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Stretched Listening: Sounds and Snapshots by the Saltair

Updated: Apr 25

By: Olivia Juarez


Hand holding out microphone to bush, in order to capture the sounds of the land


I must’ve been a strange sight in the eyes of people visiting Great Salt Lake’s shoreline by the Saltair on a cool February Sunday. Imagine this: you are out on the playa to take some photos, or show the Salt-Lake-Valley’s-best to friends from out of town. There is a short break from the day’s rain, and the air is crisp. A cool blue and gray sky is glowing white from a clean air sunset. And there in the distance, is a person… holding a microphone… to the phragmites? 


That person was me. 


I stopped by the Saltair (on my way to a delicious dinner of posole and tamales with familia) to record some characteristic sounds that will allow these podcast episodes to bring you right to Great Salt Lake as you hear the people’s diverse stories about connecting with our imperiled inland sea. Every dimension of Stay Salty: Lakefacing Stories is home grown. We generate everything; from the music you will hear by producer Amelia Diehl, to the recordings of bird calls, wind through the plants, and lazy waters at our salty shores.


It turns out that the Saltair requires an expanded sense of attention to gather the right sounds. And galoshes! The prevailing noise from any point near this historic attraction is the distant woosh from I-80 and SR-201. I really had to “stretch” my listening to find the sounds and quietudes of nature that Great Salt Lake offers. But by walking through soaked sands, crouching in stands of phragmites and splashing some water, I could “zoom in” on the sounds of Great Salt Lake. 


There was a group of five teenage boys from West Valley taking photos on a dry mound of gravel to the Saltair’s northwest. They said it was their first time visiting the area and that the scenery brought them out. A couple and a photographer were farther out north, and a young woman surrounded by family in her power-red quinceañera dress to the south appeared to be doing the same. 


There are a multitude of reasons to visit Great Salt Lake for a photo shoot: the reflection of the sky’s diverse colors on the still water. Those colors’ contrast to the gray-tan sands, darkened rocks and beaming clouds. Rising islands of mountain ridgelines in the distance. But the benefit is personal: being in nature has tremendous positive effects on physical and mental wellbeing. The water, the seagulls and the wind through vegetation are just enough to overcome the rage of highway and rubber echoing from the Oquirrh mountains. 



Olivia Juarez (they/them) is a lifelong Utahn based in Salt Lake City, UT and is a co-host of Stay Salty: Lakefacing Stories. They serve as the Public Land Program Director of GreenLatinos. They are committed to nurturing Latino/a/e joy and leadership in conserving nuestra tierra pública.

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