Filed Under The Environment

The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve

Nicknamed “the Bird Refuge,” The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve in Layton, Utah is a rest stop for 4-6 million birds migrating annually. The protected land has also become a recreational spot for tourists and locals to bird watch and enjoy the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake.

In 2003, a group called “The Nature Conservancy” gained custody of 4,400 acres of wetlands fed by the waters of the Great Salt Lake. The wetlands lie on the eastern shore of the lake near Farmington Bay and Antelope Island State Park. Nicknamed “the Bird Refuge,” this preserve’s mission is to provide refuge to 4-6 million birds as they make their annual migrations on routes that span from the Arctic to Central and South America. Bird watchers have documented 250 species visiting the Shorelands preserve to feed or rest and 93 species that nest there. The number of birds passing through the area has increased by 25% since 2020, showing the importance of the preserve. 

The Shorelands Preserve includes a circular boardwalk spanning about 1 mile. Two wooden structures serve as stops along the boardwalk, one hosting a 30-foot viewing tower for visitors to better observe the surrounding area and to increase their chances of spotting birds. The other is a large wooden pavilion. Informative signs dot the boardwalk, helping visitors identify the birds that frequent the Preserve. They also provide information about the ecosystem of the area. 

In May 2020, the Mitigation Commission released a statement turning over ownership of The Nature Conservancy to the federal government. Giving the federal government stewardship over The Nature Conservancy was viewed as a better way to protect the lands from future development. This was crucial at a time when Utah’s Department of Transportation was considering expanding the West Davis Corridor, a road system. The drought-driven shrinking of the Great Salt Lake poses an additional risk to the region. The Nature Conservancy is in the process of developing strategies to divert water to the preserve to help the wetlands and aid the bird species that rely on it.


Great Salt Lake Pavilion
Great Salt Lake Pavilion Source:

“Visit the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve.” The Nature Conservancy, Accessed Mar. 2024.

Creator: Photograph courtesy of Ian Shive
Great Shorelands Preserve <br />
Great Shorelands Preserve
Source: "Great Shorelands Preserve" (Layton, Utah), July 16, 2021. Gabby Segura
Viewing Tower
Viewing Tower Source: "Viewing Tower" (Layton, Utah), July 16, 2021. Gabby Segura
Untitled Source: “GSL Shorelines Preserve.” Great salt lake shorelands preserve. Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission. Accessed April 16, 2023.



Gabby Segura, Brigham Young University, “The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024,