07 July 2009

What if the Great Salt Lake was the Great Fresh Lake?

For one thing it would be doubtful that Robert Smithson would have created one of the world's most famous examples of the art form known as "earthscapes." Now that the Spiral Jetty is again exposed, after almost two decades of submersion, it is hard to envision it without the patina of salt. Surely Mr. Smithson anticipated that?

What other changes would be engendered with a fresh water lake of this size? Fish, fishermen, fishing industry; homes, condos, building industry; water skis, jet skis, water sports industry; casinos, resorts, entertainment industry. Get the drift? Tahoe is a 1st class beautiful lake. It would be even more so without the elongated megaplex known as South Shore.

Of course Tahoe is an alpine lake and the GSL is quite obviously not. Look further to the west, into neighboring Nevada and you find another desert sea, Pyramid Lake. This lake is only slightly alkali, has some wonderful and tasty fish (cutthroat trout), a few fishermen, occasional noisy jetboats and water skiers, but is not built up and has only minimal facilities. Why? Because the lake is 100% on a Paiute Indian reservation and despite the tantalizing dollars dangling in front of the tribes' eyes by speculators and casino moguls, the answer has always been 'no.' The Indians have permitted only basic, controlled change and consequently have protected the land (and the lake) from the untrammelled sprawl that seems to bedevil many fresh water bodies of water. If the GSL was a fresh water lake (as it was some 10,000 years ago), without the protective presence of an Indian reservation (or Wilderness Area), I suspect the shoreline would look quite different today.

Sure, it would have been nice to take a cooling dip in the lake last week when I was at the Spiral Jetty. After all, it was around 90F and at times the sun was beating down quite mercilessly. The water was a pinkish hue caused by blooming algae but squinting ones' eyes, one could easily have imagined how pleasant it would have been to wade into a blue sea, with flights of pelicans wheeling overhead. Refreshing yes, but I judge the price too high.

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