Storm reveals mystery shipwreck at Utah’s Great Salt Lake

Local News

(Courtesy: Great Salt Lake State Park)

SALT LAKE CITY (KTVX) – It sounds like an urban legend, or maybe a salty one, but it is true. A storm rolls over the Great Salt Lake, and tosses the water and sand so hard it reveals a shipwreck.

And the new wreck is causing a lot of speculation.

A post on Great Salt Lake State Park’s Website with a picture revealed the discovery:

“Great Salt Lake Storms can be ominous but also fascinating. There has been boating on the Great Salt Lake since the mid-1880’s. Some of these boats experienced tragic endings only to be buried in the sand by storms. But storms can also uncover them as the most recent one did by the Great Salt Lake Marina. This is an old steel boat that probably dates back to the turn of the 20th century. It was uncovered on our most recent storm.”

The Great Salt Lake is the 8th largest terminal lake in the world. Terminal means there is no outlet so the water gets salty.

The rise and fall of lakes level constantly reveals historical items left in the lake

Tug on the Great Salt Lake Courtesy: Trestlewood

Talking about the new discovery, Dave Shearer the Great Salt Lake Park Manager told sister station KTVX:

“It is most likely a working boat, which puts it as a possibility that it was a working boat from the railroad fleet.”

Southern Pacific Railroad, had brought the boats in to maintain the trestle and causeway through 1902. The trestle was 12 miles long and part of the Lucin Cutoff.

In 1995 Utah’s Historical Quarterly published information about historical boats and ships on the Great Salt Lake. The article states, Steamships and sailing craft have been common on the Great Salt Lake for more than a century.

Boatbuilding and shipwrecks have always been a part of the Great Salt Lake’s history. Brigham Young’s ‘Timely Gull’ being one of the ships they think may have been discovered, but there is not enough history to completely identify the boat.

Because of water levels going up and down, and the devastating storms that can crop up on the lake, one of the unique features of watercraft on the GSL at the turn of the century were the designs. The article from the Historical Quarterly says, “Many of these locally built vessels were neither graceful nor admirable craft; ugly and practical would better describe them. How-ever, they were well suited for the lake. — Utah Historical Quarterly (Volume 63, Number 3, Summer 1994)

Because of the way the Great Salt Lake Levels change up and down, most of the boats built a century ago had flat bottoms.

Jacob Miller’s Schooner on the Great Salt Lake
Utah Historical Quarterly (Volume 63, Number 3, Summer 1994)
Courtesy David H. Miller and Ann M. Eckma

To find out exactly what the wreck is will take some investigating, this story will be updated as new information about the historical find surfaces.

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