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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about... the largest inland body of salt water in the western hemisphere, Utah's Great Salt Lake.


CURWOOD: Great Salt Lake in Utah is the largest inland body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere. It's a remnant of a prehistoric lake which covered 20,000 square miles of what is now Utah, Nevada, and Idaho. The surrounding mountains are still ringed like a bathtub by the shorelines that existed 25,000 years ago. And the lake continues to shrink as water from its rivers is diverted for irrigation. The Great Salt Lake is about 5 times saltier than the oceans. That's because the rivers that dump into it contain water that's high in mineral salts. And since it doesn't have an outlet to the sea, the minerals get trapped. The lake today holds about 400 million tons of salts. Though local legends place a school of whales and a bellowing monster in the lake, the only things known to live in it are microscopic brine shrimp and bluegreen algae. But millions of birds nest on the shores and islands of the Great Salt Lake. And on its largest island, antelope and buffalo indeed do roam. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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