It was a tough competition, all right, and the competitors didn't even know they were competing. Which brings me to the question or brings the question to me, who was the first person to discover the Great Salt Lake? I thought it was someone else and maybe it was after all the dust finally settled back to the earth. Of course, not to be considered in this race are the Pag-uampes and other Indian tribes who would have already been there and done that and turned away with a shrug, "Ugh, too much salty."
Was it that dern French beaver-skinner and mountain-climber, Etienne Provost?
Was it that dern American beaver-skinner and mountain-clinber, and fort builder, Jim Bridger?
Or, was it that other dern Spanish beaver-skinner and mountain-climber and explorer, Father Escalante?
Or, maybe it was that dern beaver-skinner and mountain climbing rock-hound, exploring and fur party-leading Captain Ashley?
Except for the Pag-uampes and the devout Father Escalante, the competitors were all in the same party of that Captain Ashley. One set out this way, one the other way, and one didn't. Jedediah Smith was along, too, but he wasn't named as being the first white man to gaze upon the Lake. According to Robert Campbell, who was in the party, the discoverer of the Great Salt Lake was none other than that early western mountain-climber, Jim Bridger. It appears that Bridger went down the Weber River to its mouth and found the Lake.
But Etienne Provost left the main party with a group of men and struck a tributary (Pumbar's Creek) of the Weber and at its mouth was the Lake. A man named Dale writes in his Ashley-Smith Explorations " that if Provost reached the Great Salt Lake before winter set in, he must be credited with its discovery."
So, I guess either one of the same party could have claimed victory. But what if someone else could have also claimed to have discovered it? How about Baron LaHontan? This LaHontan shows up in a comment by Captain Stansbury in 1852 that this Baron LaHontan as early as 1689 wrote of discoveries in this region, which was published in English in 1735. He wrote that "150 leagues from the place he then was, their principal river empties itself into a salt lake of 300 leagues in circumference." He never said how he determined the size, though, and how could he see it from that far away?
If true, this takes away the gun fodder of Bridger or Provost or Smith or other explorers having found the Lake first.
Shucks, you just never know.
Ref: The Founding of Utah Levi Edgar Young and Exploration of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake by Howard Stansbury.