During the winter months along the Wasatch Front, cool air congregates over the warmer water of the never-frozen Great Salt Lake. As a terminal lake, evaporation is its only outlet. Water vapor is pulled up high, frozen, and deposited as uniquely dry snow downwind. This naturally occurring phenomena is called Lake Effect and is often cited by Utahns as backing for their claim of the “greatest snow on Earth.”

In 1959, construction was completed on a 12 mile railroad causeway spanning the Great Salt Lake from east to west. Commissioned by the Union Pacific Railroad Company, its rocky foundation was intended to replace the rapidly decaying wooden trestles built several decades prior. The Great Salt Lake Causeway, as it’s known, inadvertently acts as a dam within the lake it traverses. The southern portion receives most of the inflow from the Salt Lake Valley’s rivers and streams, giving it a much lower salinity (6%) than the northern portion (26%). Consequently, the color difference between the two bodies of water is substantial.

This site borrows the term “Lake Effect” to invert the concept and consider our effect on the lake rather than its effect on us. The Great Salt Lake Causeway is just one of countless examples of human interference in a natural ecosystem, and rather than condemning or condoning its existence, Lake Effect asks ‘Are we ok with the results?’

All images used of the Great Salt Lake are available in the public domain. Source links are located below each image.

1)  “Great Salt Lake, Utah”

2)  “Southern Pacific in Utah”

1)  Helveesti Regular

2)  CMU Typewriter Text

Design and development by Gunnar Harrison

c)  2020 All Rights Reserved

Average annual salinity of Great Salt Lake, measured non-consecutively from the years 1850 to 1999. The vertical line represents the introduction of the Great Salt Lake Causeway.