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Activities are packed into little Davis County

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When people think of Davis County, probably the first things to come to mind are the buffalo on Antelope Island, the thrills of Lagoon and the morning commute.

These are the items that most frequently appear in the news.

Davis County is, in fact, the smallest of Utah's 29 counties, but it holds the third largest population, which leaves some people thinking there's not much room left in the way of recreation.

But there is plenty of room left.

What you know:

Along with Antelope Island and Lagoon, there are other well-known places like the Farmington Bay Bird Refuge on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, which is popular with bikers, waterfowl hunters and birdwatchers. There are more than 200 species of birds that have been documented there, everything from white pelicans to horned grebes.

More toward the heart of the county is Cherry Hill, selected by "Trailer Life" magazine as one of the best destination campgrounds in the United States. Even residents of the county have found Cherry Hill a great getaway. Among its offerings are a waterpark, miniature golf, batting cages, climbing wall, kiddy playport and playground. Oh, yes, and 180 campsites.

As with all of the communities along the Wasatch Front, there are access points to the popular Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which is the waterline for old Lake Bonneville and runs along the mountain range at an elevation of around 5,200 feet. The section that runs through the county has been completed and goes from the Kaysville Vista Course to Adams Canyon. The trail is popular with hikers and horse owners.

The Mueller Park loop is one of the more popular trails along the Wasatch Front with hikers and bikers. The 13.5-mile loop starts at the picnic area, goes to North Canyon and then returns to the park. A number of bikers and hikers prefer out-and-back rides or hikes and forgo the steep, rocky climb to North Canyon. For bikers, there is some great single-track riding without a lot of climb.

The S & S Railroad Park and Museum in Farmington is another focal point gaining attention. What started as a hobby is now a working railroad with 11,000 feet of 7 1/2-gauge track and 5,000 feet of 24-gauge rail, with more than 90 engines and cars and a full-size replica of a 1920s Union Pacific Freight Station complete with snack bar and gift shop. There are more than 20 miniature trains that are large enough for people to ride. The park is the dream of model-train enthusiast Steve Flanders. Trains depart every half hour, Monday through Thursday.

There are also nine championship golf courses in the area, ranging from Eaglewood in North Salt Lake to Schneider's Bluff in West Point.

The county's most recognized attractions are Lagoon and Antelope Island.

Lagoon is the largest amusement park in the Intermountain West, with a large assortment of thrill rides, concessions and waterpark, as well as replicas of an old-west town in Pioneer Village.

Antelope Island is one of Utah's most popular state parks. It is well known for its wildlife, including buffalo, antelope, mule deer and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, as well as for biking, hiking and horseback riding on 25 miles of backcountry trails. It is also a popular camping area.

What you don't know:

While there are some things people know about Antelope Island, there are a lot of things they don't know.

For example, said Neka Roundy, tourism coordinator for the county, "People can now visit the island and do kayak tours or take a sightseeing/dinner cruise or enjoy a wildlife safari to see animals they can't see from just driving the roadways."

Kayaking, and especially sea kayaking, which is of a type done on the Great Salt Lake, is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the country. Experienced guides will take visitors along the island shores to see animals, birds and spectacular sunsets. This activity is open to all skill levels.

Also available are sightseeing and sunset dinner cruises on the lake. The same company, Buffalo Point, also offers open-air safari tours in its amphibious duck along the southeastern portion of the island.

There are also horseback rides offered to the southern tip of the island, an area few people have the opportunity to see.

The staff at the Fielding Garr Ranch on the eastern shores of the lake offers a number of programs, including "Star Parties" under the Junior Range programs offered by the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Coming into its own is the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, located at the western tip of 3200 West. The Nature Conservancy dedicated the center last year. Its primary purpose is to educate visitors to the ecology of the eastern marshes. Available are education exhibits, a boardwalk trail that leads through some of the prime birdwatching areas and a 30-foot tower that offers a whole new look at the lake, the community and the animals that live on and visit the preserve.

Gaining attention is the Layton Skatepark, called one of the most demanding and progressive skate/BMX parks in the country. Skateboarders and in-line skaters have the park four days a week, BMX bikers have it on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

For those wanna-be racecar drivers, there's the Speedstreet Indoor Raceway in Layton. The go-kart track is open to those 14 and over who have a desire to put the pedal to the metal and make turns around the track at full throttle. Drivers have the option of racing on three tracks — mini grand prix, grand prix or super grand prix.

Along the border of the county is the Hill Aerospace Museum, which holds more than 70 planes of different eras, including the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and a World War II vintage B-17 Flying Fortress.

Among the featured activities are the David County FairPark and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo, Aug. 17-20, and the annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, May 18-23 in 2006.

The fair is free this year. Along with the rodeo, activities will include demolition derby, pony rides, carnivals and exhibits.

The bird festival includes activities like field trips, speakers on bird life, workshops and featured artists.

All in all there's a lot to be discovered, even things that people think they know all about, like Antelope Island, but are certain to find there are things that are new and exciting.

If you go ...

Well known: Lagoon, Antelope Island, S & S Railroad

Unknown: Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve

Contact: 1-451-3286


Next week: Cache County

E-mail: grass@desnews.com