New Breach Allows Flow on Great Salt Lake

The new Great Salt Lake breach was opened on Dec. 1 by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. This created a new opening between the north and the south arm of the Lake, allowing water to flow between the two sides.

This time-lapse video shows the breach opening, which took about two hours.

Before the new breach was opened, the north arm of Great Salt Lake was at a historic low. Water had stopped flowing through the old Great Salt Lake causeway breach, preventing water travel between the southern and northern portions. Water levels in the south arm were approximately 3.3 feet higher than the north arm when the breach was opened.

The USGS is monitoring discharge through the new breach in cooperation with Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The USGS provides real-time lake elevation readings for both the north arm ( and south arm ( of Great Salt Lake. These gauging stations will be a valuable resource to observe the water level changes as the two portions of the lake combine and even out.

The USGS maintains a record of Great Salt Lake elevations dating back to 1847 and has continuously measured the elevation of the lake since 1938.


 Thank you to Dr. Wayne Wurtsbaugh for these images. You can see more images of the breach here!

GSL Breach Opening 1697

The Breach looking northward into Gunnison Bay

GSL Breach Opening 1707

Strong flow into Gunnison Bay

GSL Breach Opening 1737

Langmuir Circulation cells (parallel streaks) and foam on Gunnison.  Each stream is probably separated from the next by 10-15'


GSL Breach Opening 1745

Gunnison "Island", with Compass Mineral dike and ponds in background

GSL Breach Opening 1701 


Why We Care

  • Years ago the Great Salt Lake was a entertainment destination for the people of Salt Lake City. One of my ancestors had a vacation home near Black Rock, where he would take his family to escape the heat and cares of the city. That was a long time ago and a lot has changed since then. For many reasons the lake is not as popular as it once was. But it has been a source of peace, contemplation, and inspiration to me. I reflect on photos I have seen of the grand days of Saltair and the love of floating in the lake. I have done this myself on numerous occasions. I love the sensation of effortlessly floating. And we can escape the cares of the world.

    Clinton Whiting, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant