Campers discover the wonders of the Great Salt Lake's unique ecosystem. Photo courtesy of Camp Great Salt Lake.

Jaimi Butler is a Utah native and Utah State University graduate in fisheries biology, so studying the state’s most famous body of water, the Great Salt Lake, was a natural fit for her.

As coordinator of Camp Great Salt Lake, she’s well aware the lake is known more for its stench than its fascinating eco-system. So she’s changing attitudes about the lake one high schooler at a time.

Camp Great Salt Lake, run by Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College, started four years ago with a U.S. Labor Department grant to train students as high-tech workers. That doesn’t sound like fun, but it is.

About 15 high school students are chosen to attend the camp each summer. 

Campers live on Westminster’s campus and discover the lake’s ecosystem. The work they do ties directly into faculty and undergraduate research, like studying the lake’s birds and collecting tiny creatures to analyze in a lab. 

“Our campers measure mercury in spiders at the lake,” Butler says of one project. “These spiders are gnarly. They look a lot like black widows, but are actually harmless.”

You might say the camp immerses kids in the lake’s rich biology and culture. “We’ll visit Spiral Jetty and collect microbes from the super-saline part of the lake,” Butler says. “We’ll also visit Antelope Island and some of the bird refuges.” 

To reward campers for their research, two college credits are available. 

Registration: Until camp is full. Open to all high school students.
Dates: July 15–19
Cost: $300, scholarships are available
Location: Westminster College
Contact: Jaimi Butler, 801-832-2308,

Expand your kids brain this summer with these cool thinking camps

Pen to Paper

Kids let their imaginations loose at Write On! Workshops, writing mysteries, poetry and more. June 17–21, grades 2–7, $130, Westminster College Campus, SLC, 801-558-0300,

Blast from the Past

Kids discover Natural History Museum of Utah’s exhibits, along with places like This is the Place Heritage Park. Adventures in the Natural World camps teach kids the history behind it all. June 3–Aug. 9, grades K–8, $130 (half day), $230–$275 (full day), Natural History Museum of Utah, SLC, 801-585-3948,

Space Adventure

Flying a spaceship through wormholes isn’t just in Star Trek. Galaxy Camp takes kids on simulated space missions and learn astronomy along the way. May 31–Aug. 14, ages 9–17, $50–$175, $200 (leadership camp), Discovery Space Center, Pleasant Grove, 801-847-7827,

Fix Bayonets!

Enlist your kid in the army—the Union Army. Kids learn about the Civil War and conduct a mock, full-scale military exercise at Camp Floyd State Park’s history camp. June 4–6, 25–27, July 9–11 and 16–18, Aug. 6–8, ages 8–11, $95, Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park and Museum, Fairfield, 801-768-8932, 

College Preview

Older kids experience college life, while making friends and learning subjects from Egyptology to biology at U of U’s Youth Academy of Excellence Camps. June 17–Aug. 9, ages 10–15, $224–$294 (tuition), $55–$115 (special fee), University of Utah, SLC, 801-581-6984,

Make Da Vinci proud

Art and science collide at The Leonardo museum’s camps, which includes a partner camp with Discovery Gateway. June 24–Aug. 16, grades 3–9+, $95–$265, SLC, 801-531-9800,

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