The Great Salt Lake, located in the northern part of the U.S. state of Utah, is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth-largest terminal lake in the world. In an average year the lake covers an area of around 1,700 square miles, but the lake's size fluctuates substantially due to its shallowness. For instance, in 1963 it reached its lowest recorded level at 950 square miles, but in 1988 the surface area was at the historic high of 3,300 square miles. In terms of surface area, it is the largest lake in the United States that is not part of the Great Lakes region.
The lake is the largest remnant of Lake Bonneville, a prehistoric pluvial lake that once covered much of western Utah. The three major tributaries to the lake, the Jordan, Weber, and Bear rivers together deposit around 1.1 million tons of minerals in the lake each year. As it is endorheic (has no outlet besides evaporation), it has very high salinity, far saltier than sea water, and its mineral content is constantly increasing. Its shallow, warm waters cause frequent, sometimes heavy lake-effect snows from late fall through spring.
Although it has been called "America's Dead Sea",the lake provides habitat for millions of native birds, brine shrimp, shorebirds, and waterfowl, including the largest staging population of Wilson's Phalarope in the world.
Categorically stating the number of islands is difficult. The method used to determine what is an island is not necessarily the same in each source.
Island and peninsula definitions depend mostly on the level of the lake. From largest to smallest, they are Antelope Island, Stansbury Island, Fremont Island, Carrington Island, Dolphin Island, Cub Island, and Badger Island, and various rocks, reefs, or shoals with names like Strongs Knob, Gunnison Island, Goose, Browns, Hat (Bird), Egg Island, Black Rock, and White Rock. Dolphin Island, Gunnison Island, Cub Island, and Strongs Knob are in the northwestern arm. The rest are in the southern portion of the Great Salt Lake.
The lake is deepest in the area between these island chains, measured by Howard Stansbury in 1850 at about 35 feet deep, and an average depth of 13 feet. When the water levels are low, Antelope Island becomes connected to the shore as a peninsula, as do Goose Islands and Browns Island. Stansbury Island and Strongs Knob remain peninsulas unless the water level rises well-above the average.
The State of Utah operates a marina on the south shore of the lake at Great Salt Lake State Park, and another in Antelope Island State Park. With its sudden storms and expansive spread, the lake is a great test of sailing skills. Single mast, simple sloops are the most popular boats. Sudden storms and lack of experience on the part of boatmen are the two most dangerous elements in boating and sailing on the Great Salt Lake.