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Sea Kayaking and Canoeing in Great Salt Lake City in Northern Utah

Things to do / Travel Guide

As you maneuver along northern Utah's most winsome waterways, you will gaze up at 1,000-foot cliff walls, bright red sandstone monoliths, and the snow-tipped tops of the Wasatch Mountain Range. But that's not all: paddling in northern Utah gives you the opportunity to see hunting osprey, nesting pelicans, swimming brine shrimp, and herding buffalo - all from the comfy seat of your kayak. Bring your own gear or get hooked up on Antelope Island, the Great Salt Lake, or in the towns of Ogden and Vernal. Kayaking is best from April-October, with the most pleasant times being in early spring and late fall.

Kayaking on the Causey Reservoir

Calm, cool, quiet, and cliffy, Causey Reservoir near the South Fork of the Ogden River makes for a great paddling excursion. The 140-acre cold-water lake is fed by snowmelt, and the scenery is spectacular - 100-foot canyon walls, hidden coves, winnowing pine trees, and craggy cliffs. No powerboats mean a tranquil trip, so paddle the waterway at your leisure.

Sea Kayaking on the Great Salt Lake

Set out on a sea-that-isn't-a-sea, Great Salt Lake's far-reaching saline blue waters give you a sense that you are paddling a limitless, wave-less ocean. Additionally, the lake is visited by some 6 million migratory birds each year! While you can paddle any part of the lake's 960,000 acres, here are a couple recommended excursions:
  • For outstanding wildlife and bird observation, Egg Island is the place to paddle. Start out at Antelope Island, the largest of Great Salt Lake's eight islands and home to a large herd of buffalo. Arrive to Antelope Island by car via Antelope Drive (the seven-mile, two-lane road that runs from the mainland onto the island), head to the marina and paddle west along the north shore. As you pass rocky outcroppings, California gulls swirl overhead, circling around their nesting colony. Brine shrimp inch alongside your kayak as you approach Egg Island. You'll spot it immediately; it's the one where hundreds of birds are squawking, perching, nesting, chirping, fishing, caw-cawing, and free-wheeling above and around its shores. Continue around Egg Island for as long as you like, and then head out into the wide expanse of the Great Salt Lake. On your return to Antelope Island, take a paddle toward the southern shore, where you just see those big, barreling buffalo. The roundtrip paddle to Egg Island from Antelope Island is about five miles.
  • For a longer paddle, continue west from Egg Island through Bridger Bay and onward to Buffalo Point, the northernmost end of Antelope Island, where you can see and explore (by kayak or foot) giant boulders, geological formations, and the unique ooltic (lime or calcium carbonate) sand. Buffalo Point also affords a spectacular view of some snow-capped peaks of the Wasatch Mountain Range as well as of Lake Bonneville. The roundtrip distance from Egg Island to Buffalo Point is about eight miles.

Paddling on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir

No matter the segment of Flaming Gorge Reservoir you select, visual delights await. Blood red, rocky canyons, a slew of wildlife, both feathered and four-legged, and skyward-reaching trees are just a few of the sights you'll likely see. Before heading to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, near the Wyoming-Utah border, you will need a boater permit that you can pick up at gas station stores in Manila or Lucerne for about $5. There are literally hundreds of paddling miles and various points to put in your canoes and kayaks on Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Here are some recommended areas to try:
  • The 16 tranquil, uninhabited miles from Green River to Flaming Gorge Dam offer swift but safe currents to help nudge you along; towering red cliffs, rock-littered shorelines, and sparse foliage abound and enchant.
  • Sheep Creek Canyon near State Road 44 south of Manila, Cedar Springs Marina near Dutch John, Lucerne Valley Marina near Manila, and Buckboard Marina (in Wyoming) are all wonderful starting points for a day or several days of exploration inside the gorge. You will see a veritable rainbow of colors: deep green Douglas fir pose statuesque against a backdrop of reddish-orange sandstone monoliths; giant rose-colored cliffs stand starkly above steel-blue waters, beneath pale-blue skies. And osprey, great blue heron, pelicans, and bighorn sheep along the shorelines are impossible to miss.
  • For its stunning 1,000-foot cliff walls and equally impressive 50-foot clear-water visibility, many paddlers choose to navigate through Horseshoe Canyon, just west of Linwood Bay and the town of Lucerne. Wildlife-wise, you can see trout touring the waters or catch sight of an osprey diving for dinner.