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13 West from, 6rre(;fuich. 

i \ 

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. 










G--J T3 




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. 

July, 1900, 



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 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 
been applied. 

But the geological past of the ".Dead Sea of Ameri- 


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 


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 
of today. 

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. 


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- 


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 
been accomplished. 

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. 


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- 


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. 


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 
and lusterlese. 

"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 


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 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. 


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 


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. 


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- 


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 
million dollars. 

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, 


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 
varying thickness. 


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 
Line railway. 

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- 


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. 



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 
unusually large. 

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 


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 


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. 


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. 


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 
drying winds. 

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 


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. 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 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. 


Solid contents and specific gravity of water taken 
from the Great Salt Lake: 

Total Solidt. 
Per cent by Grains per 

Date of 



litre o? 
260 69 

L D Gale 

1869 (summer) 



166 57 

O D Allen 

August, 1873 
December 1885 

1 1225 

16 7162 

187 65 

H. Bassett. 
J E Talmage 

1 1 9 61 

June 1889 

1 148 

>i >i 11 

August, 1889 
August, 1892 




E. Waller. 

September, 1892 . 


20 05 


J. E. Talmage. 
J T Kingsbury 

December, 1894.. 
May, 1895 





J. E. Talmage. 

June 1900 

1 1576 


241 98 

H N McCoy and* 

Thomas Hadley. 

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. 


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- 



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 



Total Solids 

expressed in 

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, 

Idaho 126.66 

Well water, Gunnison, Utah 148.01 

"Ninety per cent Spring," at Soda 

Springs. Idaho 198.41 

Warm Springs, Spanish Fork Canyon, 

Utah 413.72 

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. 


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 

Sodium chloride 

Gale. Allen. 
1850. 1869. 

.. 20.20 11.86 




1885. 1889. 

13.586 15.743 
1.421 1.050 
1.129 2.011 
0.148 0.279 
0.432 0.474 

Sodium sulphate 

. .. 1.83 0.93 

Magnesium chloride.. 

0.25 1.49 

Calcium sulphate 


Potassium sulphate 


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. 



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. 

Probable Combination. 

Sodium 75.825 

Potassium 3.925 

Lithium 0.021 

Magnesium 4.844 

Calcium 2.424 

Chlorine 128.278 

Sulphur trioxide 12.522 

Oxygen in sulphates 2.494 

Ferric oxide and ( nnoi 

aluminium oxide f aw * 

Silica 0.018 

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 230.355 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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- 
water bodies. 

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, 


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 


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 


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. 



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. 


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- 
able emanations. 

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. 


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 
of saturation. 

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 


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, 


and upon the larvae and pupae of the insects tenanting 
the water. 

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 


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 
and slender. 

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. 


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- 


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 


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. 


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 
favorable conditions." 

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. 



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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
follow operations: 

(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 
salt, etc. 

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 



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: 

Eeflned salt 
made by the In- 
land Salt Co. 

Sodium chloride 98.407* 

Calcium chloride 371 

Calcium sulphate 650 

Magnesium sulphate.. .030 

Moisture 442 

Insoluble matters 102 

Loss and error 


Table salt 

Coarse salt 

Table salt 

Inland Salt 

Jeremy Salt 

Jeremy Salt 

















' .214 








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 


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: 

Sodium sulphate 

East shore 


West shore 


Sodium chloride 



Calcium sulphate 



Magnesium sulphate 





55 760 

Insoluble matters 



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 


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. 


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 


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. 



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- 


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 


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 
Pleistocene lakes."* 

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. 


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 


it sixteen times,, and the interior district of Asia twenty- 
three times."* 

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. 


oceanic origin; then those of the other class are of 
terrestrial origin. 

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. 


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- 


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- 
nal type. 

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. 


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- 



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- 


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. 


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 


"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 
formed/' etc.* 

* Lieut. E. G. Beckwith, in Pacific Railroad reports, vol. 2, p, 67: 
Washington, 1855, 


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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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. 


"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, 


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. 


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." 


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. 


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." 


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. 


ment and nodular aggregates of selenite crystals. Of this 
a depth of ninety feet is exposed, but the bottom has not 
been reached. 

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. 


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 Basin. 

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. 


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. 



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 
lakes remain." 

* U. S. Geological Survey, report for 1880-81, p. xvii.