The Great Salt Lake Enigma: Science Shows Anomalies – Evidence of a Global Flood?
When the first American settlers reached the shore of the Great Salt Lake in the middle of the 19th century, many of them believed that this vast inland sea was a remnant of the floodwaters that had swept across the whole Earth in the Great Deluge. At that time, the acceptance of the Biblical deluge as a real and historical event was as universal as the flood itself was believed to be, among the educated and uneducated alike.
The Great Salt Lake of Utah, USA. 1875. (CC BY 2.0)
The currently accepted explanation of the Great Salt Lake’s formation is much more prosaic. According to geologists, the Great Salt Lake (Utah, USA) is a remnant of a once much larger lake named Lake Bonneville that has since largely evaporated away. Supposedly, Lake Bonneville grew to such a large size because the region experienced much more precipitation during the Ice Age compared to today, and has shrunk to its present size due to decreasing rainfall following the ending of the last Ice Age. Also, scientists say that the Great Salt Lake’s salts originate from the rivers that bring in small amounts of dissolved salts, which then accumulate in the lake because it has no outlet. Utah’s official state website confirms this: “[it] is salty because it does not have an outlet. Tributary rivers are constantly bringing in small amounts of salt dissolved in their fresh water flow. Once in the Great Salt Lake much of the water evaporates leaving the salt behind.” In this article, I shall argue against the currently accepted explanation of the Great Salt Lake’s origins and attempt to rehabilitate the long-dismissed hypothesis of its oceanic origins.
Origins of The Great Salt Lake
Let us examine the official explanation of the origin of the Great Salt Lake’s salts line by line.
ISS/NASA imagery of the Great Salt Lake. Great Salt Lake, Utah, to the right (east) are the Wasatch Mountains, to the lower right is Salt Lake City, Utah. (Public Domain)
First, it is stated that “[the Great Salt Lake] is salty because it does not have an outlet.” I will not dispute that the second part of this statement, namely “it does not have an outlet” is true. The Great Salt Lake certainly does not have an outlet, meaning that rivers flow into the lake (the Bear, Weber, and Provo/Jordan rivers), but no rivers flow out. Such a lake is a specific example of a general class of lakes called endorheic lakes, and the drainage basins within which these lakes are found are called endorheic basins, which are drainage basins from which no rivers flow out. The vast majority of the millions of lakes found across the world are not endorheic lakes; that is, almost all lakes have rivers that flow out of them, as well as into them.
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The second statement in the Utah state website’s official explanation reads: “tributary rivers are constantly bringing in small amounts of salt dissolved in their fresh water flow.” This statement is also true, as can be verified by a Scientific American article written by Arthur Pillsbury:
“All natural waters, including those described as fresh, contain salts. A virgin stream emerging from a mountain watershed may contain as little as 50 parts per miIlion p.p.m.) of "salt," or total dissolved solids. Ocean water averages about 35,000 p.p.m., or about 3.5 percent, of dissolved solids.”
Mr. Pillsbury then goes on to emphasize that the word “salts,” in this context, does not mean only sodium and chloride, which are the primary constituents of the familiar table salt, but other ions, including but not limited to sodium, chloride, sulfate, potassium, calcium, and carbonate. Later on, he explains how these streams end up containing these minute concentrations of salt, namely through the action of weathering and erosion:
“Weathering takes place under conditions where there is ample opportunity for the mineral crystals that constitute rock to oxidize. Although weathering embraces physical, chemical and biological processes, the physical processes are pervasive and central. Mechanical action fractures rock, exposing a far greater surface area to weathering agents. For example, the alternate freezing and thawing of water in the crevices of the rock exerts forces of compression and expansion that can break down the strongest material. Flowing water, wind and the grinding action of rocks in the bed of streams and the bottom of glaciers all contribute to physical weathering. Weathering manufactures both salts and the particles of rock that are borne from the uplands to the lowlands, where they are the principal constituents of soil. ”
So far so good, or so it seems. What, then, are some inferences that can be drawn from these facts?
The Source of the Salt
First, is that the specific salt composition of rivers that drain a watershed will differ depending on the specific rocks and soils that make up the watershed. Given that different regions of the earth exhibit a great diversity of rocks and soils, one should expect that the profile of dissolved salts found in different rivers should correspondingly exhibit a great diversity. These conclusions are not merely plausible, but are in fact true, as can be verified by Table 5.3, which confirms that fresh waters that drain different types of rocks differ significantly in their distribution of dissolved salts.
Table 5.3 [Chart obtained from Tundisi, J. G., and Takako Matsumura. Tundisi. Limnology. Boca Raton: CRC, 2012. Print.]
And by extension, since it is these very salts dissolved in these rivers that are carried to the endorheic lakes, the salt compositions of these rivers determine the salt compositions of the lakes. So we should expect the distribution of dissolved salts in a river flowing into an endorheic lake to be similar to the distribution of dissolved salts in the endorheic lake itself—as the salts dissolved in the endorheic lake originate from these selfsame rivers.
By contrast, the salt composition of seawater is not determined by merely the salt composition of a particular river and the rocks and soils that are found in the specific watershed that this given river drains, but is rather determined by the average of all of the salt concentrations of all of the world’s rivers and the corresponding watersheds that these rivers drained averaged over the entire billions of years over which the oceans have existed.
Great Salt Lake, Utah. (John Morgan/CC BY 2.0)
Given these facts, if the currently accepted geological theory of the origin of the Great Salt Lake’s salts is correct, which is, as was described earlier, that these salts were eroded from the rock and soils within the Great Salt Lake’s watershed and then carried by rivers into the lake, then one would most certainly not expect the Great Salt Lake to have a salt composition that is nearly identical to that of seawater, as this would mean that the chemical composition of the rocks and soils that comprise the Great Salt Lake’s watershed and the salts that they generate upon being eroded happened to be nearly identical to average of the salt compositions of all of the worlds’ rivers averaged over billions of years.
Given that the Great Salt Lake watershed comprises less than a thousandth of the Earth’s total land area, this would be, to say the least, a most remarkable coincidence, since that would imply that a randomly picked and relatively tiny swath of the surface of the earth would have nearly the same distribution of rocks and soils as the average distribution of rocks and soils over the entire earth.
Table 4.5 [Adey, Walter H., and Karen Loveland. "Physical Environment." Dynamic Aquaria: Building Living Ecosystems. San Diego: Academic, 1991. N. pag. Print.]
Chart of Various Salts in Lakes [information for chart obtained from table shown in table2.png + information about ocean from public domain Adey, Walter H., and Karen Loveland. "Physical Environment." Dynamic Aquaria: Building Living Ecosystems. San Diego: Academic, 1991. N. pag. Print.]
And yet this most unlikeliest of coincidences happens to be true, for the Great Salt Lake’s salt composition is nearly identical to seawater, differing only in that its waters are slightly enriched in potassium and depleted in calcium compared to the ocean, as can be seen in the table (potassium was omitted in the chart because there was no potassium concentration data for the Bear River).
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In fact, the salt composition of the Great Salt Lake is more similar to the seawater than it is to the very river, namely the Bear River, that feeds it, and is supposedly the source of its salts!
A Lake of Seawater
This chart weakens the currently accepted theory in two different ways. First, I have demonstrated earlier that an endorheic lake and the river which feeds it should have similar salt profiles, and this is clearly not the case. Secondly, I have also demonstrated that it is extremely unlikely that the Great Salt Lake, an endorheic lake, and seawater should have similar salt profiles, provided that the currently accepted theory of the origin of the Great Salt Lake’s salts is correct.
The size of the shallow lake fluctuates due to evaporation. Salt on the dried ground at Great Salt Lake. (Bruce Tuten/CC BY 2.0)
Therefore, one may conclude, that in all probability, the currently accepted explanation for the origin of the salts of the Great Salt Lake—namely that the salts have been eroded from the rocks and soils found in the lake’s watershed, and carried to the lake by the rivers that flow into it—is incorrect with a very high probability, for one can only maintain that it is true by resorting to coincidence (which is by definition of very low probability).
Since there is only one other point of origin of these salts, namely the ocean, one is compelled to admit the possibility that these salts originated from the ocean. But this must mean that the ocean, at one point in the past, penetrated the Great Salt Lake’s watershed, which is located almost 600 miles away from the nearest ocean (the Pacific Ocean). Perhaps the impressions of the American settlers who first cast eyes on the Great Salt Lake, and thought that it was the work of God, were correct after all.
Brady Yoon is a software engineer and writer. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and a minor in anthropology at UCLA. He researches and writes about lost civilizations and other ancient mysteries.
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Top Image: Morning on the Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA (Cliff Johnson/CC BY-SA 2.0)
By Brady Yoon
Updated on August 13, 2021.
‘Great Salt Lake Facts’. Utah.com [Online] Retrieved November 08, 2016. Available at: https://utah.com/great-salt-lake-state-park/facts
Pillsbury, A.F. 1981. The salinity of rivers. Scientific American. 245(1):54-65. [Online] Retrieved November 08, 2016. Available at: http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/salton/TheSalinityofRivers.html
Adey, Walter H., and Karen Loveland. "Physical Environment." Dynamic Aquaria: Building Living Ecosystems. San Diego: Academic, 1991. N. pag. Print.
Tundisi, J. G., and Takako Matsumura. Tundisi. Limnology. Boca Raton: CRC, 2012. Print.