A Place Unlike Any Other (Oh, And Gnats) – Antelope Island State Park, UT

An amazing sunset from the shores of Antelope Island
A glassy sunset from the shores of Antelope Island
Polly poses in the big salty flats
Polly poses in the big salty flats

It’s a place unlike any other. An island in the middle of an Ancient Salt Sea, a spot almost unfettered by human touch where the most primitive of earthly rocks (up to 1.7 billion years old) lie side-by-side with the most new (tufa deposits from the last 10,000 years). It’s an oasis of green and raw nature, a birders paradise, a place where the buffalo roam (I am not kidding). It’s astonishing, astounding….magical.

Well, unless the biting gnats are out…

We arrived at this island paradise 3 days ago, and the gnats hatched 2 days before that. The lady at the entry station informed us of this lucky coincidence as we paid the $3 nature fee to get in. Being the eternal optimist I reasoned that it couldn’t possibly be that bad. I mean I’ve lived in Asia, hiked the rain forests of South America, RV’d through the mid-west in summer.

Then again, I’d never been to Antelope Island.

Birds flutter in the setting sun
Birds flutter in the setting sun
Very early AM...and the gnats are out!
Very early AM…and the gnats are already out!
A pronghorn takes a look
A pronghorn takes a look

This place is absolutely everything that the story tells you. It is…literally…an island in a sea of humanity. When you cross the road from the massive suburbia of Salt Lake City and drive the 6 miles across Salt Lake to enter the 28,000 acre island you emerge into a whole different world. Bird songs fill the air, gulls swoop over the salt ocean, white-tipped mountains reflect eerily in the glassy-still lake. And then you see buffalo (whole herds of them on the beach!), pronghorn antelope springing in the plains, rabbits bouncing through the grass…even a lone coyote crossing the road. You are enveloped by the glove of nature, surrounded by pure beauty. And your massive RV site (easily the size of 3 “beasts”) sits lone alongside the beach with 360 degree views and nothing but the tweeting of birds to keep you company. WOW!

Practically no-one is here.

Of course, that could have something to do with the gnats…

Our RV site sits lone on the shoreline
Our RV site sits lone on the shoreline
Paul strolls in Salt Lake...of course he has nothing to worry about
Paul strolls in Salt Lake…of course he has nothing to worry about

Now at this point in the story I should interject that Paul is a very lucky man. You see he has me, and I don’t mean this in the “oh it’s so romantic” sense I mean it in the “I’m a blood-sucking insect magnet” sense. There exists not a biting insect on the face of this earth that has not wanted to dine on ceviche-a-la-Nina. Paul may have the advantage of a natural resistance to bugs, but he is backed up by the iron-clad security of carrying along the mobile bug all-you-can-eat buffet that is moi. Within the first half-hour of our stay at Antelope Island I had at least 100 bug bites and by evening my skin looked the human version of a walking pineapple. Even Klingon’s could win a beauty contest against this one. Paul of course, was utterly untouched.

Another magical sunset
Another magical sunset
View from Bison Point Hill
View from Bison Point Hill

All I can say is the bugs are bad…..very, very bad…

The only respite from the biting bastards are before sunrise and after sunset. The rest of the time they swarm like…well…bloody insects and your best bet is to stay inside with everything shut. Despite the amazing beauty here, miles of biking/hiking trails and even an on-site historic ranch (which is very cool) we’ve decided we have to leave early. We’ve loved the view from our RV window and enjoyed some pretty amazing sunsets, but after battling valiantly through three days of unrelenting gnats we concede defeat and will probably leave tomorrow.

That is unless the gnats leave first…

This is most definitely a place unlike any other.

Note/ According to the local ranger the gnats hatch as soon as weather warms and stay in force until temps hit around 90. This means the best times to come to Antelope Island are probably very early spring or late fall. Totally worth the visit, as long as you plan for the gnats!

Historic Garr Ranch - a very cool visit
Historic Garr Ranch – a very cool visit

And a last look at some last light
And a last look at some last light

A lone bison on the beach
A lone bison on the beach

Glorious reflections
Gloriously perfect reflections

Old blacksmith equipment
Old blacksmith equipment

At the Garr Ranch
At the Garr Ranch

And a last sunset
And a last sunset

Sunset in the grasses
Sunset in the grasses
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Sue says

    No beautiful scenery is worth being eaten alive, I’m the bug magnet in this house, so I know of what I speak!!!! Dave never gets one bite, I wonder whats up with these guys? Thanks for the heads up, I’ll avoid Antelope Island and just look at your blog if I feel the need.
    Sue

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, these men are annoying…why is it they get not a single bite? Good thing I love him for other reasons :)
      Nina

  2. says

    Guess the gnats kept us from seeing the beauty of the island. All I remember was waiting to leave the place. We had a rental car until we picked up our rental motorcycle the next day. We had seen the gorgeous pictures of the island. So we bought some lunch and beach towels and headed out for a fun day. NOT!! We were immediately attacked. You lasted longer than we did!!

    Safe travels to your next destination!

    • libertatemamo says

      I can just picture the scene! In fact we’ve watched quite a few folks (especially tent campers, poor people!) come and set-up, and then leave shortly thereafter. Unless you’ve got a sealed rig, there’s just no way to handle it. Winds whipped up today and blew off the worst of the gnats so we’re staying an extra day…maybe I’ll actually get to hike!
      Nina

  3. Dawn says

    Ewww nats……
    Hello Nina and Paul…..
    I have some questions about having an add a room (AAR) or rv screen room. This is something you may know nothing about, but I thought I’d ask anyway….you might know someone who uses them all the time.
    I am considering buying a 26ft 5th wheel and parking it north of Gold Beach, Or, in an rv park on the beach. You might be somewhat familiar with that area. This 5th wheel includes an l8x8 screen room attachable to the awning of course. The sellers tell me they have seen plenty long term residents of Winchester Bay using these with no wind problem (problem meaning they have to take them down in the wind). I am doing as much research as possible before I buy this 5th with the AAR. Do you know anything about these add a rooms or screen rooms and Oregon coast wind?
    I spent 3 months in the Gold Beach area last summer and did not experience much wind there at all…..I know this thing would be a nightmare to put up and have to take down in high wind unless I could just drop the poles and the awning arms.
    If anyone has any advice or information on this blog, I sure would appreciate hearing about it. Thanks in advance.

    • libertatemamo says

      Don’t have too much advice on that one sadly. Despite all our time in Oregon we’ve never made it down much south of Cape Blanco so not familiar with Gold Beach. My general experience on the coast is that it can get very windy right on the beach, but is often sheltered further in. Don’t know if Gold Beach follows that trend, but that’s what I’ve seen.

      I’ve never been much of a fan of add-ons or stuff that sits permanently on the rig because of winds. Even our awning is rarely out! No reason you can’t give the room a try (and sell it if it doesn’t work out), so I wouldn’t let that discourage you from buying as long as you like everything else about the rig.

      Nina

      • Dawn says

        Thank you Nina for taking the time to comment on this subject…..I have since found out that the rv park I am considering has wind guard using high hedges and the manager there thinks there would be very few times I would have to dismantle it….so I am encouraged.

    • libertatemamo says

      Well this AM the wind whipped up and crushed the gnats (or rather suppressed them). Wonderful! That together with a big wind warning up in Idaho has caused us to change plans and stay an extra day. Don’t want to be driving in 40 mph winds!
      So here we are, hoping that the winds stay all day. Never thought I’d say that on the blog.
      Nina

  4. says

    That sounds horrible. And I’ve heard about those gnats. The response here is, run, fast! So we’re glad you’re out of there.
    Seems to me you’re heading north. Wanted to suggest a pit stop around Lava Hot Springs if you’re driving near there. Not sure about the Boondocking, but there are RV campsites aplenty in the area and the hot springs are worth a visit for a good night’s stop!
    Safe travels…

    • libertatemamo says

      Oooooo….looks lovely. We’ve got a “date” up in Boise so are going to take the quick way, but this is on my list for when we come back. That whole area has some interesting stops!
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      Hey I can’t complain. I’m totally happy we stopped to see the island since it’s definitely worth it. Just have to plan to come back again at a better time.
      Nina

  5. Doug says

    Hate to say it, but since pronghorn aren’t technically antelope, the whole island (and state park) need to be renamed!

  6. Charlotte says

    I wasn’t going to add Antelope Island SP to my “must see” list until I saw your pics and read this post. Will do it early spring or fall to avoid gnats. I hate gnats, We visit the low country of Georgia and South Carolina and know about gnats. These sound even worse! What a shame you can’t stay longer.

  7. says

    It was the same problem last June at Wild Rivers, NM. We passed on staying there then but went back in Sept and it was wonderful. Being somewhere at the wrong time of year can really spoil a great place.

    • libertatemamo says

      You’re absolutely right. We thought we were coming early enough to avoid the bugs here, but alas no. I can’t knock the beauty of this place since I know the bugs are just a seasonal thing, so I just have to plan better. This place would be fabulous at the right time of year.
      Nina

  8. says

    I’m still laughing…… It is a rarity to actually enjoy the wind making life difficult for those little suckers. Well noted! Hey, at least you have the place to yourselves. Stunning photos!

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, honestly never thought I’d be hoping for wind. Just goes to show that RVing is an ever-changing adventure!
      So far so good today…actually managed to walk outside without constantly swatting my face.
      Nina

  9. says

    I feel your pain, being the designated bug magnet for our RV. If it bites, it’s headed my way. The island looks beautiful and we’re putting it on the list for the return to the SW after the little buggers are gone.

    • libertatemamo says

      Today temps dropped and the wind upped…it was wonderful. This island truly is magical without the gnats. Well worth the visit!
      Nina

  10. twoscamps says

    Nina, I totally sympathize with your plight. I’m the magnet as well. Years ago we bought one of those screened enclosures. It’s protected us from gnats in Utah, black flies in Colorado, mosquitos (wherever!). Thanks for this post. Antelope Island is on our western bucket list. Cheers, Maureen

    • libertatemamo says

      I’m eternally thankful we have screens on our doors and windows too. Allowed us to let in air without letting in the gnats. Not sure what we would have done otherwise!
      Nina

  11. Lolalo says

    Nina, I have been to Antelope Island several times in the past year and a half since my daughter and family live at Hill Air Force Base – just a very short distance from you. Please don’t be discouraged by the gnats – it is SO worth another visit. It is indeed magical and one of the most scenic places I’ve ever seen. Lots of wildlife – antelope, bison, jack rabbits, chukar, and vast amounts of birds! And the snow capped mountains all around, refected in the water. What a place! Make a point to visit at another time. And go hug my daughter and grandbabies for me!!!

    • libertatemamo says

      You’re absolutely right. We managed another day here today thanks to wind and lower temps. It was like experiencing a whole a new place. I would love to spend a couple of weeks in cooler temps.
      Nina

  12. SSI John says

    I can relate to the gnats. I live on St. Simons Island, Ga. An island on the coast of Georgia. We are blessed to live in an area surrounded by marshes. The marshes are the breeding ground for shrimp which is good, but also blood thirsty gnats. Avon Skin So Soft is one remedy that works so-so (results very). Dryer sheets believe it or not is another, or constantly smoke cigars.

    I have been researching how people lived here in the past and the one conclusion I have come up with is sulfur. The well water around here if not filtered has the distinct Oder of hard boiled eggs. Compared to my friends who drink this lovely water, I also am a magnet. I can’t even carry on a conversation while swatting and scratching those little buggers while my friends stand idly by amused by my activities. So sulfur would be another solution if you could stand yourself if you pass gas! haha

    • libertatemamo says

      You know you’re not the first person I’ve talked to that’s mentioned Avon Skin So Soft. I’m willing to try anything so I’ll look it up. I might even be persuaded to try the sulphur water LOL.
      Nina

      • John Kopotic says

        I forgot to mention that when I was a boy scout, I was always attracting ticks and chiggers. One summer it was so bad I caught/developed Rocky Mountain Fever. Anyway the doctor prescribed sulfer tablets 1 week before going into the woods. Still it does make you stink…

        Skin so soft works if you like the smell.

        cheers, john

        • libertatemamo says

          Well there you go…sulphur tablets. Who’d have thought?
          I’ll be looking into that Avon product. Hopefully won’t need it the rest of this summer on the coast, but you never know.
          Nina

  13. says

    SO sorry to hear about the gnats. I too am the family bug magnet so I know how bad it can be if you are itching every millimeter of your skin constantly and look like you have a case of double chicken pox. You have all of my sympathy for at least the next week. :-) Antelope Island is fantastic. We made it before the bugs and saw the ranch, swam in the lake, kayaked the lake et al. Hope you can return some day before or after bugs. I’ll check on my blog and see what the date was in 2011 when we were there. I actually thought it was in April.

    • libertatemamo says

      It’s going to take at least a week for these bites to wear off….yikes! I’m glad we got to see this place, but if we come back I’m going to schedule it more carefully. We only really missed the “good” time by a few days.
      Nina

  14. says

    Having experienced the biting gnats at Buccaneer SP in Mississippi … we (actually Mui) can empathize. After one afternoon his legs and arms looked like he should be quarantined for chicken pox. We never did go out to Antelope Island when we lived in SLC back in the ’80s … will remember to fit it in only in cool weather when we get west.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup…that’s me…dimpled on every open inch of skin (and even a few closed areas…how do they get in there??)
      Nina

  15. says

    Oh Nina! I feel your pain with the gnats! I grew up in Colorado and have experienced them first hand. They are non stop annoying, around the eyes, high pitched buzzing in the ears and create dark clouds of a feasting frenzy. Yuck! Did you experience any deer flies? Those fellas are aweful too! You sure took some beautiful pictures though. Love em! Hope your next stop is gnat free.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thankfully no deer flies here, although I’ve certainly encountered them in my travels. The worst about the gnats is their bites. I can (almost) live with the swarming, but the bites take me down.
      Nina

  16. says

    Your photos are divine Nina but I also detest biting insects. Like you, there isn’t a one that doesn’t love dining on me.

  17. Mary Klinger says

    You take the most AWESOME pictures! Do you give classes? We were at Antelope Island in the summer of 2009 and had no really good memories of it. It seemed boring to us at that time. But in looking at your pictures, maybe I need to go back and look harder for the beauty you let shine through your photographs (ART). Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures!

    • libertatemamo says

      Well I’m glad my pics give some joy. I’ve given a few classes in my past, but nothing on the road. I do love it all!
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      When we were there yes. They bit the whole time! But I gather it was a pretty major invasion that week. If you’re planning to go I would recommend calling the park and asking about the gnat situation.

      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      Outstanding! So glad you got to enjoy this beautiful area. Without those gnats it’s a sublime place.

      Nina

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