SYRACUSE -- Upon first glance, the Fielding Garr Ranch Museum on the southeast tip of Antelope Island seems similar to other historic ranches--a main house, a few outbuildings and farming implements. It only takes a few steps into the courtyard to realize that a different experience awaits visitors there.
It's a little like stepping into the pages of a classic novel like "The Yearling" or "Old Yeller."
There is a sense of isolation and self-containment that stretches from the past to the present. Even with many visitors at the site there is still enough space and solitude to contemplate the day-to-day nuances of what life must have been like for the families and individuals living there.
The romance of the period is coupled with the harshness of survival against the unique elements of the island.
Evidence of the daily rituals are beautifully preserved, from the old stove and furnishings in the house to the ice house and other outbuildings.
Self-reliance is a lesson to be learned at every turn of the farm and docents are on hand to explain the various aspects of the buildings and tools of the time.
Just outside the "farm proper" a copse of trees still stands, ready for a game of peek-a-boo with deer and other wildlife, much as it did a century ago. If one is very observant at the ranch, they will see and probably be able to touch "Whisper" a mature doe who has free reign of the island, but chooses the celebrity visitors afford her at the ranch.
There is plenty to explore for all ages: the architecture of the buildings and implements, the raw land and the wildlife.
Garr Spring, as it was originally known, was run by Fielding Garr, a widower with nine children who came to the island in 1848.
The ranch house he built holds the distinction of being the oldest continually inhabited Anglo-built home in the state of Utah (from 1848 to 1981) and the oldest Anglo- built house still standing on its original foundation.
This area of the island was developed as ranching for sheep and horse breeding by the LDS Church in 1848. Garr came in as the first foreman for the Church from 1848 to 1855 when he passed away.
The island saw several other ranching ventures before it was purchased in 1982, with its 600 buffaloes, to become a state park.
The ranch museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is free to the public. There is a state park entry fee of $8 per car or $4 per motorcycle, cyclist or pedestrian. The island is located off I-15, exit 335. Follow Antelope Drive and the seven-mile causeway to the island and then the signs to the museum.
For more information call 773-2941.