Fremont Island

Fremont Island, at nearly 3,000 acres (depending on water level) is the third largest island on the Great Salt Lake, behind Stansbury and Antelope Islands. It is named after the soldier, explorer, and politician John C. Fremont, who, along with Kit Carson, became the first Euro-American to explore and map the Lake in 1843. A cross carved into a rock by Kit Carson during their 1843 visit is still visible today. Fremont expected the island to be “an exotic paradise,” but named it “Disappointment Island” when confronted with the reality. The name was applied by Captain Howard Stansbury during his 1850 survey of the Lake, although the Western Shoshone called it Mo’ko-mom-bitc. Soon after the arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, environmental change followed quickly: in 1859 two men from Farmington stocked the island with 153 sheep, and three years later a suspected-grave-robber named Jean Baptiste was banished to the island by Brigham Young, though he reportedly escaped. In 1886 a judge named Uriah Werner was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved his family to the island in an attempt at convalescence. In 2003 the island was leased by the Barrow Land and Livestock company, who stocked it with exotic animals, in an attempt to bring big-game hunting to the Island, though the experiment was discontinued in 2013 when an ‘escaped’ feral pig was spotted near the Antelope Island causeway. The island was purchased by the Nature Conservancy and donated to the state of Utah in 2020, in a bid to protect the sensitive ecosystem from commercial exploitation and future ecological meddling. 

The promontory from Summit of Fremont Island. Photo by Charles Kelly. From the Classified Photograph Collection, Copyright Utah State Historical Society. 

Click here for the full oral history with Dave Shearer

Dave Shearer is currently the harbormaster at the Great Salt Lake State Park Marina. He has been serving in that post since 1998. He moved to the marina in 1998, living on a boat docked there, and began volunteering with the Park Service on search and rescue until his appointment as harbormaster. Dave grew up in the Salt Lake area and first came to Great Salt Lake on a field trip in elementary school. He started sailboating with his family when he was ten. Eventually, along with his father and brother, he began sailboat racing and competed for many years all over the world. In this interview, Dave talks about his life and work at the Marina. He describes the business of running the marina. He discusses his search and rescue activities on the lake. He shares his thoughts about the lake, along with his hopes and vision of the lake’s future.

Click here for the full oral history with Hikmet Loe

Hikmet Loe is an artist, writer, and teacher who draws her inspiration from the land. Born and raised on the east coast, Hikmet moved to Utah in the early 1980s. In the 70s, Hikmet received her undergraduate degree in Art History from Penn State, and later received her master’s in Art History from Hunter College in New York City. Hikmet master’s thesis, An Intermittent Illusion: Local Reaction to Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, sparked her lifetime involvement with Robert Smithson’s work, and with landscape art in Utah. Currently, Hikmet works as a professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, as well as with CLUI (Center for Land Use Interpretation), and with the Dia Art Foundation. In this interview, Hikmet speaks at length about her involvement with the Spiral Jetty, Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels, and about her interpretation of Utah land and beauty.

"Hydrographer" name of boat. Jones, Freeman, Sims & Adams, November 21st, 1932. Northeast of Fremont Island. Donor & Photag: Charles Kelly. From the Classified Photograph Collection, copyright Utah State Historical Society. 

Water is running from a spring. A small garden and trees were planted in this plot as an experiment. Photo by: E.L. Cooley, 1962. From the Classified Photograph Collection, copyright Utah State Historical Society. 

The Kit Carson Cross on Fremont Island. Photo taken May 26th, 1962, by E.L. Cooley. From the Classified Photograph Collection, copyright Utah State Historical Society. 

Rock on summit of Fremont Island with Kit Carson cross, where Fremont lost the cap of his telescope. Donor & Photog: Charles Kelly. From the Classified Photograph Collection, copyright Utah State Historical Society. 

Photograph of an unidentified man at the ruins of the Wenner family's residence on Fremont Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah. Photo circa 1960s, 1970s. From the Wallace Stegner Photograph Collection, Marriott Digital Library.