Shoreline Patterns of the Great Salt Lake

October 10, 2018


Photographer: Patrick Wiggins 
Summary Author: Patrick Wiggins 

The Great Salt Lake reached it’s highest level on record in 1986 when the surface was some 1,284 m above sea level. The water level was so high that it lapped over Interstate 80 (the highway running across the top of the picture) and flooded properties on the populated east side of the lake. Huge pumps were installed to move water out of the lake and onto the desert to the west.

Since then, extensive diversion of the water that would naturally flow into the Great Salt Lake has caused the lake level to decrease to its current level of about 1,278 m, and it's continuing to decline. It's the ever-changing shoreline that results in many of the intricate patterns seen along the water’s edge in this aerial view, captured through the open window of a Cessna 172, as I flew about 700 m above the water.

Note that the building at the upper left is the latest of a series of entertainment facilities known as Saltair. The first was built in 1893 and destroyed by fire in 1925. A second was built shortly thereafter but closed for financial reasons in 1958 -- the buildings burned in the late 1960s. The one pictured here, a repurposed Air Force aircraft hangar, was built in 1981 and was nearly ruined when the lake level rose a few years later.

The Great Salt Lake shoreline is constantly changing and is a view I look forward to seeing every time I fly over it. Photo taken on September 1, 2018.

Photo Details: Camera: Apple iPhone SE; Exposure Time: 0.0003s (1/3344); Aperture: ƒ/2.2; ISO equivalent: 25; Focal Length (35mm): 29.