Sunday, April 5, 2020

Antelope Island area highways

Antelope Island is the largest and best-known of the "islands" in the Great Salt Lake. Located in western Davis County, it is generally associated with the Syracuse area because it is accessed via the Davis County Causeway, which heads west from 1700 South (Antelope Drive) in Syracuse.

(I say "islands" because due to current low water levels, most of the traditional islands are currently connected to the mainland. Antelope hasn't been isolated since 2001.)

View northwest from Frary Peak, the highest point on Antelope Island at 6596 feet.

The northwestern Davis County area was not served by any state routes until 1931, when SR 107 and SR 108 were created. Those routes were defined by the Legislature as follows:

(107) From route 1 north of Clearfield westerly to West Point. 
(108) From Route 1 south of Clearfield westerly to Syracuse.

Route 1 was better known as US 91, and is now SR 126. It wasn't made explicitly clear where West Point and Syracuse were, but based on a quick look at historical maps, West Point was the intersection of 300 North and 3000 West, and Syracuse was today's Antelope Drive and 2000 West intersection. One interesting thing to note is both of those east-west streets have been renamed: old maps show 300 North as West Point Road and Antelope Drive/1700 South as Syracuse Road - this latter name still shows up on some modern maps. SR 108 would be extended to the north on 2000 West in 1941.

In 1935, SR 195 was added to the system and was defined to run:
From Hooper on route 37 southerly to Syracuse.
Essentially, that consisted of today's 5900 West/5000 West, 1800 North, 4500 West, and 1700 South/Antelope Drive. SR 37 has a long and complicated history that will be covered in detail in a future post, but for now all we need to know is in 1945, it was extended south and east from Hooper and absorbed a portion of SR 195 in the process. As a result, 195 was truncated to a junction called South Hooper, corresponding to the modern intersection of 1800 North and 4500 West. (Essentially, SR 195 combined the modern 110 and 127 designations under one number.) That same year, the west end of SR 107 was extended to SR 195. The following map shows the route situation at that time:

Syracuse-West Point routes in 1945. Red is SR 108, blue is SR 195, and green is SR 107.

In 1947, what was left of SR 195 was decommissioned, removing 4500 West and 1700 South west of Syracuse from the state system and giving SR 107 a dead-end at 4500 West. The 1955 USGS topo of the area showed that:

USGS (Clearfield), 1955.

Meanwhile, interest in protecting nearby Antelope Island increased, and in 1959 a study was performed evaluating the island's potential to become a national park. While the NPS saw potential in the island itself - especially the northern portion - it was not pleased with the surrounding Great Salt Lake, especially because raw sewage and untreated chemical waste were still being dumped into the southeastern and southern portions of the lake.

At the time, the only road access to Antelope Island was a southern causeway that split off US 40 west of the Salt Lake City airport and connected to the southeastern portion of the island. However, this was not convenient for northern portions of the island, which was the part that had just been identified as suitable for preservation. The state decided another access point was needed, and in 1965, a new SR 127 was designated along a proposed new causeway from the northern tip of Antelope Island eastward to 1700 South in Syracuse, continuing east to SR 108.

Construction of the northern causeway began in 1967 and was completed in 1969. That same year, the remainder of old SR 195 along 4500 West was added back to the state system as a new SR 110. Those changes were shown on the next USGS map of the area:

USGS (Clearfield), 1972.

Upon opening of the northern causeway, the northernmost portions of the island were designated as a state park. There was interest in creating a national monument encompassing the rest of the island, but county commissioners opposed that, and and the state park expanded to include the entire island in 1981.

But just a few years after that, northern Utah had one of its wettest periods ever recorded, which caused the lake to rise to some of its highest recorded levels. By 1983, lake levels had risen enough to inundate the northern causeway, resulting in the closure of the state park according to the park's website. However, the 1987 USGS map suggests the park had been reopened by then, as it shows a ferry from SR 127 to the north end of the island. I'm curious if the state ran this ferry, and if it did, whether it was considered part of SR 127:

USGS (Promontory Point), 1987.

Lake levels did not fall back to normal until around 1990, and when they did, the northern causeway had been significantly damaged. The state legislature passed a bill in 1991 to fund a restoration, and Davis County expressed a desire to maintain it once it was complete. As a result, the Utah Transportation Commission removed the causeway from the state highway system in May 1991, truncating SR 127 to its present extent.

Today, the causeway is referenced as Federal Aid Route 1468, though this designation is not signed. It is maintained by Davis County as a toll road - it's not generally thought of as such because the toll is lumped in with the park entrance fee. This arrangement makes the causeway one of only two toll roads in the state of Utah, the other being the Adams Avenue Parkway.

All other routes in the area remained unchanged until 2014, when nearby SR 193 was extended west from Main Street (SR 126) to a new terminus at 2000 West (SR 108). Since the new 193 would effectively replace most of SR 107, UDOT saw an opportunity for a jurisdictional transfer. This general area probably has more state-maintained highways than it should anyway, so this was a good call in my opinion.

So in September 2015, the Utah Transportation Commission signed a resolution to truncate the east end of SR 107 to 3000 West. This map was included with the resolution: on it, the green segment would be transferred to Clearfield, and the red segment would fall under West Point's jurisdiction, while the blue segment would remain SR 107. By the way, this marked the first change to SR 107 in 80 years.

UDOT, 2015.

The map above also shows the new extension of SR 193. It's interesting that 107 was truncated all the way back to 3000 West in 2015, because the new 193 only went to 2000 West (SR 108) - so you'd think UDOT would have only dropped 107 east of 108. But a few years later, 193 would be extended to 3000 West, which is where it ends now. So right now, 107 and 193 essentially act as one state highway corridor with a half-mile segment on locally maintained 3000 West.

I don't expect SR 107 to last any longer than 5-10 more years. In conjunction with the planned construction of the West Davis Corridor freeway, current plans for SR 193 call for an extension first to the freeway and then further on to 4500 West. Once that happens, I'd imagine SR 107 will disappear for good.

Route Photos

SR 107

SR 107 begins heading east from 4500 West/SR 110 along 300 North in West Point.

This part of West Point is still an agricultural area, which has somehow managed to avoid the suburban growth of the Wasatch Front thus far. 

West Point has a neat looking city hall along the route.

At 3000 West, the route will come to an end - look closely underneath the light and you'll see the END 107 assembly on the right. If you made a right turn here, you'd hit SR 193 in a half mile.

SR 110

SR 110 begins at 1800 North (SR 37) and heads south on 4500 West.

After going south for a bit, the route junctions SR 107.

SR 107 begins to the left here on 300 North. I don't have any photos of SR 110 past the 107 junction, but it continues on to SR 127 at the east end of the causeway.

SR 127

SR 127 begins at 2000 West in Syracuse and heads west on 1700 South, better known as Antelope Drive. I did not photograph the first reassurance marker, but it exists.

As we head west we'll encounter a gradually more agricultural area.

DOT signage is the only place you'll find the Antelope Drive name in Syracuse city limits.

Due to the proximity of the Great Salt Lake, this is an especially flat part of the Wasatch Front.

About a mile after that, the route junctions SR 110.

Stay straight for the Antelope Island causeway, turn right for SR 110 to West Point.

SR 127 and 110 share a terminus. It used to make sense as 127 went over the causeway, but now that it's been truncated the two routes should just be combined.


Heading west from the terminus of SR 127, the road switches to Davis County maintenance as we near the park.

Apparently the park offers horse and wagon tours.

Like most Utah State Parks, the entrance is guarded by a gate.

Davis County operates the causeway as a toll road, but most people don't notice because the toll and park entrance fee are collected as a combined fee at the booth ahead. 

Once removed from the houses and farms, Antelope Island starts coming into view to the southwest.

When I visited Antelope, due to the coronavirus pandemic the park was only open to Davis County residents. 

As we head out, we get a good view of the flat plains to our north. A small grass fire can be seen in the background - these are normal and are often intentionally set during the spring.

Views to the south are great as well - the snow-capped peaks are the Oquirrh Mountains, while the closer mountain is Antelope Island itself.

View to the northwest, with the Promontories in the back left and Little Mountain poking up in the middle.

Looking directly west, it's a long way to any sort of terrain - in this case the Lakeside Mountains, about 35 miles away.

The causeway stands at about 4205 feet above sea level, or 10 feet above lake level at photo time.

Looking northwest we get a view of Fremont Island with the Promontory range behind it.

View directly west, about halfway across the causeway. The mountains across most of the background are the Lakesides, with Carrington Island poking up as a small hill in front of them.

The causeway itself turns towards the southwest as we approach Antelope Island.

There is one bridge to allow water to move from Farmington Bay into the main body of the Great Salt Lake.

The northeastern shore of the island features a marina, but it hasn't been regularly used in many years due to low levels.

At the end of the causeway, we look back to the northeast at the Wasatch Range. The closer hill on the left side is Little Mountain; the most distant peak immediately right of it is Elkhorn Peak in Idaho.

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