Mega Fauna On Island
I’m not going to lie, camping on Antelope Island can be the most miserable experience you’ll ever pay money for. During high-summer, it is a shade-less hell with a billion blood-sucking biting bugs. Having a pleasant camping trip is more about timing—if you avoid coming in the summer, you should be fine.
With all of that, there two highly compelling reasons you would want to camp Antelope Island.
A: Cost for a day trip $10. Cost to Camp is only $5 bucks more ($15 total)
B: It puts you into what’s essentially a game preserve. At night. Unsupervised. What can possibly happen?
There are 3 camping areas on Antelope Island with a total of 52 sites; White Rock, Bridger Bay and Ladyfinger. All of the sites are on the north side of the island within a couple of miles of each other; there isn’t any camping on the island’s south side. White Rock and Bridger Bay are good for RVs/Campers while Ladyfinger (with 8 sites) is tent only and no campfires.
White Rock, located just south of Buffalo Point is a treeless series of sites situated along the dirt road. This is the campground for if you have horses. Sites have a barbeque grill and a picnic table.
Bridger Bay is on the north-east side of Buffalo Point. It is also treeless, but is more of a conventional campground. The sites accommodate either tents or RVs. Sites have a covered picnic table, fire pit and barbeque grill.
Lady Finger, located near the Egg-Island trailhead (NE side of the Island, kind of near the Visitor Center) is straight-up tent only in isolated areas of cleared sage brush. No fires allowed! Sites have a picnic table.
Winter on Antelope
Securing a campsite on Antelope Island follows one of two critical paths. The first option is to load up your vehicle, drive out to the island and consign yourself to benevolent Providence there are available sites. Most of the time (especially during the week), you’ll be in luck and there will be sites available. The campsites do have a tendency to fill up quickly during holiday weekends, pretty weather, and/or buffalo round-up times. In those cases, your better option is to go to ReserveAmerica.com website and reserve a spot.
Perversely, going to the website is more expensive than simply showing up as they charge an $8.00 reservation fee (your $15 campsite is now $23)
Bridger Bay is open and reserveable Year-Round while White Rock is closed December-March. Camping in a campground is your only on-island option; no dispersed or backcountry camping allowed.
Hassles and Limiting Factors
Sentry in Winter
No Water in Campgrounds-- Available at Bridger Bay (BB) Beach, Dump Station, and Visitor Center.
No Flush Toilets in Campgrounds – Pit toilets available. Flush toilets located at the BB Beach and Visitor Center
No Firewood – none for sale on island, no gathering allowed. Bring your own
No Grocery Stores on island
No Gas for sale on island—come with a full tank!
The weather on Antelope Island is strange and can fool you. For instance, the weather can be calm in-land yet screaming along at 50 mph out on the island. It’s an odd phenomenon made odder by the fact you can literally see the island from your house and still get surprised with a difference in conditions. That being said, you can reasonably plan for it to be hot in summer, cold in the winter, and both in spring/fall. Read the weather report carefully before taking off for your camping trip.
The bugs on Antelope are phenomenal, a biblical plague. They are usually swarming in late spring, summer and early fall. The worst are biting gnats and they are voracious, blood sucking creatures who spare neither man nor beast in their drive to slake their soulless hungers. Plan your camping trip with this in mind. If you are planning a trip, windy conditions normally disrupts them and makes them less of a problem. Cold weather also limits their swarms. There is a sign at the causeway gate informing visitors that you won’t get your money back just because bugs make you miserable.
Head up Frary
Antelope Island gets a lot of visitors…300,000 a year. Spring and Fall seem to be the high times, Summer somewhat less and Winter almost nobody. During peak times the island gets tour buses and/or waves of visitors hitting the most popular sites (Buffalo Point, Frary Peak, Fielding Garr). Even with these high volumes, with a little advance planning there is a good chance you’ll have the trails to yourself. Misanthropes, recluses and sociopaths still find their happy spot by visiting mid-week, off-season.
Bridger Bay Campground
OFF LIMITS AREAS
There are a number of places on Antelope you are not supposed to be. Yes, there are rangers and “yes” they will ticket you. The island is also patrolled by volunteers who can also ticket you. Both Egg Island and White Rock are closed to access year-round to protect nesting birds. The Mountain area south of Sentry Trail (to include Molly’s Nipple) is off-limits. In fact, going off trail anywhere on the island is an invitation to get a ticket. Stay on the trail and read the map.
Cell phone service is spotty everywhere on island, finding a sweet spot with actual coverage is sometimes a matter of moving 10 feet. You should be able to get some service on the East side of the island but pretty much everything (including phone service) shuts down once you are on the west side of the island. Don’t count on your cell phone working!
There are no grocery stores, gas stations, or other commercial facilities on Antelope Island. All major resupply has to be accomplished prior to arrival. Fortunately, there is a 24-hour Walmart and/or a Smith’s Grocery store right on the way in Syracuse (about 5 miles from the causeway entrance). There are also a large number of fast food restaurants on the way. While there aren’t any stores on Island, there is the Buffalo Grill near the beach and another at Buffalo Point observation area. These places are open seasonally and keep short tourist hours.
The only re-provision item available on island (other than a tasty buffalo burger) is water located at Bridger Bay Beach, Dump Station, and Visitor Center. Since there are not any rivers, streams or lakes on island, those are your ONLY options. Note that there is none available at the Fielding Garr Ranch or in the campgrounds.
Red Tape and Hours
Antelope Island hours are:
• Island Open Daily 6:00 am - 6:00 pm -- Visitor Center and Fielding Garr Ranch Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
• Facilities closed Thanksgiving & Christmas & December 7th
The gate closes to new visitors at 6 pm and doesn’t reopen until the next morning. You can leave the island but you can’t re-enter at night. Even though the park closes at 6 pm, you can still hike if you are camping (which is incredibly coo1!).
Antelope Island State Park
4528 WEST 1700 SOUTH
SYRACUSE UT 84075
800-322-3770 (toll-free from outside the Salt Lake City area)
801-322-3770 (from within the Salt Lake City area)
801-773-2941 (for group camping reservations)
If you are camping, you don’t have to pay the $10 per vehicle to get on the island. Essentially, it costs a grand total of $5 to camp vs. just day visiting.
Single: $15 initial night; $12 proceeding nights for single
Group: $30 initial night; $24 proceeding nights for group
$10 Day-Use per vehicle
$5 Day-Use for Utah senior residents
$3 Cyclists and Pedestrians
$75 Annual Day-Use Pass (causeway pass is separate)
$35 Senior Adventure (annual) Pass
Reserve America Website:
Tours and Rentals:
R & G Horse and Wagon: Guided horseback ride tours. Reservations required – (888) 878-8002
Gonzo Boat Rentals/Tours: Chartered boat rides, dinner tours, kayaks, bikes-- (801)-989-7281
Call Salt Island Advertures, (801) 583-4400, for information about boat cruises from Antelope Island.
Hunt days--- DECEMBER. Antelope Island closes to the public once a year for an annual hunt, usually in early December. While some might object to shooting a couple of buffalo for sport (7 in 2015), this is one of those Jesuit choices as the hunters pay a crazy amount of money to the state for the privilege. In any event, tourists and hunters don’t mix; the park closes down for the day.
Buffalo Roundup— OCTOBER. The buffalo roundup is held each fall to check the health of the bison herd, give them shots and cull excess bison. They try to limit the herd to between 500 and 700 animals. The roundup puts the extra animals on sale and you can score your own buffalo calf for around $2.50 a pound. There are usually around 200 animals on sale.
The Buffalo Roundup is a two-part event consisting of “the push” where they gather up all of the buffalo and, 5 days later, “the working” where they give the animals their shots and choose out which animals get culled.
Antelope Island Ultra-Marathon—MARCH. Features 100, 50 and 25K runs as well as a 50 MILE run for the metric-impaired.
Spotting Antelope Island is easy…it’s the big island in the middle of the lake. To get to the causeway, take Interstate 15 to Exit 332 (Syracuse/Freeport Center). Turn west onto Antelope Drive and drive seven miles to the entrance gate. A two-lane causeway spans from mainland to island.
The campgrounds are on the north side of the island…signs point the way.