that a rude boat consisting of a tree-trunk hollowed-
out Indian fashion, which was found on the shores of
the lake after the settlement of the region by the Mor-
mon people, was the identical craft used by Kit Carson.
The boat in question is now to be seen at the Deseret
Museum, Salt Lake City. There is much doubt as to
the truth of the story, however, for more authentic ac-
counts say that the explorations of Fremont and Carson
* "Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in
the year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the years 1843-44,"
by Brevet-Capt. J. C. Fremont. Washington, 1845.
on the waters of the lake were accomplished in rubber
In 1849 and 1850 Captain Howard Stansbury, U. S.
A., under government commission made a, fairly thor-
ough survey of the lake and the region contiguous. His
report contained valuable data concerning the lake~
area, the depth, density, and composition of the water,
and the extent of the shore line.*
Since the advent of the Mormon pioneers in 1847,
and during the phenomenally rapid settlement of the
region and the development of its varied resources, re-
liable observations have been recorded, both by resi-
dents and by competent investigators operating under
private or government auspices. To Grove Karl Gilbert
much praise is due for his elaborate and masterly study
of the Great Salt Lake, particularly in relation to its
past history. His work, "Lake Bonneville,"f is and
will ever be a classic in the geological literature of
* "Exploration and Survey of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of
Utah," etc., by Howard Stansbury, Capt. Corps Topographical En-
gineers, U. S. A. Philadelphia, 1852.
t Monographs of the United States Geological Survey, Vol.1:
"Lake Bonneville" by Grover Karl Gilbert; Washington, Government
Printing Office, 1890.
The Great Salt Lake today is an object of very gener-
al interest, attracting as it does the attention of scientist,
lay-scholar, and curiosity-seeker alike. In the popu-
lar mind it holds a place as one of the strongest natural
brines known, and as the site of attractive bathing re-
sorts. To the chemist this remarkable body of water
represents a practically inexhaustible reservoir of valu-
able material awaiting the potent influences of manu-
facturing industry. To the geologist it appeals as the
dwarfed remains of an ancient sea, with the fossil evi-
dence of its past history preserved in the deposits and
sculpturing of its abandoned shores, and in the sedi-
ments of its desiccated floor.
The events characterizing its principal epochs may
be determined with a fair measure of accuracy, and the
story of its fluctuations recounts the succession of mar-
velous climatic changes through which the region of the
Great Basin has passed.
As is generally known, the Great Salt Lake is the
largest inland water body existing within the United
States west of the Mississippi valley. It lies in the
north central part of the State of Utah, between the
parallels 111.8 degrees and 113.2 degrees longitude
west from Greenwich, or 34.7 degrees and 36.1 degrees
west from Washington, and between 40.7 degrees and
41.8 degrees north latitude.
Owing to the frequent and great fluctuations in vol-
ume incident to climatic variations and other conditions
of change, its area is inconstant, and the recorded sur-
veys of the water surface show great discrepancies. In
general terms its present dimensions have been recorded
as follows: Average length, 75 miles; greatest width, 50
miles; extent of surface, 2,125 square miles.
The altitude of the lake surface is 4,210 feet above
sea-level; and this fact alone is promise sufficient of
many interesting results to the investigator, for at
such a height the general conditions are unusual. The
remarkable clearness of the atmosphere throughout the
lake region appeals with force to the visitor, whose
persistent underestimating of distance may be either
amusing or annoying. From any convenient point of
vantage the observer may survey the lake as a glassy
continuation of the valley floor, with mountain-walled
back grounds, which are broken on the central part of
the western shore where the Great Salt Lake Desert and
the lake itself have a margin in common.
ISLANDS OF THE LAKE.
Rising from the water surface are precipitous is-
lands, appearing in their true character of mountain
peaks and ranges, the lower part of their masses being
submerged . Of these water-girt mountain bodies, Ante-
28 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
lope and Stansbury islands are the largest; and the
others are Carrington, Fremont, Gunnison, Dolphin,
Mud, and Hat or Egg islands, and Strong's Knob. The
islands appear as continuations of the mountain ranges
which diversify the contiguous land area, and an exami-
nation of their structure confirms this inference.
At present, communication between main-land and
islands is effected by boat; though at low water periods,
Antelope and Stansbury islands have been accessible
by fording. Limited areas of the larger islands are un-
der cultivation, and the regions have long been utilized
as pasture lands. Some discoveries of mineralized de-
posits have been reported from the lake-washed moun-
tains but thus far no profitable mining for metals has
The tiny hill whose summit rises from the briny
waters as a rocky knoll, known as Hat or Egg island, is the
principal rookery of the feathered frequenters of the
lake. There congregate during the breeding season
thousands of pelicans and gulls, and when they depart
they are accompanied by the new generation of their
kind, in uncounted numbers. A visit to this isle of
nests at the proper time reveals the spectacle of great
flocks of half-fledged pelicans, awaiting the arrival of
their fisher-parents, or ravenously devouring the scaly
contents of the parental pouches. The fish thus sup-
plied are caught by the old birds at the mouths of the
fresh water streams which feed the lake reservoir.
ISLANDS, RIVERS. 29
On the islands, which for ages have been monopo-
lized by the birds as a nesting-ground, great deposits of
guano have accumulated; and this material is now util-
ized as a valuable fertilizer.
The rivers which feed the lake all enter it on the
eastern side; they depend upon the supplies furnished by
the Wasatch and Uintah mountains. Of these streams
the most important are the Jordan, which brings down
from the south the surplus waters of Utah Lake, the
Weber, and the Bear. Beside these there are several
small streams locally designated as creeks, which deliver
a moderate contribution during high-water seasons. Gen-
erally, however, the lower portions of the creek-beds are
dry, the water having been diverted at higher levels for
irrigation purposes. From the west no streams reach the
lake, the few that rise on this side losing themselves in
the desert plain, or disappearing entirely through evap-
The scenic glories for which the lake region is most-
ly famed depend not alone on mountain heights, or
valley floor, neither on water expanse nor island cameos;
not on one nor two nor all of these combined, pleasing
though the combination be; these are but the canvas
on which Nature paints with a richness beyond the
colors of purely earthly origin. ? Tis when the sun-
30 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
beams fall aslant in the freshening dawn, or when the
orb of day is sinking in the west, that the landscape and
the water blaze forth with tints and shades which the
artist strives in vain to catch and imitate.
A description of such a scene is a fit theme for the
poet; the picture ought to be attempted by the master-
hand alone. But the poet frail as the rest of us
may substitute his witchery of rhythm and rhyme for
the actual harmonies of the desert scene; and the
painter may intrude his ideal into the picture. The
truth here declared in Nature's language and colors
calls for no embellishments. I trust rather the scien-
tific observer, whose love for the beautiful, while no whit
less than that professed and held by his brothers, poet
and painter, is kept within the bounds of truthful
Let us call to our service the words of Prof. Eussell,
whose geological researches in these and contiguous
parts have afforded him abundant opportunity for ob-
"The scenery about this great lake of the Mormon
land and in the encircling mountains is unusually fine,in
spite of the aridity and the generally scant vegetation
of the region. The sensation of great breadth that the
lake inspires, together with the picturesque islands
diversifying its surface, and the utter desolation of its
* "Lakes of North America" by Israel C. Russell, Professor of Geol-
ogy, University of Michigan; Boston, Ginn & Co., 1895. pp. 78-79.
SCENIC BEAUTIES. 31
shores, give it a hold on the fancy and waken one's
sense of the artistically beautiful in a way that is un-
rivaled by any other lake of the arid region. The un-
usually clear air of Utah, especially after the winter
rains, renders distant mountains remarkably sharp and
distinct, particularly when the sun is low in the sky and
a strong side-light brings the sharp serrate crests into
bold relief and reveals a richness of sculpturing that
was before unseen. At such times the colors on the
broad deserts and amid the purple hills and mountains
are more wonderful than artists have ever painted, and
exceed anything of the kind witnessed by the dweller
of regions where the atmosphere is moist and the native
tints of the rock concealed by vegetation. The hills
of New England when arrayed in all the gorgeous pano-
ply of autumnal foliage are not more striking than the
desert ranges of Utali when ablaze with the reflected
glories of the sunset sky. The rich native colors of the
naked rocks are then kindled into glowing fires, and
each canyon and rocky gorge is filled with liquid pur-
ple, beside which even the imperial dyes would be dull
"At such times the glories of the hills are mirrored
in the dense waters of the lake, their duplicate forms
appearing in sharp relief on the paler tints of the
reflected sky. As the sun sinks behind the far-
off mountains, range after range fades through innumer-
able shades of purple and violet until only their highest
32 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
battlements catch the fading glory. The lingering
twilight brings softer and more mysterious beauties.
Eanges and peaks that were concealed by the glare of
the noon-day sun start into life. Forms that were be-
fore unnoticed people the distant plain like a shadowy
encampment. At last each remote mountain crest ap-
pears as a delicate silhouette, in which all details are
lost, drawn in the softest of violet tints on the fading
yellow of the sky.
"To one who only beholds the desert land bordering
Great Salt Lake in the full glare of the unclouded sum-
mer sun, when the peculiar desert haze shrouds the land-
scape and the strange mirage distorts the outline of the
hills, the scenery will no doubt be uninteresting and per-
haps even repellent. But let him wait until the cool
breath from the mountains steals out on the plain and
the light becomes less intense, and a transformation will
be witnessed that will fill his heart with wonder."
THE LAKE AS A PLEASURE AND HEALTH RESORT.
The peculiar advantages and attractions of the Great
Salt Lake for bathing purposes were known to the earli-
est white explorers; and even prior to their visits, the
Indians, who are not famous for their love of ablutions,
had discovered the difference between a dip in fresh
water and a bath in this natural brine. The aborigines
who dwelt near the shores of Utah lake forty miles to the
south, specifically known as the Timpanogotzis,informed
Padre Escalante of the strange properties of the water.
The Padre writes, "The other lake with which this one
communicates is, as they informed us, many leagues
in extent; and its waters are noxious and extremely salt,
so that the Timpanogotzis asserted to us that when any
one rubbed a part of his body with it he would feel
an itching sensation in the moistened part."*
The peculiarity of the lake water as a medium for
the bath lies in its rich content of dissolved mineral
matter,and in the consequent high degree of density. Dr.
L. D. Gale reported a specific gravity of 1.17 on a sam-
ple collected in 1850; with the rise of the lake and the
corresponding dilution of the brine, the specific gravity
* Translation from the original manuscript- journal of Padre Esca-
lante, describing his journeyings from Santa Fe to Utah Lake, etc., in
1776; by Philip Harry; published in Capt. Simpson's Report, 1876; p. 494.
34 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
fell to 1.111 in 1869 (Prof. 0. D. Allen), and to 1.102 in
1873 (Bassett); then the density increased as the lake
waters became more concentrated, reaching 1.1225 in
1885, 1.261 in 1888, and 1.679 in 1892. In December
1894, the density was 1.1538, and in May 1895, 1.1583;
in June 1900, it was 1.1576. These data will be pre-
sented in greater detail on a subsequent page.
It is seen that the Salt Lake brine is among the most
concentrated and therefore the densest of natural
waters; indeed it is surpassed in point of density by but
one large water body the Dead Sea.
As would be surmised of a liquid possessing so high
a specific gravity, the Salt Lake water is extremely buoy-
ant, and this fact the bather soon demonstrates to his
fullest satisfaction. It is a physical impossibility for the
human body to remain submerged, and the skilful swim-
mer may float without effort, rather upon than in the
brine. One of the earliest accounts of bathing in the-
lake is that given by Captain Howard Stansbury in his
official report; an abstract therefrom is presented here-
with, with the simple comment that the multiplied ex-
periences of many confirm his statements as to general
properties and effects of the water, and show the cir-
cumstances of the individual experience described to be
consistent and probable:
"We frequently enjoyed the luxury of bathing in the
LAKE BATHING. 35
water of the lake. No one without witnessing it can form
any idea of the buoyant properties of this singular
water. A man may float, stretched at full length, upon
his back, having his head and neck, both his legs to the
knee, and both arms to the elbow, entirely out of the
water. If a sitting position be assumed, with the arms
extended to preserve the equilibrium, the shoulders will
remain above the surface. The water is nevertheless ex-
tremely difficult to swim in, on account of the constant
tendency of the lower extremities to rise above it. The
brine, too, is so strong, that the least particle of it get-
ting into the eyes produces the most acute pain; and if
acidentally swallowed, strangulation must ensue. I
doubt whether the most expert swimmer could long pre-
serve himself from drowning if exposed to a rough sea.
"Upon one occasion a man of our party fell over-
board, and although a good swimmer, the sudden im-
mersion caused him to take in some mouthfuls of water
before rising to the surface. The effect was a most
violent paroxysm of strangling and vomiting, and the
man was unfit for duty for a day or two afterward. He
would inevitably have been drowned had he not received
immediate assistance. After bathing it is necessary to
wash the skin with fresh water, to prevent the deposit of
salt arising from evaporation of the brine. Yet a bath
in this water is delightfully refreshing and invigor-
'* Exploration and Survey of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of
Utah," by Howard Stansbury, 1852, p. 212.
36 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
The force of waves on the lake is astounding to one
who has had experience in troubled waters of ordinary
density alone. Even a moderate disturbance gives to
the shore breakers prodigious power, and affords the
bather the exciting experience of heavy surf-fighting.
Storms on the open lake are serious happenings to the
small boats that navigate its surface, even though the at-
mospheric disturbance may be that of but an insignifi-
cant squall at sea.
As will be readily understood, boats for service on
the lake must be of special construction, affording
proper displacement in the dense water. A craft that
would sink to the water line in sea-water would ride so
high on the lake brine as to be top-heavy and unsafe.
The natural attractions of the lake as a pleasure re-
sort have been recognized from the time of the first set-
tlement of the valley. Long prior to the erection of
bath houses and pavilion piers, the shores were fre-
quented by pleasure-seekers with whom boating and
bathing were favorite sports. At the present time there
are a number of resorts at different places along the
shore, but of these two only are of considerable propor-
tions. These in the order of their establishment are Gar-
field Beach and Saltair Beach resorts. They are both
situated at the southern extremity of the lake, within
easy access by rail from Salt Lake City.
In this part, the lake shore and bottom, free from
rocky irregularities and mud, is covered with a peculiar
and uniform deposit of "oolitic sand," which forms an
ideal bathing floor. Firm to a moderate degree, it is
yet conveniently soft and elastic, affording to the wader
and to all who desire to keep within the limits of shallow
water the advantages of a prepared bottom.
The Saltair Beach resort is a monumental testimoni-
al to the enterprising energy of Utah capitalists. The
pavilion is situated thirteen miles due west from Salt
Lake City, and may be reached by a twenty minute ride
on the Salt Lake and Los Angeles railroad. The rail-
way here runs over a recently desiccated portion of the
old lake bottom, which preserves many features of actual
desolation, and affords an illustration of what the entire
valley was in the geological yesterday. Saline pools
and playas appear as the shore is approached, and vege-
tation dies away, save occasional patches of wild sage,
(Artemisia tridentata), greasewood (Sarcolatus vermi-
cularis)) and rabbit brush (Lynosyris).
The train runs on a pile-supported track 4,000 feet
into the lake before the pavilion is reached. The build-
ings form a symmetrical group, with a large central
structure connected with a semicircular extension at
each end curving toward the lake. The architecture is af-
THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
ter the Moorish style, and the general effect is as beauti-
ful as the structure is substantial and serviceable. The
pavilion was erected in 1893 at a cost of a quarter of a
In length the buildings extend over 1,115 feet, with
a maximum width of 335 feet. The top of
the main tower is 130 feet above the water sur-
face. Part of the lower floor serves as a lunch and
refreshment pavilion; the area thus utilized is 151 by
252 feet. The upper floor in the main building is used
as a ball room; its dimensions are 140x250 feet. The
dancing floor is domed by a roof constructed after the
plan of that covering the famed Salt Lake City Taber-
nacle, and the proportions of the two vast assembly
rooms are nearly the same.
On the semi-circular sweeps which flank the central
pavilion 620 bath-rooms are provided. The bathing
appointments are of the best, and the many flights of
stairs leading to the water reach the bottom at points
giving a range of depth from fifteen inches to four feet.
Deeper water may be reached at some distance outward.
During the bathing season the observed temperature
of the water ranges from 50 degrees to 86 degrees F.
At night the pavilion is brilliantly illuminated by
means of electric lamps. There are 1,250 incandescent
lights and 40 ordinary arc lights, with one arc light of
2,000 candle power surmounting the main tower.
As would be naturally expected, a resort of such at-
tractiveness is secure in the matter of patronage. The
records show an annual total of over 160,000 visitors.
The buildings are supported on 2,500 piles each 10
inches in square cross-section, and driven 14 feet into
the lake bottom. Owing to the peculiar nature of the
formation, the piles are of unusual stability. To a depth
of a few inches the bottom consists of loose or slightly
compacted oolitic sand; for two feet or more beneath
this is a layer of sand cemented by calcareous matter;
then with a thickness of seven or eight feet comes a
layer of sodium sulphate: the mirabilite of the miner-
alogist and the glauber salts of commerce doubtless
precipitated from the lake water during an earlier stage
of its history.
In the work of pile-driving it was found to be prac-
tically impossible to penetrate this layer of "soda," even
with the best steel-pointed instruments. A method at
once simple and efficient was adopted. Through pipes,
steam under moderate pressure was conveyed to the
sodium sulphate bed; the substance dissolved at once,
and the driving of piles became easy. Concerning the
stability of the piles when driven, Mr. C. W. Miller,
manager for the Saltair Beach Company, writes, "After
the piling has been allowed to set for twenty-four hours,
it is impossible to drive it even a quarter of an inch,
though you might hammer the piling until you wore it
down/' This bed of mirabilite extends for an undeter-
mined though certainly a very considerable area inland,
40 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
for wherever canals have been cut to a sufficient depth
in connection with the salt ponds inshore, the substance
has been encountered as a continuous layer, though of
The present Garfield Beach resort may be regarded
as a development of years, the stages of which were
marked by the successful operation of many minor es-
tablishments. As early as 1876 a small pavilion and
about a hundred bath-rooms were erected at Lake
Point a little less than two miles beyond the site of the
existing pavilion, on the line of the Utah and Nevada
railway. This enterprise was carried on under railway
auspices, at the instance of Hon. W. W. Eiter. In
1885 Captain Thomas Douris built a pier, and provided
bathing and boating facilities near the present location
of Garfield pavilion. A year or so later the railway
company constructed bath-rooms at Black Rock. But
all of these temporary acommodations were superceded
in 1887 by the construction of the commodious pavilion
now in service. This comprises two hundred bath-
rooms, and ample provisions for promenades and halls.
Its original cost was over $70,000, to which may be add-
ed nearly half as much more for subsequent improve-
ments. The attendance of pleasure-seekers at the
Beach has reached a total of 84,000 in a single year. The
resort is on the line of the Utah and Nevada road,
which now is operated as a branch of the Oregon Short
In driving the piles for Garfield pavilion a layer of
sodium sulphate, locally known as "soda," was struck,
as already described in connection with the work at Salt-
air. As the simple method of using steam in penetra-
ting the soda layer was not suggested, steel-shod piles
had to be used; and even with such the work was not ac-
complished without difficulty and high cost.
Attempts have been made to procure a supply of
artesian water at Garfield and at Saltair. Pipes have
been driven on shore, and into the lake bottom. Good
flows are generally struck at a depth of from 100 to 150
feet, but the water is always salty or brackish. All
the potable water used at the resorts named is con-
veyed from a distance.
Beside boating and bathing, the lake offers attrac-
tions to the lover of the gun. Wild duck and other water
fowl congregate in the brackish water near the mouths
of inflowing streams, and on many of the lake islands.
The lake is steadily growing in popularity and favor
as a pleasure and health resort. Situated in close prox-
imity to the high roads of trans-continental travel, it is
visited every year by multitudes. From the east it is
reached by the Union Pacific and the Rio Grande West-
42 THE GREAT gALT LAKE.
ern railways, and from the weat by the Southern Pacific
The general purity of the atmosphere, the exhilar-
ating effect of the lake-breezes, the benefits of altitude,
and the pleasing climate unite in making the lake region
a natural sanitarium. Lovers of pleasure and health-
seekers flock to this mountain-girt lake in rapidly in-
creasing numbers every year.
STATISTICAL AND GENERAL.
It is well known that an enclosed water body, such
as a lake devoid of an outlet, is particularly sensitive
to climatic changes. Such a lake rises and falls as
evaporation increases or diminishes in relation to sup-
ply by precipitation. The variations in volume as
shown by the shore-records of the Great Salt Lake are
The fluctuations in surface area are even greater
than would be expected from a study of the variable re-
lations between supply and loss; and this fact is ex-
plained by the very gradual inclination of the shores.
The entire valley is remarkable for its flatness, as any
observer may see for himself if he will climb one of the
hills in the vicinity of Salt Lake City; but even more
striking is the small increase of water depth as one
passes from the lake-shore outward.
A slight rise in the lake level results therefore in a
great increase of water surface. As was pointed out by
Stansbury, a rise of but a few feet would enable the lake
to reclaim a large part of its former domain over what
is now the Great Salt Lake Desert,
The writer has conversed with residents of towns
near the shore who remember when the water's edge was
in places two miles beyond its present line; and the
44 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
same people are able to point out the ruins of farm
fences a mile inland from the present margin, marking
the location of fields which were destroyed by the rising
waters, and which are now left dry and barren.
We have of ready access two reliable maps of the
lake, by comparison of which recent variations in the
water area may be demonstrated. The earlier of these
is Stansbury's map, based on work done in 1849 and
1850, at which time the lake stood at the lowest level
observed by man ; and the later map is that prepared
under the direction of Clarence King in connection with
the field work of the Fortieth Parallel Survey, dated
1869, when the water was approaching the highest
stage of recent times. According to the first of these
the lake covered 1,750 square miles; the second survey
showed an area of 2,170 square miles.
As would be inferred from the foregoing facts, the
average depth of the lake is subject to small and slow
variations only. On the whole the lake is extremely
shallow. In 1850 the greatest depth found was but
36 feet, and the average but 13 feet. Later, the lake
rose 10 feet, with a consequent increase of water area
through the submergence of the flat shore-borders, but
with an increase of average depth not exceeding 5 feet.
The maximum depth observed at the highest stage was
49 feet. The average depth of Salt Lake today is prob-
ably not more than 15 feet.
The fact that the lake is a closed water body with no
FLUCTUATIONS IN VOLUME. 45
out-flowing stream, would indicate the certainty of
variations in its volume, unless indeed the improbable
chance of a constant balance between the supply fur-
nished by precipitation, and the loss through evapora-
tion were realized. A body of water provided with a
channel of ready discharge may maintain a tolerably
constant level, the outlet acting as a regulator and per-
mitting the escape of the surplus water; but the level of
a lake entirely enclosed will depend, as stated, upon the
relation between the supply and the loss through evapor-
For an undetermined period prior to 1850 or there-
abouts, the Salt Lake had been steadily diminishing in
volume. For ten or fifteen years after the time named
the water oscillated with a tendency to rise; then it rose
rapidly and reached its maximum height in the course
of this increase of volume about 1872 or 1874. Al-
though it is now sinking year by year, it has not yet
reached its low level of 1850.
Antelope Island, one of the land bodies of the lake,
is connected by a bar with the delta of the Jordan Eiver;
this bar is now under water at a depth of 3 to 8 feet.
Fremont records that on August 13, 1845, he rode
across the bar to Antelope Island, the water being in
no part more than 3 feet in depth.*
There is a well-defined and regularly recurring an-
nual oscillation of the lake, marked by a higher water
* Fremont's "Memoirs" I, p. 431.
46 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
level in May and June, and a low stage in the late sum-
mer months; but beside this, oscillations of wider dur-
ation are known to occur. A combination of evidence
from many sources points to the following facts; they
are presented in Gilbert's words:
"From 1847 to 1850 the bar was very dry during
the low stage of each winter, and in summer covered
by not more than 20 inches of water. Then began a
rise which continued until 1855 or 1856. At that time
a horseman could with difficulty ford in winter, but all
communication was by boat in summer. Then the
water fell for a series of years, until in 1860 and 1861 the
bar was again dry in winter. The spring of 1862 was
marked by an unusual fall of rain and snow, whereby
the streams were greatly flooded and the lake surface
was raised several feet. In subsequent years the rise
continued, until in 1865 the ford became impassable.
According to Mr. Miller, the rise was somewhat rapid
until 1868, from which date until the establishment of
the guages, there occurred only minor fluctuations."*
A bar connecting Stansbury Island with the main-
land was dry in 1850. Since the rise of the lake in or
about 1865, the bar has never been entirely above water,
though at present it is fordable during the entire year.
The islands have been used as herd grounds by the in-
habitants of Salt Lake Valley, the cattle being trans-
*'-Lake Bonneville," p. 240; "Lands of the Arid Regions," oh. iv.
ARIDITY OF THE REGION. 47
ferred from the shore or back during the low water
periods. The Stansbury bar is 7 feet higher than the
bar running to Antelope Island.
These fluctuations, while surprisingly great when
placed in comparison with ordinary lake oscillations., are
trifling as compared with the great variations in volume
which marked the stages of Bonneville history. We
observe current changes actually in progress, while the
variations of earlier times we can but picture in imagi-
The aridity of the Great Basin is due to the very
small precipitation of moisture and to the great evap-
oration resulting from the high temperature. Humid
air currents traveling eastward from the Pacific suffer a
condensation of their vapor before reaching the Basin;
when they arrive their condition is changed to that of
An estimate of the energy of the evaporation process
may be made as follows: The preparation of salt from
the lake water constitutes at present an important in-
dustry. In the process of manufacture, the lake brine
is pumped into elevated conduits through which it is
conveyed to large ponds; in the ponds it evaporates
without artifical heat. The pond area, the pump dis-
charge per hour, and the length of time during which
the pumps have to be operated in order to keep the
48 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
water at the same level in the ponds, may all be deter-
mined. From the official reports of one of the salt
companies, it is learned that their ponds cover 971 acres;
that the pumps discharge 14,000 gallons of water per
minute, and that when the ponds have been filled, it is
necessary to operate the pumps to their full capacity
from ten to twelve hours daily during the summer
months in order to maintain the level. Making allow-
ance at the start, as a guard against over-estimate, let
us assume that the evaporating surface of the ponds is
1,000 acres in area. At the rate of 14,000 gallons per
minute, 8,400,000 gallons would be delivered in ten
hours. This represents the loss by evaporation per day
of 24 hours. Considering the lake surface to be 2,125
square miles the usually accepted area the rate of
evaporation shown above would indicate a daily removal
from the lake of 11,424,000,000 gallons of water, or
342,720,000,000 gallons per month of 30 days. The
weight of the water so lifted is 95,447,916 tons per day
or 2,863, 437,500 tons per month. The same high
rate of evaporation continues through at least three
months of the year. The estimate here indulged in is
founded on the unproved supposition that the rate of
loss is the same over the deep parts of the lake body as
from the shallow pond waters; it is evident indeed that
such cannot be the case; but even if the numbers would
more nearly represent the truth when halved, quartered,
or divided by ten, the result is sufficiently astounding.
INCREASE OF WATER-SUPPLY 49
As is now generally known, there has been a notable
increase in the water supply of the Salt Lake valley,
and indeed of the entire Basin .Region, within the period
of human occupancy. The supply keeps ahead of the
demands of the growing population. By way of ex-
ample, I cite the following items of traditional history,
for which information I am indebted to the Historian's
Office, Salt Lake City: Between 1850 and 1860 the site
of the present town of Kaysville was first occupied for
habitation. For years after the time of first settle-
ment, a dozen families composed the entire population,
and the settlers were loath to welcome additions to their
numbers, owing to scarcity of water. The tiny creek
on the banks of which the diminutive and scattered vil-
lage had been established, scarcely furnished water
enough for the irrigation of the few small farms owned
by the settlers. Kaysville now is a thriving little town
with a population of over 1,800. Similar conditions
have prevailed in the history of other towns on the lake
margin. Forty-five years ago ten families composed the
population of Farmington and fourteen that of Bounti-
ful. These places are at present prosperous towns, the
first with over a thousand inhabitants, the second sup-
porting over 2,500 souls. The prevailing pursuit of the
people is agriculture, and water is needed for every
farm. Yet there is enough and to spare, and additions
to the farming population are regarded as desirable.
To account for this remarkable increase in the water
50 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
supply, numerous theories have been proposed, most
of them meeting with temporary favor, soon to be lost.
Of such theories three are generally current; these are
called respectively, the volcanic theory, the climatic
theory, and the theory of human agencies.*
The volcanic theory supposes the increase to be
merely an apparent rise in the lake volume, and this is
ascribed to erogenic disturbances whereby the lake bot-
tom has been deformed, and the water caused to recede
from some parts and to overflow others. The hypothesis
is untenable in the light of the fact that the elevation of
lake level is real, indicating an actual increase in the
water volume. The water has risen along the entire
shore line. On the islands and along the mainland
margin old storm lines are now submerged, and every-
where the shore has been transferred inland. Independ-
ent observation confirms the belief that the rising of the
lake is due to an increase in the water supply of the
entire hydrographic basin, for the streams have all
grown in volume to a degree commensurate with the
lake growth. The water body not only rose with com-
parative rapidity above a height which for an indefinite
period had marked its maximum limit, but it main-
tained its higher level for more than a decade; and such
a condition is not explicable on the supposition of a
simple deformation of the bed. With reference to the
general and actual rising of the water in opposition to
* '-Lands of the Arid Regions," p. 67.
INCREASE OF WATER-SUPPLY. 51
any supposed increase which is apparent only, I quote
from the "Lands of the Arid Begions," page 67:
"The farmers of the eastern and southern margins
have lost pastures and meadows by submergence. At
the north, Bear River Bay has advanced several miles
upon the land. At the west, a boat has recently sailed
a number of miles across tracts that were traversed by
Captain Stansbury' s land parties. That officer has de-
scribed and mapped Strong's Knob and Stansbury Island
as peninsulas, but they have since become islands. An-
telope Island is no longer accessible by ford, and Egg
Island, the nesting ground of the gulls and pelicans,
has become a reef. Springs that supplied Captain
Stansbury with fresh water near Promontory Point are
now submerged and inaccessible; and other springs
have been covered on the shores of Antelope, Stansbury,
and Fremont Islands."
The climatic theory refers the phenomenon of in-
crease to a permanent change in the conditions control-
ling precipitation and evaporation within the drainage
basin. While the recorded observations of rainfall are
few, an actual increase in precipitation is indicated. An
increase of less than ten per cent would probably ac-
count for the observed phenomena, and the influence of
climatic change appears to be a probable explanation, in
part at least, of the greater supply.
Major Powell has advocated the claim of the theory
of human agency. By the cultivation of the land, and
52 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
the deforesting of the hill slopes, man favors the rapid
removal of the precipitated moisture through the in-
crease of stream volume. Well covered soil retains
the moisture whether it fall as rain or as snow, and in
time returns it to the atmosphere through the medium
of evaporation. The more completely the precipitated
water is so held, the less reaches the lake, through
stream discharge; and conversely, as the streams are aug-
mented the lake rises. Considering the theory of cli-
matic change and that of human agency as the two hy-
potheses most worthy of credence, the writer of chap-
ter iv of "Lands of the Arid Regions," says:
"On the whole, it may be most wise to hold the ques-
tion an open one whether the water supply of the lake
has been increased by a climatic change or by human
agency. So far as we now know, neither theory is in-
consistent with the facts, and it is possible that the truth
includes both. The former appeals to a cause that may
perhaps be adequate, but is not independently known to
exist. The latter appeals to causes known to exist,
but quantitatively undetermined. It is gratifying to
turn to the economic bearings of the question, for the
theories best sustained by facts are those most flattering
to the agricultural future of the Arid Region. If the
filling of the streams and the rising of the lake were due
to a transient extreme of climate, that extreme would
be followed by the return to a mean condition, or per-
haps by an oscillation in the opposite direction, and a
INCREASE OP WATER-SUPPLY. 53
large share of the fields now productive would be
stricken by drought and returned to the desert. If the
increase of water supply is due to a progressive change of
climate forming part of a long cycle, it is practically per-
manent, and future changes are more likely to be in
the same advantageous direction than in the opposite.
The lands now reclaimed are assured for years to come,
and there is every encouragement for the work of utiliz-
ing the existing streams to the utmost. And finally, if
the increase of water supply is due to the changes
wrought by the industries of the white man, the pros-
pect is even better."
As has been stated, the lake is now steadily decreas-
ing in volume. This cannot be regarded as evidence
of a turn in the series of climatic changes toward a
state of increasing aridity, nor as proof of less potent
human influences. As population grows, the area of
land brought under cultivation enlarges very rapidly,
and many of the streams, which but a few years ago made
important contributions to the lake volume, now send
but an insignificant tribute; and in other instances the
stream channels below the uplands are entirely dry dur-
ing the greater part of the year. There is little ground
for doubt that in the near future even the flood season
contributions of water will be practically cut off, for the
increasing demands of the growing irrigation system
54 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
will compel the construction of artificial reservoirs in
the upper stream regions, and thus the water will be
stored for subsequent distribution upon the land.
The geological evidence of a former desiccation of
the lake is conclusive, and the industrial energy of man
is assuredly contributing in a very effective manner to the
process of present shrinkage; but that the desiccation
shall again reach completion in the near future is by
no means certain. As the lake surface diminishes, the
area exposed to solar evaporation is lessened, and a
level may be reached at which the loss by evaporation
will be more nearly met by the stream supply.
THE LAKE WATER.
The variation in volume and the consequent oscilla-
tions in level characterizing a lake without outlet, and
the particularly striking example of such afforded by
the Great Salt Lake have been already referred to. As
shown by geological investigation, the lake has shrunk,
from a level approximately 600 feet above the present
surface to its existing volume, by desiccation alone.
Thus through long ages the solid matter leached from
rock and soil and carried into the lake by streams has
been undergoing concentration, until the water has
reached its present condition of unusual density.
Analyses of samples of lake water collected at times of
high and low level show great variations in dissolved
solids, and these variations are of course approximately
commensurate with the fluctuations in volume.
The first recorded determination of the solids dis-
solved in the lake water is that of Dr. L. D. Gale, pub-
lished in Stansbury's report. Gale's results together
with those of later examinations are presented here.*
* For compilation of analyses of Salt Lake water with a discussion
of the same, see Monograph I., U. 8. Geological Survey, "Lake Bonne-
ville," by G. K. Gilbert, pp. 252-254.
THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
Solid contents and specific gravity of water taken
from the Great Salt Lake:
Per cent by Grains per
L D Gale
O D Allen
J E Talmage
1 1 9 61
>i >i 11
September, 1892 .
J. E. Talmage.
J T Kingsbury
J. E. Talmage.
H N McCoy and*
The difference existing between the writer's results
from the sample collected September 1892, and those
obtained by Waller on a sample taken during the pre-
ceding month, is greater than would be expected from
the progressive concentration during so short an inter-
val. It is more likely due to an actual difference between
the samples, they probably having been taken from dif-
ferent parts of the lake.
The statements most commonly current regarding
the solid contents of the lake water are based on the
earliest examination by Gale. In 1889f the present
writer protested against this excessive estimate of aver-
age composition, as at that time the lake was and for
* Specific gravity determined by Dr. McCoy; total solids by Mr.
t "The Waters of the Great Salt Lake," by J. E. Talmage, Sci-
ence (New York), December, 188d; vol xiv,, pp. 444446.
THE LAKE WATER. 57
many years preceding had been at a relatively high
level and of corresponding dilution. The opinion was
then expressed that "it would be more correct to quote
the average contents of the Salt Lake water at six-
teen per cent solid matters, than at twenty-two per
cent" as was at that time most commonly done. It
was pointed out however that the lake was then under-
going a process of rapid shrinkage, and the inference
is plain that the proportion of total solids was corres-
pondingly increasing. At the present time (June,
1900) the water has not yet reached the degree of rich-
ness chronicled by Dr. Gale. It would appear safe to
say that the average of solid matter dissolved is about
twenty-one per cent by weight at present.
Inasmuch as solids dissolved in natural water are
frequently expressed in terms of grains per gallon, it
may be interesting to transform some of the foregoing
readings into the more common expressions. Let it
be remembered that 10 grains of solid matter to the
imperial gallon is the equivalent of .014 per cent by
weight. The mean of the writers analyses quoted
above of samples taken in December 1885, (16.7162 per
cent solids) and in August 1889, (19.5576 per cent)
is 18.1369 per cent; this corresponds to 11,777.64 grains
per gallon. For convenience of comparison these re-
sults are given below in connection with the re-
THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
suits of analyses of other waters, potable and mineral,
from Utah and other places. The gallon here referred
to is the imperial gallon, containing 277.27 cubic inches;
such a measure of pure water at the temperature of
62 degrees F. weighs 10 pounds avoirdupois, or 70,000
grains per gallon.
River Loka, Sweden 0.05 Wells.
Boston, U. S., Waterworks 1.22 Johnston.
Loch Katrine, Scotland 2.3 Wanklyn.
Schuylkill River at Philadelphia 4.26 Johnston.
Detroit River, Michigan 5.72 "
Ohio River at Cincinnati 6.74
Loire at Orleans 9.38
Danube, near Vienna 9.87 "
Lake Geneva 10.64 "
River Rhine at Basel 11.8 Wanklyn.
Thames at London 18.5 "
Average of 12 artesian wells, Provo,
Utah 18.6 J. E. Talmage.
Salt Lake City supply 16.92
Spring water, Provo, Utah 23.3 "
Formation Springs, Idaho 27.8
Octagon Spring, at Soda Springs,
Well water, Gunnison, Utah 148.01
"Ninety per cent Spring," at Soda
Springs. Idaho 198.41
Warm Springs, Spanish Fork Canyon,
Atlantic Ocean 2,688,00 Wanklyn.
Salt Lake 11,777.64 J. E. Talmage.
Dead Sea 17,064.42
As comparisons between the Great Salt Lake and
the Dead Sea are common, the two lakes representing
the highest known condition of natural concentration
in large water bodies, the content of solid matter in the
* See "Domestic Science," by J. E. Talmage, second edition, p. 200
201; George Q. Cannon & Sons' Co., Salt Lake City, 1892.
THE LAKE WATEft. 5
Dead Sea water is of interest in the present connection.
It must be remembered, however, that great discrep-
ancy exists among published accounts of the compo-
sition of this water. Bernan gives 14,025.48 grains per
gallon; Captain Lynch collected a sample at a depth
of 1,110 feet, and found it to contain 18,902 grains per
gallon. The amount given in the foregoing statement,
(17,064.42 grains per gallon) was determined by the
author in a sample taken from the Dead Sea in April
1886, by Dr. J. M. Tanner.
The composition of the solid matter existing in the
lake water is a subject of importance. Some results.
of analyses are here given:
Analyses of Salt Lake water , acids and bases theoretically
combined; expressed in percentage of weight of
.. 20.20 11.86
. .. 1.83 0.93
Excess of chlorine
Total ............................. 22.28 14.99 13.42 16.716 19.557
Allen reports traces of boric and phosphoric acids.
Lithiais also present in quantities sufficient to give the
spectroscopic effect with little difficulty.
THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
In the analyses given on the authority of the writer,
the data represent in most instances averages of several
One of the most comprehensive of the analyses pub-
lished is that by E. Waller, giving the results of ex-
amination on a sample collected August 9, 1892.* The
report is as follows:
Analysis of a sample of the water of Great Salt
Lake collected August 9, 1892.
[Expressed in grams per litre; Specific Gravity, 1.156]
Elements and Radicals.
Sulphur trioxide 12.522
Oxygen in sulphates 2.494
Ferric oxide and ( nnoi
aluminium oxide f aw *
Boron oxide Trace
Bromine Faint trace
Sodium chloride NaCl 192.860
Potassium sulphate K 2 SO 4 .... 8.756
Lithium sulphate, Li 2 SO 4 0.166
Magnesium chloride, Mg C1 2 . . 15.044
Magnesium sulphate, Mg SO 4 5.216
Calcium sulphate, Ca SO 4 8.240
Ferric and aluminium oxides
Fe 2 O 3 + A1 2 O 3
-L' t/2 ^3 "..I g **! ? )
Silica, SiO 2 0,018
Surplus sulphur trioxide, SO 3 0.051
Total solids by evaporation.. .238. 12
Total solids [duplicate] 237.925
The most striking discrepancy between the results
of Waller's analysis and those recorded in the table on
page 59, is the absence of sodium sulphate in the list of
probable combinations presented by Waller, and the
presence of this substance in every other analysis herein
recorded. As is generally understood, an ultimate
* See "Sctool of Mines Quarterly" (Columbia College, New York,)
vol. 14, 1892. p. 58. Quoted with approving comment by I. C. Russell in
"Lakes of North America," Boston, 1895, p. 81.
THE LAKE WATER. 61
chemical analysis gives the proportions of elements and
radicals present; the combinations of these into definite
salts, etc., is attended with some uncertainty as to ac-
curacy. Waller has evidently combined all the sodium
with chlorine, as sodium chloride or common " salt,
which certainly is the most abundant substance in the
solid residue yielded by the lake water. Nevertheless
sodium sulphate is known to exist in the lake brine,
for, as shall be hereafter shown, a copious precipitation
of the sulphate occurs whenever the water falls to a
certain critical degree of low temperature. It is safe
to say that many thousands of tons of the substance
are deposited, some of it thrown by wave action upon
the shores, in the course of every cold winter. And that
an abundant deposition of sodium sulphate has taken
place during a prior period of lake history has been
already affirmed on the conclusive evidence afforded by
the thick bed of the substance encountered in the driv-
ing of piles at Saltair and Garfield and in the cutting of
canals on the neighboring shore lands. (See pp. 39, 41)
Gilbert estimates the quantity of sodium sulphate con-
tained in the lake water at thirty millions of tons.*
The source of the solid matter contained in natural
waters is found to be the rock and soil through which the
water passes, either by downward percolation and flow,
or by upward passage under pressure. If such rocks
* "Lake Bonneville," Monograph I, U. S. G. S., 1890; p. 253.
62 THE GREAT SALT LAKH.
supply alkaline chlorides in excess, the evaporation of
the water so charged will yield salt; if alkaline carbon-
ates be the principal substances dissolved out from the
rocks, alkaline residues will result from evaporation.
It is evident that the streams supplying Great Salt Lake
have traversed salt-bearing formations.
The composition of the waters flowing into the lake
presents itself as a subject of interest in this connection.
The streams from the Wasatch and Uintah mountains,
which constitute the greater part of the lake supply,
while carrying in solution nearly double the quantity
of dissolved solids usually present in river water, (due
rather to the unusual evaporation from their surface
incident to the arid conditions than to more active
solution from the rocks) give nevertheless no indication
of mineral contents to the taste or other senses. An-
alyses of the principal waters supplying the lake give
an average of about 0.2446 part of dissolved mineral
solids per thousand.
Beside the rivers and creeks from the adjacent
mountains, the lake has other sources of supply from
fissure springs, which open at points on the shore or on
the bottom. Few of these springs are markedly saline,
and but one is known to be excessively so. Their con-
tent of salt is probably derived from the former sedi-
ments of the region.
THE LAKE WATER. 63
It is estimated that the combined waters from sur-
face streams and springs would probably contain less
than double the percentage of solids held by the surface
streams alone. Prof. Russell's assumption* is, that on
the evidence now within reach, the combined spring
and stream waters supplying the lake contain about
0.3 part solid matter in a thousand, or three one-
hundredths of one per cent. Such a proportion of
mineral matter, even if wholly common salt, would not
reveal itself to the taste; and it is safe therefore to con-
clude that but for the concentrating effect of evapor-
ation the lake would belong to the category of fresh-
The enormous quantity of saline matter held in this
lake of brine affords a striking example of the effect of
concentration long continued. As stated, few of the
inflowing streams are rich in salt. The Malad river is
an exception; in its lower part this stream becomes
brackish from the contributions of saline springs.
The evaporation, which has been in uninterrupted
progress for ages past, has produced a nearly saturated
brine. Along the lake margins, in partly-isolated areas,
the shallow water has already begun to deposit salt; but
in the open lake the water yet holds its salt in perma-
nent solution. Russell records that in 1880 the water
* "Lakes of North America, p." 82,
64 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
between Stansbury Island and the mainland was floored
by a glistening pavement of salt, strong enough to sup-
port a horse and rider over the greater part of the area.
It is evident that the Salt Lake, while approaching a
degree of concentration equal to that of 1850, has not
yet become a thoroughly saturated brine. Neverthe-
less, at low temperatures an abundant precipitation of
sodium sulphate occurs, as already stated. During the
winter season, as the temperature sinks below a critical
point, somewhere near the freezing point of fresh
water, the sulphate separates from the water in the
crystallized form as Mirabilite. As the separation
takes place, the lake water becomes opalescent. Much
of the precipitate is heaped upon the shore by wave
action; and under particularly favorable conditions the
shore deposit is over a foot in depth. When the water
is warmed to the critical point of temperature, the crys-
talline substance is rapidly re-dissolved. Clusters of
large and perfectly formed crystals may be found during
cold weather on the posts supporting the bath houses,
and on other stationary solid objects submerged in the
The analytical data given show that the lake
water is a concentrated brine, with sodium chloride
greatly predominating, and with magnesium chloride
and sodium sulphate existing also in large proportions.
Most of the saline lakes of the Great Basin hold alka-
line and earthy carbonates in solution, and the absence
THE LAKE WATEE. 60
of such from the Salt Lake water has been a subject of
much comment. In this respect the Salt Lake com-
pares closely with the Dead Sea, though widely differ-
ing in other respects, notably in the predominance of
sodium over magnesium salts. The sulphates delivered
to the lake by the contributing streams remain in solu-
tion, except, as specified, at low temperatures. Calcium
carbonate, however, is precipitated as soon as the stream-
water which carries it reaches its briny receptacle. A
similar phenomenon is observed in the calareous sedi-
ments at the mouths of many rivers.
The calcium carbonate which analysis proves to ex-
ist in no inconsiderable quantity in most of the inflow-
ing streams, and which diligent search has thus far
failed to reveal in the lake water, is accounted for by
the accumulation of calcareous particles along portions
of the shore, particularly at the southern extremity.
This material, commonly known as oolitic sand, is found
in spherules, ranging between the size of No. 10 and
No. 8 shot. By wave action it is drifted upon the
shore and in some places it constitutes dunes several
yards in depth. The fact that it is confined to the
shore suggests the possibility of the rounded form being
the result of rolling. The globular bodies possess a
concentric structure, and in many cases a nucleus of
silica is detectable. Dr. A. Eothpletz has advanced the
theory that the ooliths of the Salt Lake are a product
of the algae which exist along the shores. He claims
66 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
that the stones are generally covered with colonies of
G-laeocapsa and Gloeothecae, which organisms are
known to excrete calcium carbonate; and he holds that
most of the marine ooliths, at least those characterized
by concentric and radial structure, are the products of
lime-excreting schizophytes.* Kothpletz's views have
not been generally approved. While the oolitic sand is
the only abundant shore accumulation of calcium
carbonate, it is probable that a marly deposit is form-
ing with other lake sediments in the deeper parts.
* Botaniscfces Centralblatt, 1892, p. 35.
LIFE IN THE LAKE.*
The popular literature of the day persists in assert-
ing that no living thing exists or can exist in the dense
brine of the Great Salt Lake. There is little excuse
for the perpetuation of such an error; yet cyclopedias
and school geographies and magazines continue to re-
iterate the false statements. It is readily seen that the
conditions prevailing in the lake are not favorable to
the existence of the ordinary aquatic forms of life; and
that cases of adaptation to life in the brine would natur-
ally be rare.
Of animals but few species have been found in the
lake, but of these few two are represented by swarming
numbers. Among the animal forms already reported
as common to the lake, the writer has confirmed the
presence of four: (1) Artemia fertilis, Verril; (2) the
larvae of one of the Tipulidae, probably Chironomus
oceanicus, Packard; (3) a species of Corixa, probably
Corixa decolor, Uhler; (4) larvae and pupae of a fly,
Ephydra gracilis, Packard.
The larvae of the Ephydra are found in abundance
amongst the algae that strew the shores or appear as
surface patches in the shallow parts; while the mature
* A portion of the matter presented under this sub-title has already
appeared as an article by the writer in "The American Monthly Micro-
scopical Journal," vol. 13, pp. 284-286.
68 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
insects, as small black flies, swarm along the shores where
conditions have proved favorable for their develop-
ment. The larvae of the tipula may be taken anywhere
near shore during the warm months; and the pupa cases
of both species are often washed ashore in great num-
bois, where they undergo decomposition with disagree-
Of the lake animals, the Artemia fertilis (or Arteniia
gracilis) commonly known as the brine shrimp, exists
in greatest numbers. They are tiny crustaceans, sel-
dom exceeding one-third inch extreme length. They
may be found in the lake at all seasons, though they
are most numerous between May and October. I have
taken them in the midst of winter, when the tempera-
ture of the water was far below freezing point; it will be
remembered that the concentrated brine of the lake
never freezes. The females greatly preponderate; in
fact, during the colder months it is almost impossible
to find a male. In the latter part of the summer r,h<!
females are laden with eggs, from four to sixteen having
been repeatedly counted in the egg pouch. The males
are readily recognized by the very large claspers upon
the head. (See plate XII). The shrimps are found near
shore during calm weather, but rain or wind drives
them into the lake. At times they congregate in such
numbers as to tint the water over wide areas.
THE BRINE SHRIMP. 69
They are capable of adapting themselves to great var-
iation in the composition of the water, as must necessar-
ily be the case with any tenant of the Salt Lake. I have
specimens of the artemiae gathered from the lake in
September 1892, and the water then taken showed on an-
anlyses, 14,623.23 grains of dissolved solids to the im-
perial gallon, the greater part of this being salt. Indeed,
I have captured the creatures in the evaporating ponds
of the salt works, where the brine was near its point
It is not difficult to accustom them to a diluted
medium; I have kept them alive for days in lake water
diluted with 25, 50, 80 and 90 per cent fresh water, and
from eight to eighteen hours in fresh water only. Of
course the changes from brine to- fresh water were
made gradually, though a sudden transfer from the
lake brine to fresh water or even to distilled water is not
followed by speedy death. On the contrary, the
creatures live for hours after such sudden change, with
few signs of discomfort or inconvenience except their
inability to rise in the water of low density.
The ability of the shrimps to withstand the effects of
rapid dilution of the medium is surprising if we assume
that their tissues are ordinarily impregnated with the
salt of the lake brine. The violent osmosis between
the dense fluids of the tissues and the fresh water with-
out would appear to insure disruption. It is possible,
however, that the tissues do not absorb the brine in
70 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
its entirety; indeed, if the shrimps just taken from the
lake be subjected to a single quick rinsing with fresh
water, they are but slightly salty to the taste.
During a cruise upon the lake in September 1892,
our party found the crustaceans swarming in the open
water. When near the middle of the lake, with a small
tow-net we gathered a quart of the shrimps in the course
of a few minutes. Thereupon we resolved upon an ex-
periment the subsequent recital of which has shocked
the gastronomic sensibilities of many friends. Reason-
ing that the bodies of the artemiae are composed largely
of chitin, we concluded that the question of their
palatability was at least worthy of investigation. By a
simple rinsing with fresh water the excess of lake brine
was removed, after which the shrimps were cooked with
no accompaniments save a little butter and a suggestion
of pepper. They were actually delicious. If the
shrimps could be caught and preserved in quantity, I
doubt not they would soon be classed as an epicurean
delicacy. Repeated washings for five minutes removed
the brine so completely that salt had to be added to
make the dish palatable.
As to their food in captivity they live upon meat,
bread, or vegetables, in fact upon almost anything in
the nature of food; and they are not slow in attacking
the bodies of their own dead. In the lake they proba-
bly subsist upon the organic particles brought down by
rivers, upon the algae which flourish about the shores,
THE BRINE SHRIMP. 71
and upon the larvae and pupae of the insects tenanting
The mounting of specimens of the brine shrimp for
permanent microscopical use requires considerable care
and some modification of the ordinary procedure. Most
of the common mounting media cause the delicate struc-
ture to become distorted, or produce such a degree of
transparency as to render the object invisible. A
method which has given the writer good results consists
in mounting the specimen in a preparation of lake
brine with corrosive sublimate and an alcoholic solution
of carbolic acid. To this fluid, placed upon the slide,
the living artemia is transferred directly from the lake
brine; the creature dies quickly, and in so doing spreads
itself most perfectly. While objects so prepared are
of admirable arrangement and definition as temporary
mounts, the structure is liable to break down after a
lapse of months.
A better permanent result may be secured as follows:
Place the artemiae inPeryeni's fluid; they will be quickly
killed, and will be hardened by the action of the fluid
in from 12 to 20 hours. They should then be trans-
fered to alcohol, the strength of which should be in-
creased by degrees, beginning with 40 per cent and run-
ning to 95 per cent. The structure will take some of the
analine stains quite readily; it may then be carried
72 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
through absolute alcohol with phenol, then through
phenol and turpentine, and be permanently mounted in
In point of zoological classification it may be said
that the brine shrimp is a crustacean, and is generally
referred to the order Phyllopoda one of the divisions
of the sub-class Entomostraca. In all phyllopods ex-
cept those of the highest family of the order, a carapax
covers the greater part of the body. To this highest
family the Branchipodidae the artemia belongs.
The Artemia is distinguished from a nearly allied
form, the Branchinecta in the following particulars:
Artemia possesses eight abdominal segments; the second
pair of antennae or claspers, which are highly developed
in the male, are flat and of triangular shape in the sec-
ond joint; the ovisac of the female is short. Branchi-
necta has nine segments composing the abdomen; the
claspers are simple and cylindrical; the ovisac is long
Commenting on the structural and other relations
between these two forms,* Prof. J. S. Kingsley says:
"Under ordinary circumstances these [differences]
would be considered as of generic value; but what shall
we say when we know the results of the observations and
experiments of the Russian naturalist, Vladimir Sch-
* Riverside Natural History, vol ii,, pp. 40-41.
THE BRINE SHRIMP. 73
wankewitsch? Condensed from his account these were
as follows: In 1871 the spring flood broke down the
barriers separating the two different lakes of the salt-
works near Odessa, diluting the water in the lower por-
tion to 8 degrees Baume, and also introducing into it a
large number of the brine shrimp,, Artemia salina*
After the restoration of the embankment the water rap-
idly increased in density, until in September 1874, it
reached 25 degrees of Beanie's scale and began to de-
posit salt. With this increase in density a gradual
change was noticed in the characters of the artemiae,
until late in the summer of 1874, forms were produced
which had all the characters of a supposed distinct
species, Artemia muehlausenii. The reverse experi-
ment was then tried. A small quantity of the water
was gradually diluted, and though conducted for only
a few weeks, a change in the direction of Artemia salina
was very apparent.
"Led by these experiments he tried still others:
Taking A rtemia salina, which lives in brine of moder-
ate strength, he gradually diluted the water, and ob-
tained as a result a form which is known as Bran-
cfiinecta skaefferi, the last segment of the abdomen
having become divided into two. NOT is this change
produced by artificial means alone. The salt pools
near Odessa, after a number of years of continued wash-
ing, became converted into fresh water pools, and with
the gradual change in character, Artemia salina pro-
74 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
duces first a species known as Branchinecta spinosus,
and at a still lower density Branchinecta fer ox, and an-
other species described as Branchinecta medius."
Observations on the artemiae of the Salt Lake under
conditions of slow increase or decrease of the brine den-
sity indicate the" occurrence of changes in structure,
but no long continued experiments of conclusive re-
sults have been reported.
The artemia is interesting to the zoologist as furnish-
ing an example of parthenogenesis, i. e., reproduction
by means of unfertilized eggs. Siebold of Munich has
investigated this subject, and he announces that with
the entomostracans, Apus and Artemia, this partheno-
genic reproduction is common. He reared several
broods composed entirely of females; yet from these,
eggs were produced which hatched vigorous young.
Packard treats parthenogenesis as a modified process of
reproduction by budding.
The eggs of the artemia are capable of sustaining
long continued drought without losing their vitality.
Eggs have been sent in mud from the Salt Lake to
Munich, Germany, where they have been successfully
hatched by Siebold. It would be interesting to deter-
mine whether the fertilized eggs and those of parthen-
ogenetic origin are of equal vitality under unfavorable
conditions. In the light of known facts concerning
reproduction among other forms, it would be reasonable
THE BRINE SHRIMP. 75
to expect that unfertilized eggs would prove less able
to withstand vicissitude.
The following remarks by Gilbert* regarding the
brine shrimp are of interest: "Packard ascribes the
phenomenal abundance of the Artemia to the absence
of enemies, for the brine sustains no carnivorous species
of any sort. The genus is not known to live in fresh
water or water of feeble salinity, but commonly makes its
appearance when feebly saline waters are concentrated
by evaporation. It has been ascertained that a European
species takes on the characters of another genus,
BrancJiinecta when it is bred through a series of genera-
tions in brine gradually diluted to freshness; and con-
versely, that it may be derived from BrancJiinecta by
gradual increase in the salinity of the medium. It is
found, moreover, that its eggs remain fertile for indefi-
nite periods in the dry condition, so that whatever may
have been the history of the climate of the Bonneville
Basin, the present occurrence of the Artemia involves
no mystery. During the Bonneville epoch its ancestors
may have lived in the fresh waters of the basin, and dur-
ing the epoch of extreme desiccation, when the bed of
Great Salt Lake assumed the playa condition, and was
dry a portion of the year, the persistent fertility of its
eggs may have preserved the race. Or, if the playa
* "Lake Bonneville," p. 259. See also Twelfth Annual Report U. S.
Geol. and Geogr. Survey of the Territories, 1883, Part 1, pp. 295-592, par-
ticularly pp. 330-334.
76 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
condition with its concomitant sedimentation was fatal
to the species, it may be that the alternative fresh water
form survived in upper lakes and streams of the basin
so as to re-stock the lower lake whenever it afforded
The lake flora has received even less attention than
has been bestowed upon its limited fauna. The exist-
ence of plant-life in the water is indicated by the abund-
ance of animal life therein, and examination confirms
the inference. The shore waters show an extensive
vegetable growth, principally, perhaps entirely, of algae.
A number of species seem to be indicated from the wide-
ly varying colors of the vegetable masses, and three have
been recognized. Diatoms have been found in the
brackish waters of the playa-pools ashore, and diatom-
aceous deposits make up part of the old lake beds.
Much has been said at different times as to the possi-
bility of adapting fish to a life in the lake. In the ab-
sence of experimental data it would be rash to conjec-
ture; though it would appear unlikely that fish could
thrive in such a brine. Yet the fear expressed, that
even if fish could be accustomed to the lake water they
would starve unless artificially fed, is unfounded, for the
waters contain an abundant food supply crustaceans,
insect larvae and pupae, and algae.
The fauna and flora of the Great Salt Lake are sub-
jects inviting thorough investigation.
ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF THE LAKE.
The composition of Salt Lake water is such as to
warrant the assurance of the lake becoming a valuable
source of useful products. Indeed these briny waters
have already begun to yield of their chemic riches,
which, as guaged by the standard of human needs, are
inexhaustible. The most abundant solids dissolved in the
water are sodium chloride (common salt,) magnesium
chloride, and sodium sulphate. Of these the first and the
last named are easily separable.
The preparation of common salt from the lake
water has been carried on since the early set-
tlement of the region. The salt first produced acquired
a bad reputation owing to its impurity; but this defect
was due to carelessness or ignorance in the process of
manufacture. The most primitive method consisted
in constructing low dikes along the shore; over these
barriers the waves carried large quantities of brine dur-
ing times of storms, and the water thus imprisoned
was allowed to evaporate by solar heat resulting in an
abundant yield of impure salt. The evaporating pools
were in some instances below the lake level, and little
opportunity was given for the removal of the mother
78 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
liquors after the crystallization of the salt. The brine
was allowed to evaporate to dryness, or at best the salt
deposit was gathered from the mother liquor with little
chance of purification, by draining. The crude product
thus obtained contained, of course, all the impurities
which ought to have been separated by the removal of
the mother liquor. In consequence, Salt Lake salt was
in ill favor; it was pronounced unfit for dairy use be-
cause it refused to remain properly incorporated with
the butter, some of its ingredients appearing as an
efflorescence on the surface.
Prior to very recent times, Utah presented an un-
enviable spectacle by importing salt into this, the richest
salt region of earth. Now, however, the refined salt is
in demand as one of the best and purest products in the
market. A number of large salt-works have been estab-
lished on the shores of the lake, and the industry is of
assured and increasing success.
The most important producers of salt from the lake
have been, in the order of their successful operation, the
Jeremy Salt Co., the Inland Crystal Salt Co., and the In-
termountain Salt Co. The first named has suspended,
and the other two are consolidated under the name, In-
land Crystal Salt Company. This company is now
operating its plant on a large scale, producing all grades
of salt from the coarse product used for metallurgical
and packing purposes, to the finest table salt. Another
establishment, the Saginaw Salt Co., is in business on
SALT FROM THE LAKE. 79
the east shore, in Davis county, but there crude coarse
salt only is produced.
The process of manufacture employed by the Inland
Crystal Salt Company is thoroughly efficacious and sat-
isfactory; and as it represents the highest attainment in
salt manufacture from natural brine here or elsewhere,
and at the same time demonstrates the profits of this
important industry in this region, it merits attention.
The lake brine is lifted by means of centrifugal
pumps to a height of fourteen feet above lake level; it is
then conveyed through flumes to the settling and evap-
orating ponds which are situated from one to two miles
inland. The ponds cover about fourteen hundred
acres of land, not all of which, however is in use every
season. The pumps pour into the flumes about fourteen
thousand gallons of brine per minute, and are kept in
operation about ten hours daily during the pumping
season of about 150 days beginning usually in March.
By the time the ponds have been filled the evaporating
season is well advanced, and about the same supply of
water is required during the warmer months to main-
tain a constant level. No accurate record of pumping
hours is kept at the plant, the work being regulated
so as to maintain the level of the brine in the ponds.
Long continued rains, which, however, are of rare oc-
currence except in the early part of the season, cause a
80 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
In the ponds, and at times nec^akate the return of
part of the brine to the lake to prevent overflow.
A portion of the pond area is used as a settling
basin wherein the water deposits its suspended matters;
thence is is conveyed to the evaporating ponds
proper. The evaporation is accomplished by solar heat
alone. The season lasts about four months during
which a layer of salt with an average depth of six incher
deposits. This affords a practical yield of about 90U
tons to the acre, or at the rate of 150 tons per inch
depth per acre. The saline mud forming the pond
floor is practically water-tight.
About one-tenth of the amount of brine carried to the
ponds is returned to the lake as a mother-liquor after
the deposition of the crystals. This frees the salt from
most of the magnesium, compounds, and from sodium
sulphate; it will be remembered that these were the
substances which rendered the product of the more
primitive methods unfit for use.
The salt harvest begins in late August or early
September. Movable rails are laid into the ponds, and
the crop is gathered into hand cars. The material
is then piled in symmetrically shaped heaps, and, as
required is conveyed to the refinery or to the railway
for shipment as crude salt.
With the entire pond area in service a yearly crop of
over a million tons is possible. For such a supply there
SALT FROM THE LAKE. 81
has been as yet no adequate demand, and the richest
harvest reported for any year is 150,000 tons.
The manager of the plant reports on cost of produc-
tion as follows: "Common labor is paid for at a rate
ranging from $1.50 to $2.00 per day. The expense
of manufacture is the cost of pumping the brine from
the lake to the harvesting ponds, which, estimating in-
terest on cost of apparatus for pumping, flumes, ponds,
etc., is as near as can be estimated 50 cents per ton. In
addition to the foregoing the salt after depositing
must be harvested and piled, which, under contract costs
25 cents per ton. The coarse salt is sold on the cars at
the works at a dollar per ton."
The refining process may be summarized under the
(1.) The crude salt is run through a Hersey dry-
ing cylinder, heated by steam.
(2.) The dried salt is subjected to fan action,
whereby the fine powder, which includes practically all
the objectionable sodium sulphate, is removed.
(3.) The granular salt is then ground to the vary-
ing degrees of fineness required for dairy salt, table
The lake salt so prepared is of a particularly high
grade of purity; indeed, it challenges comparison with
commercial salt from any other source. The company
THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
reports analyses showing for the lower grades 98 per
cent and for the better kinds 99 per cent sodium chlor-
ide. Analyses made by the writer a few years ago
showed the following composition of samples procured
by purchase in the retail market:
made by the In-
land Salt Co.
Sodium chloride 98.407*
Calcium chloride 371
Calcium sulphate 650
Magnesium sulphate.. .030
Insoluble matters 102
Loss and error
The powder separated by fanning after the drjdng
process affords material for a valuable by-product. This
powder consisting mostly of fine salt mixed with sodium
sulphate, is worked up with sulphur and is molded into
large blocks for use on cattle and stock ranges. The
demand for this "cattle-salt" is said to be greater than
the supply from the fan-powder alone.
Common salt is practically the only chemical com-
pound derived from the lake on a commercial scale,
though the possibility of obtaining cheaply from the
brine an extensive array of chemical products is readily
apparent. In the statement of the composition of lake
water before given (see page 59) the presence of sodium
sulphate is shown. This substance in a prepared state
GLAUBER-SALT FROM THE LAKE. 83
is known as Glauber-salt; as a naturally-occurring min-
eral it is called Mirabilite.
The deposition of glauber-salt from the brine has
been mentioned as a regular winter occurrence. The
substance separates in the crystalline condition, and
even as found upon the shores where it has been heaped
by the waves, it is of a remarkable degree of purity.
Very pure samples may be broken off as crystalline ag-
gregates from any submerged support. The following
figures represent the averages of the writer's analyses
on a number of samples collected from opposite sides
of the lake:
Loss and error
For purposes of comparison it should be known that
chemically pure Mirabilite consists of anhydrous sodium
sulphate, 44.1 per cent, water, 55.9 per cent.
When the temperature falls to the critical point the
lake-water rapidly assumes an opalescent appearance
from the separation of the sulphate. The substance
sinks as a crystalline precipitate, and large quantities are
thrown by the waves upon the beach. Under favorable
conditions the shore may be covered to a depth of
84 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
several feet with crystallized mirabilite. On several
occasions the writer has waded through the crystalline
deposit sinking at every step to the knees.
The substance must be gathered, if at all, soon after
the deposit first appears; for if the water reach the
critical temperature on the ascending scale, the whole
deposit is again taken into solution. The re-solution
is a rapid process, a single day sometimes sufficing
for the complete disappearance of all the deposit within
reach of the waves. Warned by experience, the col-
lectors heap the stuff upon the shores above the lap of
the waves; in this situation it is comparatively secure.
The work is easily accomplished by the use of horse-
drags and scrapers. Large quantities of the mirabilite
are yet to be seen in heaps remaining from the harvest-
ing of years ago. To a depth of a few inches the ma-
terial effloresces, but within the heaps the hydrous crys-
talline condition is maintained.
The temperature at which the mirabilite separates
has not been accurately determined. That we are con-
cerned with but a small range of temperature is evident
from the sudden appearance and disappearance of the
solid precipitate as the temperature varies. Gilbert says*
that the precipitation begins when the water falls below
20 degrees F. I have reason to believe that the critical
temperature is higher than this.
* "LakeBonneville,"p. 253.
GLAUBER-SALT FROM THE LAKE. 85
I camped with a party by the lake shore in the early
days of January 1895, with the main purpose of ascer-
taining the temperature of the mirabilite separation; but
the weather, which for days prior to our visit had been
cold, moderated and soon grew unusually warm. The
following observations are incorporated for illustration:
January 3, 11 a. m., temperature of water off pier as
determined by five thermometers, 35.8 degrees F.; tem-
perature of air in neighborhood, 41 degrees F.; during a
period of two hours the temperature of the water as indi-
cated by self-registering instruments, reached a mini-
mum of 35.5 degrees F.; yet the sulphate was then sep-
arating and crystals were readily obtained by dredging.
On the same day crystals of mirabilite formed on the
cord attached to the submerged self-registering ther-
mometer when the instrument recorded 35 degrees F.
At the same time large clusters of well-formed crystals
were taken from the pavilion posts. During the night
of January 3-4, the mirabilite crystals attached to the
pier were partly dissolved; the temperature readings
recorded were, maximum 37.5 degrees F., minimum 35
degrees F. I believe the critical temperature of the
separation to be within a few degrees of the freezing
point of fresh water.
At present there is no demand for the mirabilite,
and no effort is made to gather it. Should use be found
for it however, no fears as to possible insufficiency of sup-
ply need be entertained. Even though the enormous
amounts cast up by the waves during the winter
86 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
months prove insufficient, the shallow water near shore
could be dredged with profit; and should this fail, re-
course may be had to the bed of the material already
stored at a moderate depth beneath the lake bottom,
and below the recently abandoned bottom now inshore.
The manufacture of sodium carbonate from the
mirabilite would seemingly promise rich returns. In
the time-honored and efficient Le Blanc process of car-
bonate preparation, sodium sulphate is first produced
from common salt by an expensive treatment with sul-
puric acid. That stage of the operation is accom-
plished by Nature in the lake and the sulphate is thrown
up in lavish quantities in a manner favorable for easy
collection. The limestone and the coal required for
the conversion of the sulphate into carbonate are cheap
and of ready access in the region; and in the sodium
carbonate market Utah ought to be able to undersell
most other producers.
Years ago a sodium carbonate plant was established
in Salt Lake City, and an excellent product was ob-
tained. Caustic soda and sodium hyposulphite have also
been prepared from the lake water. But the high
cost of railway transportation has killed this in com-
mon with many other industrial undertakings in this
naturally favored region. Sooner or later, however,
a market is sure to be found, and the briny waters of
Utah's Dead Sea shall then yield their riches to the
hand of chemic industry.
THE GREAT BASIN.
Great Salt Lake has been mentioned as the largest
water body existing in the Great Basin region, and inci-
dentally the Great Basin has been otherwise referred to
in the preceding pages. A brief consideration of geo-
graphical basins in general, and of the Great Basin in
particular may prove of interest.
The term" basin"is employed by the student of earth-
science to designate the area comprised in a drainage
system, or that which forms a local unit of drainage as
a distinct part of a drainage system. Thus the terms
"basin" and "drainage area" or "drainage district" are
seen to be practically synonymous. A lake basin is a de-
pression in the crust occupied by the waters of a lake,
and the expression "hydro graphic basin" is applied to
the region drained by a river and its tributaries, includ-
ing the lake, if there be such, in which the waters collect.
In the case of rivers emptying into a lake, if the
latter have an outlet the out-flowing stream and the
region drained by it below the lake will be included in
the hydrographic basin, and if the river reach the sea
the drainage basin will extend to the shore. If how-
ever, the lake be without an outlet, as long as the loss of
water by evaporation be equal to or less than the amount
received, so that the lake cannot rise and find an out-
88 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
let, the hydrographic basin is spoken of as a closed,
an interior, or a drainless basin.
The largest closed drainage area in North America is
the Great Basin now under consideration. The region
to which this name is applied is of outline roughly tri-
angular as indicated on the map. (See plate XIV). It
extends about 880 miles in greatest length running
east of south and west of north, and 572 miles in ex-
treme width from east to west. The area thus in-
cluded is about 210,000 square miles, comprising the
western half of Utah, the greater part of Nevada, and
portions of eastern California, south-eastern Oregon,
south-eastern Idaho, and south-western Wyoming. The
southern part of the Great Basin has not been definitely
serveyed; its approximate outline is indicated by a
dotted line on the map.
The name "basin" suggests the typical form of a
depression with a well-defined rim, and drainage basins
are actually walled in by water-partings, which however
may not be of conspicuous height. But the Great
Basin is no such single depression, nor is the topo-
graphy of the region suggestive of the basin structure.
The area is characteristically mountainous, presenting
a great number of depressions, many of them occupied
by lakes; yet the region is a unit from the standpoint
of drainage, for it sends no stream beyond its borders,
and the removal of water from the surface is wholly due
to evaporation. The central part is elevated above the
THE GREAT BASIN. 89
marginal portions, as was shown by the geologists of the
Fortieth Parallel Exploration. Summarizing part of the-
excellent work done by these geologists, Gilbert says:
"The work of this corps covered a belt one hundred
miles broad, spanning the Great Basin in its broadest
part, and within this belt the Pleistocene lakes were
studied, and for the first time approximately mapped.
It was shown that the corrugated surface of the Great
Basin in this latitude is higher in the middle than at the
east and west margins, warranting general subdivision
into the Utah Basin, the Nevada Plateau, and the Ne-
vada Basin; that the Utah Basin formerly contained a
large lake, Bonneville, extending both north and south
beyond the belt of survey; that the Nevada Basin con-
tained a similar lake, Lahontan, likewise exceeding the
limits of the belt; and that the valleys of the central
plateau held within the belt no less than eight small
Captain Bonneville explored part of the Great Basin
area in 1833, and his map, while necessarily crude and
unreliable as to detail, suggests the existing conditions
of interior drainage. To Fremont, f however, belongs
the credit of having first clearly shown the true char-
* "Lake Bonneville," by G. K. Gilbert, p, 17. For citations made
above see Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel ; Vols. I and II.
Washington, 1877, 1878.
t "Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the
year 1842," etc., by Brevet-Captain J. C. Fremont. Washington, 1845.
90 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
acter of the region with respect to drainage, and by
him the name "Great Basin" was first applied.
Our present knowledge of the Basin region rests on
the work of Fremont just cited, and that of Stansbury
in 1850, Simpson in 1859, the parties in charge of the
40th Parallel Survey and the Survey West of the 100th
Meridian, and the labors of the Great Basin division of
the TL S. Geological Survey as at present constituted.
A glance at the map shows that the closed area of
the Basin is bounded by the drainage district of the
Columbia river on the north, by Colorado river drainage
on the east, and by Pacific drainage on the west. While
this is by far the largest closed drainage basin in North
America, eight times greater indeed than the estimated
area of all other closed basins of the United States com-
bined, it must be remembered that "North America as
compared with other continents is not characterized by
interior drainage. According to data compiled by
Murray, the closed basins in Australia aggregate 52 per
cent of its area, those of Africa 31 per cent, of Eurasia
28 per cent, of South America 7.2 per cent, of North
America 3.2 per cent. The Great Basin is great only
in comparison with similar districts of our own conti-
nent. The interior district of the Argentine Eepublic
is half as large again, and that of central Australia ex-
ceeds the Great Basin seven times. Sahara exceeds
THE GREAT BASIN". 91
it sixteen times,, and the interior district of Asia twenty-
Most of the existing lakes within the Basin area are
alkaline or salt; though a few having outlets to lower
levels are fresh. Among the fresh water-bodies are
Utah Lake, which sends the Jordan River to Great Salt
Lake; Bear Lake discharging through Bear River into
Salt Lake, and Lake Tahoe, the "gem of the Sierras,"
which overflows through Truckee canyon into Pyramid
and Winnemucca lakes, 2,400 feet below. Among the
salt and alkaline lakes of the Basin are Great Salt Lake
and Sevier Lake in Utah; Soda, Walker, Winnemucca,
and Pyramid Lakes in Nevada; Albert Lake, Oregon.
Mono Lake and Owen's Lake, California.
The term "saline lakes" is used in a- generic sense
and includes both salt and alkaline lakes. There are
two principal ways by which saline lakes may be
formed: (1.) By the isolation of a part of the sea,
as for example by the cutting off of bays, or by the ele-
vation of a portion of the ocean floor, carrying up sea-
water in the depressions. (2.) By the accumulation of
river or spring water in depressions without outlet,
with concentration of the water by evaporation. Lakes
resulting from the first process may be said to be of
* "Lake Bonneville;" p. 12. For citations from Murray see Scot-
tish Geog. Mag. vol. Ill, pp. 65-77.
92 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
oceanic origin; then those of the other class are of
Saline lakes of oceanic origin are of necessity salt;
those of the terrestrial type are salt or alkaline accord-
ing to the predominating minerals washed from the
rocks and accumulated by evaporation. Alkaline chlo-
rides produce salt lakes, and alkaline carbonates result
in alkaline lakes. Alkaline lakes are relatively rare,
though notable occurrences of the sort characterize the
Great Basin. The California lakes, Mono and Owen,
are perhaps the best examples; they both contain con-
siderable quantities of sodium carbonate together with
other carbonates and some salt. Borax lakes also occur
in California and Nevada.
But whatever may be the nature of the dissolved
solids, the lake will not become saline unless it is entire-
ly enclosed, so that its loss of water by evaporation
exceeds its supply. Should the water supply of a saline
lake increase, as by climatic changes, the lake will rise,
and if the process continue will find an outlet and in
time be rinsed out, thus becoming a fresh-water body.
The aridity of the Great Basin is a matter of gen-
eral knowledge. The subject is thus stated by com-
parison and estimate by Gilbert: * "On the broad
plain bounded east and west by the Appalachian Moun-
tains and the Mississippi River, 43 inches of rain falls
in a year. On the lowlands of the Great Basin there
* "Lake Bonneville," p. 6-7.
THE GREAT BASIN. 93
falls but 7 inches. In the former region the average
moisture content of the air is 69 per cent of that neces-
sary for saturation; in the lowlands of the Great Basin
it is 45 per cent. From the surface of Lake Michigan
evaporation removes each year a layer of water 22
inches deep. The writer has estimated that 80 inches
are yearly thus removed from Great Salt Lake, and Mr.
Thomas Russell has computed from annual means of
temperature, vapor tension, and wind velocity, that in
the lowlands of the Great Basin the annual rate of evap-
oration from water surfaces ranges from 60 inches at
the north to 150 inches at the south."
No sketch of the Great Basin would be complete
without some reference to the peculiar mountain struc-
ture of the region. Geographical maps show that the
mountainous character predominates from the Wasatch
to the Sierra. The ranges within the Basin are short,
and strikingly uniform in their general trend north and
south. The structure of these mountain ranges is so
different from the usual order, and so characteristic of
this particular region, that mountains of the kind
wherever found are to be classed as belonging to the
Basin Eange type.
Ordinary mountain ranges consist essentially of
stratified rocks, the strata of which have been crushed
and crumpled by lateral pressure, so as to appear in sec-
94 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
tion as complicated folds. Anticlinal arches and
synclinal troughs follow each other in close or more
open folds according to the degree of compression. Such
mountain ranges were originally sea sediments, and their
situation marks old marginal sea-bottoms. This, the
common mountain structure, is spoken of as the anticli-
But the Basin ranges are of monoclinal structure,
as if great crust blocks had been tilted on edge. One
face of a mononclinal ridge is relatively steep,it is in fact
the rough face of the crust block which has been
broken by faulting; the other slope is gentler, following
in general the dip of the upturned beds. Mononclinal
mountain masses result from tension by which the crust
is broken up into great blocks.
Of the origin of the Basin ranges, and of the "Wa-
satch and Sierra mountains which virtually form the
walls of the Basin, Le Conte* writes: "The Sierra re-
ceived its present form and altitude by the upheaving
on its eastern side of a great mountain block 300 miles
long and 50 to 70 miles wide forming there a normal
fault, with a displacement of probably not less than
15,000 feet. * * * On the other boundary of the
Basin region the Wasatch was at the same time also
heaved up on its western side, forming there one of the
*Elements of Geology, 4th ed., p. 277. See also American Journal of
Science, Vol. 33, p. 262 for an article by the same author.
THE GREAT BASIN. 95
greatest faults known. [40,000 feet displacement ac-
cording to King.] * * * The whole Basin region,
including the Sierra on one side and the Wasatch on the
other, was lifted, probably by intumescent lavas, into an
arch, and by tension split into great oblong crust blocks.
The arch broke down, the crust blocks re-adjusted them-
selves to form the Basin ranges, and left the abutments,
viz, the Sierra and the Wasatch, with their raw faces
looking toward one another across the intervening Basin.
It must not be imagined, however, that this took place
at once as a great cataclysm, but rather that it took place
very slowly the lifting, the breaking down, and the re-
adjustment, all going on at the same time."
In some of the depressions between these displaced
crust blocks water has accumulated and thus have the
lakes of the Great Basin been formed. Other depres-
sions, the receptacles of but limited drainage may hold
water for a short period only immediately after a rainy
season or following the heavy storms known as cloud-
bursts; such ephemeral water bodies are called playa-
THE ANCIENT LAKE-LAKE BONNEVILLE.
That the Great Salt Lake is a remnant of a larger
body of water which once filled the entire valley
and extended beyond the valley walls to the north,
south, and west, is apparent to even the unscientific ob-
server. Yet our knowledge of this ancient water body
has been accumulated but gradually, and many investi-
gators and observers have contributed thereto.
Capt. Fremont in 1842 recorded the occurrence of a
line of drift-wood observed by him a few feet above the
level of the existing lake; and in this he read the indi-
cations of variation in level at that time recent, but he
made no record of the grander phenomena of ancient
shore lines on the adjacent mountains.
Capt. Howard Stansbury, whose valuable labors in
connection with the survey of Great Salt Lake in 1849-
1850, have been mentioned, observed the lines of early
shore action, and inferred therefrom the former exist-
ence of a great lake or sea. Keferring to a particular
plain near Lakeside on the line of the Southern Pacific
railway, he wrote:
"This extensive flat appears to have formed at one
time the northern portion of the lake, for it is now but
slightly above its present level. Upon the slope of a
ridge connected with this plain, thirteen distinct succes-
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 97
sive benches, or water marks, were counted, which had
evidently at one time been washed by the lake, and must
have been the result of its action continued for some
time at each level. The highest of these is now about
two hundred feet above the valley which has itself been
left by the lake, owing probably to gradual elevation
occasioned by subterraneous causes. If this supposition
be correct, and all appearances conspire to support it,
there must have been here at some former period a vast
inland sea, extending for hundreds of miles; and the iso-
lated mountains which now tower from the flats,f orming
its western and southwestern shores, were doubtless huge
islands similar to those which now rise from the dimin-
ished waters of the lake."*
In 1852 Lieut. E. G. Beckwith visited portions of
the Great Basin in charge of a government expedition.
He was impressed by the distinctness of the old beach
lines, and correctly concluded that the Salt Lake had
stood at a higher level. He says:
"The old shore lines existing in the vicinity of
the Great Salt Lake present an interesting study. Some
of them are elevated but a few feet (from five to twenty)
above the present level of the lake, and are as distinct
and as well defined and preserved as its present beaches;
and Stansbury speaks, in the Eeport of his exploration,
pages 158, 160, of drift wood still existing upon those
* "Exploration and Survey of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of
Utah, "etc., by Howard Stansbury. Philadelphia, 1852, p. 105.
98 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
having an elevation of five feet above the lake, which
unmistakably indicates the remarkably recent recession
of the waters which formed them, whilst their magni-
tude and smoothly-worn forms as unmistakably indi-
cate the levels which the waters maintained, at their
respective formations for very considerable periods.
"In the Tuilla [Tooele] Valley at the south end of
the lake, they are so remarkably distinct and peculiar in
form and position that one of them, on which we trav-
eled in crossing that valley on the 7th of May, attracted
the observation of the least informed teamsters of our
party to whom it appeared artificial. Its elevation we
judged to be twenty feet above the present level of the
lake. It is also twelve or fifteen feet above the plain to
the south of it, and is several miles long; but it is nar-
row, only affording a fine road-way, and is crescent-
formed, and terminates to the west as though it had once
formed a cape, projecting into the lake from the moun-
tains on the east in miniature, perhaps, not unlike the
strip of land dividing the sea of AzoS from the Putrid
Sea. From this beach the Tuilla [Tooele] Valley ascends
gradually towards the south, and in a few miles becomes
partly blocked up by a cross-range of mountains with
passages at either end however, leading over quite as
remarkable beaches, into what is known to the Mormons
as Eush Valley, in which there are still small lakes or
ponds, once, doubtless, forming part of the Great Salt
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 99
"The recessions of the waters of the lake from the
beaches at these comparatively slight elevations, took
place beyond all doubt, within a very modern geological
period; and the volume of the water of the lake at each
subsidence by whatever cause produced, and whether
by gradual or spasmodic action seems as plainly to
have been diminished; for its present volume is not
sufficient to form a lake of even two or three feet in
depth over the area indicated by these shores, and, if
existing, would be annually dried up during the sum-
"But high above these diminutive banks of recent
date, on the mountains to the east, south, and west, and
on the islands of the Great Salt Lake, formations are
seen, preserving, apparently, a uniform elevation as far
as the eye can extend, formations on a magnificent
scale, which, hastily examined, seem no less unmistaka-
bly than the former to indicate their shore origin.
They are elevated from two or three hundred to six or
eight hundred feet above the present lake; and if upon
a thorough examination they prove to be ancient shores,
they will perhaps afford (being easily traced on the
numerous mountains of the Basin) the means of deter-
mining the character of the sea by which they were
* Lieut. E. G. Beckwith, in Pacific Railroad reports, vol. 2, p, 67:
100 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
Observations were accumulated by Blake, Simpson
and his assistant, Englemann, by King, Hague, Em-
mons, Hayden, Bradley, Poole, Peale, and others, all in-
creasing our stock of information regarding the ancient
lakes of the Great Basin, and bearing more or less di-
rectly on the early history of what is now the Great
Salt Lake.* But it is to Grove Karl Gilbert and his
associates to whom we owe the greater part of our pres-
ent knowledge of the Great Salt Lake and its geological
history. His report, forming the first volume of the U.
S. Geological Survey monographs, is the standard work
on the subject.
Careful examination furnishes evidence at once
abundant and conclusive that this ancient lake extended
southward over the Sevier Desert, and probably over the
Escalante Desert also, nearly to the Arizona line; west-
ward over the Great Desert, into Nevada; and northward
to the upper limit of Cache valley and therefore 25 miles
beyond the Idaho boundary. It formed the largest of
the many flooded Pleistocene lakes of the Basin region.
In 1876, Gilbert named this inland sea Lake Bonne ville,
in honor of Captain Bonneville, who gave the first au-
thentic description of the existing lake as a result of his
explorations in 1833, and after whom Washington
Irving endeavored to establish the name "Lake Bonne-
* For an excellent summary of investigations on the past of the
Great Salt Lake, see "Lake Bonneville," pp. 12-19.
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 101
ville" as the designation of the existing Great Salt Lake.
When at its highest level, Lake Bonneville had an
extreme north and south length of 300 miles, a greatest
east and west extent of 180 miles; it presented an area
of 19,750 square miles. The lake reached from 42 de-
grees 30 minutes to 37 degrees 30 minutes north lati-
tude, and was divided almost equally by the line of 113
degrees west longitude.
The Great Salt Lake, while it is the largest and most
important, is not the only existing fragment of Lake
Bonneville. Utah and Sevier lakes remain, occupying
the lowest parts of their separate valleys to the south.
Lake Utah is a body of fresh water with 127 square miles
surface; it sends its overflow through the Jordan Eiver
northward to the Great Salt Lake. Sevier Lake is a
saline body of variable dimensions, attaining during hu-
mid seasons a considerable area. In 1872, it covered 188
square miles; while in dry times it practically evaporates
away, leaving a crj^stalline residuum of impure sodium
chloride and sulphate five inches in depth, to mark the
lowest part of its site.
The principal divisions of Lake Bonneville were: (1)
The main body, comprising the area of the existing lake
and. that of the Salt Lake Desert; (2) Cache bay to the
north; (3) Sevier bay, and (4) Escalante bay, to the
102 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
south. The names used are identical with the existing
geographical designations. These parts of the great lake
were defined by peninsulas and archipelagos, which ap-
pear today as hills and mountain spurs, while the con-
necting straits are represented by valley passes. These
facts are shown on the accompanying map. Some of
the hills rising from the plain, which constitutes the
Salt Lake Desert, have their bases deeply buried beneath
lake sediments; they rise from the land level as abruptly"
as the islands of the present lake above the water, and
the popular names by which they are known, designate
them as islands still. (See plate XIX.)
The shore lines appearing upon the mountain sides
against which the ancient waters beat, are, throughout
the greater part of their extent, so distinct that even the
school boy is led to think of them as old water margins.
Along these terraces abundant proofs of littoral struc-
ture may be found. In places pebbly beaches tell of
lapping waves, while the covering and cementing tufa
attached to the worn stones testifies to chemical precip-
itation or deposit by evaporation. Ripple marks are as
clearly shown in the sandstones and hardened clays as on
the shores which are at present washed by the briny
waters. Embankments, wave-cut caves, and all the other
usual phenomena of littoral action exist in a state of im-
pressive perfection. In many places, especially along
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 103
the eastern margin, where the waters beat against the
face of the Wasatch mountains, the lines have suffered
extensive deformation through fault disturbances; in-
deed, in the immediate neighborhood of Salt Lake City,
the fault scarp is so fresh as to still present the rough
face of recent fracture.
The work of stream erosion is apparent in the trans-
verse gashing of the shore terraces; this and the erosive
action of atmospheric agencies are operating toward a
general degradation of the terrace structure. These de-
structive processes, however, have not as yet been able to
hide, or even to seriously disfigure the evidence of for-
mer conditions. The map of Lake Bonneville can be
drawn with as great an assurance of accuracy as attends
the charting of any existing water body. (See plate
Each shore line indicates, of course, a practically
constant level of the lake during a considerable length
of time, or a periodical return to the same level at short
intervals during a long cycle of years. There is, however,
little evidence of interruption in the process of shore
sculpture, and a constancy of level rather than a return
of the water to the same height at each of the stages
marked by a shore line is indicated. On the Oquirrh
mountains bounding the Salt Lake valley on the west/ten
distinct lines have been counted, sketched, and photo-
graphed by the writer; but here, as indeed all along the
old shore margin, three principal levels appear and a
304 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
fourth is seen with great distinctness on one of the large
islands of the lake. These have been designated as fol-
1. The Bonneville shore line, the highest and most
conspicuous; this is at a height of 1,000 feet above the
present mean level of the water.
2. Provo shore line, 375 feet below the Bonneville.
This was named by Howell from the great size and per-
fection of the delta constructed at this level by the
Provo Eiver as it enters Utah valley from the canyon.
3. Intermediate shore lines, between the Bonneville
and the Provo. These lines show a series of fluctuations
in lake level each of comparatively short duration.
While the embankments are large they are devoid of
great sea cliffs and caves such as characterize the Bonne-
ville and the Provo. On Stansbury Island, one of the
largest bodies of land rising from the waters of the Salt
Lake, a lower level has left a clearly defined terrace, 300
feet above the present water surface; this has been
4. Stansbury shore line.
The chronological order of the principal shore line
formation is as follows: 1. Intermediate; 2. Bonneville;
3. Provo; 4. Stansbury. While the Bonneville level is
the highest and most conspicuous of the shore
terraces, it marks a shorter duration of constant level
than does the Provo. It is in fact the most conspicuous
because it is the highest, deriving its prominence from
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 105
its clearly defined contrast with the features of sub-aerial
topography immediately above it. (See plate XVIII.)
Years prior to the discovery of any outlet through
which the great lake could have discharged its surplus
waters, the existence of such an escape channel was pre-
dicted. Gilbert declared (1) that the Bonneville shore
lines would be found to have been determined by an
overflow of lake water, and (2) that the Provo line would
be traceable to a similar determining cause.*
Writing in 1890 he says: "The first of these pre-
dictions has been verified in its letter, but not in its
spirit; the second has proved to have full warrant. My
anticipation was based on the following consideration:
A lake without overflow has its extent determined by
the ratio of precipitation to evaporation within its basin;
and since this ratio is inconstant, fluctuating from year
to year and from decade to decade, it is highly improb-
able that the water level will remain constant long
enough to permit its waves to carve a deep record. I
failed to take account of the fact that the highest shore-
mark of the series is conspicuous by reason of the con-
trast there exhibited between land sculpture and littoral
sculpture. We know that the height of the Bonneville
shore-line was determined in a certain sense by overflow,
since a discharge limited the rise of the water; but the
* Exploration West of the 100th Meridian, III., p, 90.
106 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
carving of the shore was essentially completed before the
discharge, and as soon as that began the water fell. At
the Provo horizon, on the contrary, a constant or nearly
constant water-level was maintained by discharge for a
long time." *
The search for the Bonneville outlet was prosecuted
with the assurance that such a channel existed. A num-
ber of passes were found but slightly above the required
level, and indeed "a difference of only a few feet deter-
mined the actual point of discharge." On the northern
rim of Cache valley at Red Eock Pass, near Oxford,
Idaho, the outlet channel was discovered. The topo-
graphical features and the erosion record were so dis-
tinct as to place the question of the source of Bonneville
River practically beyond doubt. The honor of this dis-
covery is accorded to Gilbert, though Peale has
disputed Gilbert's rights of priority on the basis
of Bradley's suggestion, made in 1872. f Bonne-
ville River flowed through Marsh Valley, be-
ing joined in this part of its course by the
Portneuf. The combined streams then followed
Portneuf Pass to Snake River, thence to the Columbia.
Above its junction with the Portneuf the Bonneville
River must have equalled and possibly exceeded in size
the Niagara. Regarding the duration of the river's ex-
istence Gilbert says:
* Lake Bonneville, p. 171.
t American Journal of Science, June, 1878.
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 107
"How long the discharging river maintained its col-
ossal dimensions can not be learned, but the period cer-
tainly was not great. The entire prism of water between
Bonneville and Provo planes would be discharged by the
Niagara channel in less than twenty-five years; and if
the Bonneville River reached a greater size, it would
have maintained it only for a shorter time."*
Alluvial fans and deltas exist at the mouths of can-
yons opening into the valley. Of the fans or cones,
some were constructed prior to the Bonneville epoch,
while others show by the absence of shore lines and lake
sediments that they are more recent than the high water
marks. A typical alluvial cone of large dimensions oc-
curs at the base of a prominent spur of the Wasatch
range a mile north of Salt Lake City. This cone de-
rives additional interest from the fact that its surface
shows the course of a well developed fault scarp. In
Salt Lake valley and elsewhere the alluvial cones formed
by the streams issuing from canyon openings at short
intervals coalesce and present the appearance of almost
continuous terraces. In. such cases the existing stream
reveals a section of the deposit, a study of which, to-
gether with an examination of the slope and general
configuration will enable the observer to distinguish be-
* "Lake Bonneville, "|p. 177,
108 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
tween the cone formation on the one hand and the lake
terrace and delta on the other.
The existence of deltas along the old lake shores
was pointed out by Bradley in 1872;* hut it remained for
Ho well and Gilbert to give the subject full and careful
study. While in places delta formations are preserved at
the Bonneville level, the best and largest belong to the
Provo stage. The streams following the receding lake
would indeed destroy much of their own delta construc-
tion at higher levels and earlier periods. However, at
some places the delta structure presents a record of In-
termediate, Bonneville, and Provo stages complete. Fol-
lowing the American Fork river from the canyon to-
ward the mouth of the stream in Utah Lake,the observer
may read the history of delta formation and destruction
with comparative ease. As revealed by the stream-made
section the Bonneville delta shows a height of 120 feet
at its outer margin, and a radius of over 4,800 feet. The
Intermediate delta being the first formed,, was partly
covered by the later Bonneville; both were cut through
by the stream as the lake fell to the Provo level, and the
material so removed was built into a still younger delta.
The deltas of the Logan river form a series of sloping
terraces extending downward from the mountain face.
Each delta indicates the partial destruction of earlier de-
positions above. In Salt Lake valley, the delta formed
* "Geological Survey of the Territories," 1872, p. 192.
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 109
by City Creek (the main source of the water supply for
Salt Lake City today), reveals itself as high benches
through which the stream has kept for itself a passage.
Wave-action appears to have been unusually strong at
this place, and consequently the typical delta form is
considerably modified. The delta constructed by the
Provo river in Utah valley, covers over 20,000 acres, and
another occurs a few miles to the south the work of
the Spanish Fork stream with an area of 8,000 acres.
The occurrence of calcium carbonate, usually as cal-
careous tufa, is common to the shores of most of the
Great Basin lakes. The extensive accumulation of this
material in Lake Lahontan has received due attention
from King andKussell.* InLakeBonneville,however,the
deposition has taken place on a small scale only. Where
this material occurs at all it is found as an incrustation
on the faces of cliffs, or as a cement coating the pebbles
and forming them into a coherent conglomerate. None
of the calcareous deposit is found in spots which once
were quiet coves or bays; while the largest quantities
occur where the waves must have produced the strongest
surf action. It has been suggested that the aeration of
the water probably promoted the precipitation of the
calcium carbonate, and that the particles coalesced at
* "Exploration of the 40th Parallel, I., p. 514."
110 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
the instant of separation.* In the open lake
the deposition of calcium carbonate went on in
the usual manner, the particles remaining sep-
arate and forming an ordinary sediment. None of
the Thinolite, named and described by King in connec-
tion with Lahontan and Mono lakes, has thus far been
found within the Bonneville district.
That the diminution of lake volume from the height
of the Provo line to the present level, is due to desic-
cation and not to a process of emptying by overflow,
is shown by the absence of any break or notch in the rim
below the level of the shore named, through which the
water could have found an outlet, and from the deposits
of mineral matter in the lake floor. In the parts recently
vacated by the receding waters, the saline matters
effloresce upon the soil during dry seasons, and disap-
pear in times of abundant precipitation. Careful analy-
ses of these substances show marked correspondence with
the mineral contents of today. As the retreating waters
divided the lake into separate areas, each lakelet pro-
ceeded in the process of desiccation according to its own
relative conditions of supply and evaporation.
In some parts, particularly in the region of the old
Sevier body of Lake Bonneville, deposits of gypsum are
found. These may not be the effect of any chemical de-
* "Lake Bonneville," p.
LAKE BONNEVILLE. Ill
position; as Gilbert suggests, they may be the result of
evaporation of water that had derived the material by
simple solution from the rocks. The gypsum is occas-
sionally found in the form of small free crystals, and as
in the Sevier desert, these may be drifted by wind action
into glistening dunes. The author of the monograph on
Lake Bonneville says:
"Perhaps no gypsum deposit in the world is so easily
exploited as this; it needs merely to be shoveled into
wagons and hauled away. Mr. Eussell estimates that
the dunes contain about 450,000 tons, and a much larger
amount can be obtained from the playa."*
While the exposure of an extensive series of forma-
tions and systems of rocks is made visible by the oro-
genic disturbances which have resulted in the elevation
of the Wasatch and contiguous ranges, these aid us but
little in determining the time of the Bonneville epoch
or the age of the lake beds. In the lake floor, however,
fairly conclusive evidence as to the true geological age
may be found. Tertiary strata of well determined age
exist within the Bonneville basin and in places these are
found unconformably overlaid by the lake sediments.
The Tertiary deposits, while presenting a wide variety
of texture, are quite readily distinguishable from the
*"Lake Bonneville, p.223."
112 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
later lacustrine beds by lithological character and by
their disturbed positions. It is evident therefore that
the lake deposits are post-Tertiary. Moreover the "Bon-
neville beds are thus seen to be the latest lacustrine de-
posit of the basin, and this fact indicates their synchron-
ism with the latest littoral evidence of a lacustrine con-
Over the valley surface the beds are practically un-
disturbed; in some parts they rise by gentle slopes almost
to the level of the shore lines. Gilbert has carefully
studied the section exposed along the old river bed, run-
ning northwest from the Sevier desert, between Mc-
Dowell and Simpson mountains to the Salt Lake desert,
and this he announces as almost a typical sec-
tion.* Through this channel a stream connected
Sevier Lake with the larger Salt Lake, after
the division of Lake Bonneville into separate bodies in
its shrinkage course. This river existed in post-Provo
times, for the shore lines extend along the bordering
hillsides, the Bonneville line being fully 700 feet above
the highest banks of the channel. Gilbert states that his
exploration "demonstrated that the entire site of the
channel was submerged during both Bonneville and
Provo epochs/ 7 The channel walls of the old river bed
reveal the following members in ascending order:
1. Yellow clay with local dashes of sand sedi-
* "Lake Bonneville," p. 190.
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 113
ment and nodular aggregates of selenite crystals. Of this
a depth of ninety feet is exposed, but the bottom has not
2. White marl, a layer ten feet in thickness, over-
lying the yellow clay, on an eroded surface. The lower
layers of the marl contain shells of nearly the same
species as occur in the clay below.
3. Free sand; a top layer grading without break of
continuity into the marl below; an average thickness of
ten feet is recorded. This succession of beds is less dis-
tinct on the slopes and particularly so near the shore
lines where the true sedimentary deposits are mixed
with littoral material. The eroded surface of the yellow
clay indicates a break in the process of lake deposition,
and this interruption is further shown by the alluvial de-
posits and all the proofs of sub-aerial erosion between
the yellow clay and the white marl. It is evident there-
fore that there are two distinct flood times in the Bonne-
ville history, two periods of greatest operation of lacus-
trine agencies separated by a perior of dryness. The
second of these periods was probably not more than one-
fifth of the duration of the first. Gilbert sums up the
evidence on the subject as follows:*
"Then followed two epochs of high water, with an
interval during which the basin was nearly or quite
empty. The first of these epochs was at least five times
* "Lake Bonneville," p. 317.
114 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
as long as the second. The second scored its water mark
ninety feet higher than the first, and would have en-
croached still farther on the basin sides had it not been
checked by outflow. During the epoch of outflow, the
discharging current eroded the rim,and thus lowered the
lake 375 feet; and after the outflow had ceased, the water
fell by desiccation, with one notable interruption, to its
present level in Great Salt Lake. The inter-Bonneville
epoch of low water was of greater duration than the time
that had elapsed since the final desiccation."
A similar dual flooding has been demonstrated bj
the labors of King and Russell in the region of Lake
Lahontan, a body of water which may be regarded as a
twin sister to Lake Bonneville.*
The correlation of these periods of maximum flood-
ing with the prime divisions of the Glacial Epoch has
been established with considerable certainty. The evi-
dence points to periods of low temperature correspond-
ing with the times of greatest water surface. Low' tem-
perature with consequent decrease of loss by evaporation
is an important factor, if not indeed, the most effective
among the causes which determined the successive max-
ima of Lake Bonneville and its related water bodies in
The fossils, particularly the fresh water shells, tes-
tify to unfavorable conditions of growth. They are few
* "Exploration of the 40th Parallel," I., p. 524.
LAKE BONNEVILLE. 115
and in the individuals are dwarfed, as would be ex-
pected of species struggling for life under the rigors of
a glacial climate. Quoting again:*
"In the case of Lake LahontaiL, and in the case of
the first Lake Bonneville, the unfavorable condition
may possibly have been impurity of water, but the sec-
ond Lake Bonneville was freshened by outflow, and the
dwarfing of its mollusks is best explained by low temper-
ature. * * * These phenomena sustain the
theory that the Pleistocene lakes of the western United
States were coincident with the Pleistocene glaciers- of
the same district, and were produced by the same cli-
matic changes. It follows as a corollary that the glacial
history of this region was bipartite, two maxima of gla-
eiation being separated, not by a mere variation in in-
tensity, but by a cessation of glaciation."
Well-defined ice deposits occur in a few places along
the old shore, below the high water marks. One of the
best examples is found at the mouth of Little Cotton-
wood Cany on but a few miles south of Salt Lake City (See
plates XXI) Emmons first directed attention to the fact
that the glacier here referred to deposited its moraines
within the Bonneville area, f The south lateral moraine is
well preserved; the other has lost its typical form, prob-
* "Lake Bonneville, p. 318."
t "Exploration of the 40th Parallel," II., p. 354.
116 THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
ably through an expansion or a change of direction of
the glacier whereby the north moraine was disfigured.
The moraine material is traceable downward from the
canyon gateway for a full mile upon the plain, and in its
lower parts it is covered by alluvium to a depth of sixty-
five feet at least, and by a lacustrine deposit of sand.
The glacier existed during a period of high water prob-
ably that of the Provo shore line.
Major Powell presents a summary of the labors of
his associates on Bonneville history in this concise way:*
"First, the waters were low, occupying, as Great Salt
Lake now does, only a limited portion of the bottom of
the basin. Then they gradually rose and spread, form-
ing an inland sea, nearly equal to Lake Huron in extent,
with a maximum depth of 1,000 feet. Then the waters
fell, and the lake not merely dwindled in size, but abso-
lutely disappeared, leaving a plain even more desolate
than the Great Salt Lake Desert of today. Then they
again rose, surpassing even their former height, and
eventually overflowing the basin at its northern edge,
sending a tributary stream to the Columbia Eiyer; and,
last, there was a second recession, and the waters shrunk
away, until now only Great Salt Lake and two -smaller
* U. S. Geological Survey, report for 1880-81, p. xvii.