Great Salt Lake

Science Center Objects

Great Salt Lake is located on a shallow playa. Consequently, small changes in the water-surface elevation result in large changes in the surface area of the lake. This is particularly evident when the lake spills into the west desert at an elevation of about 4,215 feet, greatly increasing its area. The satellite imagery shows changes in the area of the lake from 1972, through the high-runoff period of 1983-87, and ending in 1996. At the historic average (1847-1986) surface elevation of 4,200 feet (1975 is an "average year" shown in the images), the lake covers an area of about 1,700 square miles. At the historic low elevation of 4,191.35 in 1963, the lake covered only 950 square miles. The drop of about 8.5 feet in elevation resulted in a loss of about 44 percent in surface area. During 1986 and again in 1987, the lake reached an elevation of 4,211.6 feet and had a surface area of about 3,300 square miles. The relation between water-surface elevation and corresponding surface area and volume of the lake is shown on an elevation-area-volume curve, also called a hypsographic curve (from the Greek, hypsos, meaning height).

What we know about the lake.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has measured the elevation of Great Salt Lake since 1875 and conducted many studies on the hydrology, salinity, water quality, and ecology of the lake. Currently, the USGS operates lake elevation gages at Saltair Marina, Saline (north arm), and on the railroad causeway near Promontory Point. 

List of fun facts about Great Salt Lake

(Public domain.)