Great Salt Lake General Information, Facts, News, Publications and Partners

Science Center Objects

In July 2021, the southern portion of the Great Salt Lake reached a new historic low, with average daily water levels dropping about an inch below the previous record set in 1963, according to U.S. Geological Survey information collected at the SaltAir gage.  

-Find all news releases associated with the Great Salt Lake from the News Tab at the top of this page.

General Information

The Great Salt Lake is located on a playa, consequently small changes in the elevation of the water surface result in large changes in the surface area of the lake. The USGS has been collecting water-surface-elevation data from Great Salt Lake since 1875 and continuously since October 1902. The north part of the lake has been monitored since April 1966. To learn more go to Great Salt Lake Elevations.

Dramatic changes in lake levels in recent years can be observed in satellite images. To see these images go to Earthshots 1972-2016: Satellite Images of Environmental Change.

In 1959, a solid-fill railroad causeway was constructed across the middle of the Great Salt Lake. The construction of the causeway divided the lake into two parts; the north (Gunnison Bay) and the south (Gilbert Bay). To learn more about the consequenses of the causeway go to Deep Brine Layer.

To learn more about the water quality of the Great Salt Lake go to Quantifying Nutrient Mass and Internal Cycling in Great Salt Lake for more information about a current study.


  • Remnant of Lake Bonneville, a prehistoric freshwater lake that was 10 times larger than the Great Salt Lake
  • Largest lake west of the Mississippi River
  • Relatively shallow lake with a maximum depth of about 35 feet
  • Typically 3 to 5 times saltier than the ocean
  • Too salty for fish
  • Important source of brine shrimp
  • Critical part of the Western North America migratory bird flyway

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