Utah Bucket List: Annual bison roundup offers modern cowboys a ride on the wild side
There are plenty of stories of charging bison and antsy horses shared among the 400 or so riders who show up to spend a couple of nights camping and riding on the island, but not every rider is a hardcore cowboy or cowgirl.
Many riders form flanks on the sides of the herd as it is being pushed to the corrals and may never get closer than 100 yards or so from the beasts. The real drivers of the herd ride just behind the mass of grunting mammals and take turns making runs at the rear animals to keep them moving.
And you don’t even need to have your own horse. People like the Greenfaders hire the horseback riding concessionaire on Antelope Island to provide a horse and someone to tag along with on the ride. Those reservations often are made a year in advance.
It is possible to watch the roundup even if you don’t ride. Many people pull over on the road heading to the Fielding Garr Ranch on the east side of the island to watch as the animals are pushed north toward the corrals. The 2012 roundup was an exception to this possibility because the bison were on the west side of the island with no vehicle access, but the majority of years the roundup is on the east side of the island.
People also can visit the corrals after the roundup to see people giving the bison a health checkup and culling them out for possible auction.
Animals not selected for the auction are released to be captured in images from tourists all over the world.
For Amanda Reylence, originally from England, the bison roundup was the draw to visit the biggest island on the Great Salt Lake. And while the ride greatly exceeded her expectations, it was other wonders of the adventure that especially pleased her.
"When we got near the bulls, they were fighting and getting aggressive," Reylence said. "They were so big and there was all this grunting and groaning. It was absolutely fantastic and breathtaking. The whole experience of looking at the bay and the mountains. People came from all over America. It was just lovely. I will do it again."
Experiences and responses like that are what got the bison roundup on The Utah Bucket List and why park officials will strive to keep it an active public event.
"This is one of the few things Utah State Parks does on its own," Shaw said. "Most times we are just a venue for somebody else to put on an event. We really love it and plan to keep it this way. We want to maintain that unique experience for the public to be able to come and be an active part of Antelope Island."