The Great Salt Lake (GSL) is an under-researched and largely unknown salt water lake. The Great Salt Lake spans about 75 miles long, and 28 miles wide, covers 1,700 square miles and is the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. The GSL is considered a terminal lake because it does not reach the ocean. The water that feeds into GSL, starts in the Wasatch Mountains, traveling down the seven canyons and stopping at the lake. The fresh water sources that feed into the lake are the Bear River, Weber River, and the Jordan River. These tributary rivers continually bring minerals and small amounts of salt dissolved into GSL. When the water evaporates, it leaves those minerals and salt, resulting in saltier water over time. The salinity of GSL varies widely across its expanse—the north arm of the lake averages at 28% salinity and the south arm of the lake average at 12%. The GSL is 3-to-5 times saltier than the ocean.
The watershed around the Great Salt Lake spans over 21,000 square miles and is home to millions of birds each year. These migratory birds stop at GSL to feed, nest, and rest before migrating to their next location. Every year, millions of birds from 257 different species rely on the Great Salt Lake.
The Great Salt Lake has a diverse ecosystem that is continually changing. Many species of plants, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds rely on this lake for survival.
Learn More About the Great Salt Lake from the Utah Water Science Center