The brine shrimp, flies and hypersalty waters keep most Salt Lake residents on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake. Most open-water swimmers find Utah's lakes and reservoirs more to their taste than the barren waters of the city's namesake.
Will Reeves isn't your average Salt Laker.
The 60-year-old civil engineer joined 11 others on the southern tip of Antelope Island and headed toward Black Rock Beach for the Great Salt Lake Open Water on June 8. Armed with nothing more than a pair of goggles and swimming trunks, Reeves set a record for the 8.2-mile swim at 3 hours, 10 minutes, 10 seconds.
"It's a real iconic body of water much like the Bonneville Salt Flats are for [auto] racing," Reeves said. "The swimming community hasn't discovered what a special place for swimmers it is."
The Great Salt Lake Open Water is in its third revival year. First hosted in 1937, it was suspended at the brink of World War II until Reeves and fellow open-water swimmers dared to enter the briny inland sea in 2011. It was a choppy affair but has become one of the three major open-water swims in Utah.
While the shorelines are filled with biting flies, the swim has a beauty unlike others in the state. The crystal-clear waters and stark surroundings make for a rare experience, and Reeves believes the high salinity allows swimmers to float higher in the water.
"The water does taste pretty aggressive and can blister your mouth, but it is really fast water," he said. "It's unlike anywhere else in the world."
Mouth pain aside, Reeves said it is an amazing experience swimming the historic race. He focused on efficiency throughout the race and trying to improve his stroke. He was pleased with setting a record by shaving 14 minutes off the time set in 2010.
"Is it for everybody? Probably not," Reeves said with a laugh. "But once the swimming community finds out about this, it is going to be a special place for swimmers."
About Will Reeves
The three major open-water swims in Utah are the Great Salt Lake Open Water, Deer Creek Open Water Marathon and Bear Lake.
Living abroad as a child, Reeves first swam in saltwater pools in Tripoli.
Reeves' time of 3 hours, 10 minutes, 10 seconds bested the previous record by 14 minutes.