The 2023 Great Salt Lake Vigil

The 2023 Great Salt Lake Vigil Photos by Laurie Bray

Join us for the 2023 Great Salt Lake Vigil.

When the life of someone you love is ending, you stay with them. Great Salt Lake is dying. Once again, we gather at her shore.Led by Nan Seymour, poet-in-residence, the River Writing community will stay with the lake for 42 nights and days from January 16th through March 4th, throughout the 2023 Utah State Legislative session. The life of this lake is inseparable from our own.

Even as the active collapse of our ecosystem challenges our notions of hope, we devote ourselves to a future shaped by human reverence, humility, and reciprocity. We gather to bear witness to departing beauty. We gather to grieve. We gather to create beacons of possibility. We gather to carry each other through spells of despair. We gather to increase our tenderness towards brine shrimp, microbialites, winged citizens of the air– towards all that is vital and alive.

Everything we do matters. In the face of this crisis, who will we become?

6 ways you can be present with us in this vigil:

  • Write to bear witness. Register here to write alongside us in a friendly, supportive circle. (link) River Writing is a practice that allows the empty page to help you hold your grief and praise. You don’t have to identify as a writer. A great life is leaving us and we are crossing a threshold. Your words matter. 
  • Camp alongside us for a day, a weekend, a week during vigil. Join us along the receding shoreline at Antelope Island State Park just to be present. Let nan know when you are coming so we can welcome you. Then find us under the prayer flags on the upper loop of the Bridger Bay campground.
  • Join us on the island to make art, to walk, to drum, to especially to sing. Offer your wavering voice to a receding shoreline, bring your own imperfect offering to the lake.
  • Join a live daily meditation on behalf of the life of the lake. Register here (link) to receive a zoom link to sit in silence with the lake-facing community. We will gather online each morning of the vigil from 7-7:25 am MST. Keep vigil from wherever you are. 
  • Write to Utah lawmakers to thank them for the measures they have taken and to urge them to make even greater strides.
  • Support the work of the vigil financially by donating directly.

5 Invitations for Utah Lawmakers:

  • Proclaim and uphold Great Salt Lake’s legal rights to live, flourish, and be restored. Acknowledge and protect personal rights for the lake that are at least on par with the personal rights of corporations. 
  • Join us in person on Antelope Island and/or in the morning online for lake-centered meditation.
  • Permanently protect Bear River from any future development and take bold legislative action toward the river’s restoration.
  • Seek guidance from Indigenous leadership. Begin by studying The Bluff Principles for the Colorado River. Apply this beautifully articulated vision to GSL. 
  • Lead us to live within our actual means in terms of water. Do everything it takes to get more water to the lake.


Reading List: 

  • Statement by Jaimi Butler, vigil scientist-in-residence. (see below) 
  • Irreplaceable, a collective love letter to Great Salt Lake by the poets of the 2022 Vigil
  • New World Coming an Anthology edited by Alastair Lee Bitsóí and Brooke Larsen 
  • Rive Republic The Rise and Fall of America’s Rivers by Daniel McCool 

A Statement from Vigil Scientist-in Residence, Jaimi Butler:

“Great Salt Lake’s ecosystem is collapsing before our eyes. Increasing salt content and habitat loss in the main body of the lake are making it uninhabitable for the brine shrimp and flies that feed entire species of birds. The birds have no other place to move. We have no time left to to prevent the dire ecosystem consequences wildlife and humans will experience over the coming years. It will take us decades of sustained effort to return enough water to the lake to restore habitat and rebalance salinity. Furthermore, we must commit to adaptive management in perpetuity. 

The amazing thing about our lake and its creatures is their resilience and flexibility within  a wide range of environmental conditions.  Brine shrimp release durable and long-lasting eggs, tiny living time capsules, which hatch when conditions are right. With optimal water conditions I don't think we could stop shrimp from repopulating the lake. Microorganisms become dormant when encased in salt and can re-animate when released. Even some bird populations have increased despite vastly increasing human populations. For me, the uncertainty lies in how the parts of the ecosystem will reassemble once we return water to the lake and if this new balance will support the vitality we have known in the past.  

Great Salt Lake remains full of possibilities. It is imperative for us to get water to the lake for the wildlife and humans that live in this important ecosystem.”

Thank You! 

  • Utah Humanities for your essential support. 
  • Wendy, Trish, and all the stewards of Antelope Island Park. 
  • John Meier and the filmmakers of PBS Utah for documenting this community offering to Great Salt Lake.
  • Amanda and Pablo for loaning your camper to give the vigil a home.