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The Great Salt Lake, the largest lake in Utah, is also the body of water closest to the majority of the state's population. However, this huge lake has remained one of the most mysterious in the Beehive State because of a lack of public accessibility.

Unlike most other large lakes - Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell, etc. - there have been no pleasure boats available for public transportation on the Great Salt Lake for several decades.However, Ed Wolfe, 67, a retired Air Force fighter pilot living in Centerville, is attempting to change that. He has launched a way to "cruise the desert islands of the Great Salt Lake" through pleasure trips on his boat, the Southern Cross II. He has been working since July to offer trips to the public on the Great Salt Lake.

His 32-foot-long, 9-foot-wide "party cruiser" boat departs from the dock at the northern tip of Antelope Island and will take a maximum of eight persons. Wolfe could take twice as many passengers on each cruise, but he said he thinks that would be too crowded.

He has done little to advertise his lake cruises to date, but that should change soon. Fliers and word of mouth have yielded strong interest.

Wolfe said he took passengers out on the lake on both the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day evenings this summer to watch fireworks. Those outings were so spectacular, that he's already booked solid for those same two holidays next year.

He offers a maximum of three two-hour cruises each day (9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.), a three-hour sunset cruise (time variable according to sunset) and an occasional overnight bed and breakfast outing (8 p.m. to 8 a.m.).

Prices for the day cruises are $15 for children under 12 and $20 for adults. The sunset cruise prices are $30 for adults (no children permitted) and $99 per person for the overnight cruise; ages 21 to 100 are eligible.

He also has senior and military discounts and reductions for groups of five or more persons. Handicapped persons will also be accommodated.

A $5 Utah State Park/Causeway fee is also charged for each vehicle entering Antelope Island State Park. (Senior citizens can enter the park free if they obtain a special senior's pass from the State Parks.)

For more information and reservations, call Wolfe at 299-9955 or 299-0883.