Then, gear up for the roundup on Oct, 28 and 29, when more than 700 bison will be corralled near the northern end of the island. Now, that’s a sight.
The American bison, or buffalo, is—on looks alone— quite intimidating. Island bulls can weigh upwards of 1,900 pounds, while the more delicate cows weight between 800 and 1,100 pounds. Bulls can stand 6 feet tall at the shoulders, and cows are only slightly smaller. Both have massive heads and horns that can reach upwards of two feet.
There is no experience quite like moving buffalo, and there is no better opportunity than riding during the annual roundup. Last year more than 300 horses and riders took part, and any individual with a horse is invited to participate. Because it is the only bison roundup open to the public, the event—which is overseen by the Division of Parks and Recreation—has received ample national attention in recent years.
The ride begins at the Fielding Garr Ranch along the eastern shore and moves to the southern tip of the island, where riders encourage the bison to move north. Typically, most of the animals are corralled on the first day, and day two is kept in reserve in case of bad weather.
Since the island habitat can only sustain around 500 bison, roughly 200 animals of the current 700-plus population will be cut out and sold on the open market. Some buyers purchase bison for their meat, while others are interested in starting or strengthening an existing herd. The sale, slated for Nov. 12, will be held at the Antelope Island State Park Bison Corrals and begins at 10 a.m. (Animals will be on display at 8 a.m.) Money from the sale goes toward island expenses.
Interested riders must fill out an application with Utah State Parks and Recreation. The roundup will begin on Oct. 28 with a mandatory briefing at 8 a.m. Riders will then be broken down by skill level and directed to ride specific areas on the island.
FACTS & FIGURES - American bison were brought to the island in 1893 and left to roam free. - Antelope Island is 15 miles long and 7 miles across at its widest point. It is the largest of 10 islands in the Great Salt Lake - There are 40 major freshwater springs on the island. - Along with buffalo, island inhabitants include California bighorn sheep, mule deer, antelope, coyotes, bobcats and several hundred species of birds. - The Great Salt Lake is recognized as one of only 17 Hemispheric Reserves that make up the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. - Fielding Garr Ranch is Utah’s oldest Anglo-built structure still standing on its original foundation. It is also the oldest continually inhabited Anglo home -- 1848 to 1981.
HOW TO GO Directions: Take Exit 332 off I-15, drive west on Antelope Drive for 7 miles to the park entrance, then another 7 miles across a narrow causeway to the island.
Park fees are $9 per vehicle or $3 for bicyclists and walk-ins. All trails on Antelope Island will be closed Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 due to the annual bison roundup. The east side road to the ranch will remain open to the public and will be a good location for viewing roundup activities. For more information call 801-773-2941 or visit the Utah State Parks and Recreation.