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Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats is an amazingly beautiful place. The salt is completely natural!

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What is the Bonneville Salt Flats?

The Bonneville Salt Flats are a 30,000 acre expanse of hard, white salt crust on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake basin in Utah. The salt flats are about 12 miles long and 5 miles wide with total area coverage of just over 46 square miles.  Total salt crust volume has been estimated at 147 million tons or 99 million cubic yards of salt! The Bonneville Salt Flats are comprised of approximately 90% common table salt.

It is completely flat and white.  If you just drive out on a normal day, you may run into another vehicle or two, but there isn’t a visitors’ station. Just two signs announcing where you are going.

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When we arrived, we were the only vehicle and people there. We were worried about going out on the salt, but saw this on the ground in front of the sign.

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When other vehicles came, they didn’t hesitate to enter the Bonneville Salt Flats. It was a lot of fun. (We since learned that visitors are welcome to drive on the salt flats.)  We hit 100 mph in our Toyota Tundra but didn’t dare push it faster since we had our whole family in the car.  We also hit a wet area and that worried me too. You do NOT want to get stuck out there.

We had a really good time – just us, our truck and the salt.

 

Where is the Bonneville Salt Flats?

We didn’t realize how FAR the Bonneville Salt Flats are from Salt Lake. The Salt Flats are located 120 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a 1.5 hour drive from Salt Lake – with all of the drive being on I-80. It is only 10 minutes to Wendover from the salt flats – technically you can see Wendover from parts of Bonneville Salt Flats.

 Take exit 4 off of Interstate 80 before the state border of town of Wendover, Utah.  The 3.5 mile paved access road leading to the Salt Flats is north of I-80.  Travel on the paved road as it makes a right turn and heads east for three miles.  An informational marker is located at the end of the paved road. Travel on the Salt Flats is at your own risk and is only recommended when the surface is entirely dry.

 

 What is the Bonneville Salt Flats Schedule?

Most of the time, the Bonneville Salt Flats are just the salt. But there are scheduled events that happen every year ranging from rocket launching, archery competitions to speedway racing.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are managed by the BLM and you can see the Bonneville Salt Flats schedule at their website.  Any commercial event has to be scheduled through the BLM and some events may charge for participation or for spectators.

 

I Have Never Been to the Salt Flats But the Pictures Seem Familiar!

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Movies and TV shows filmed at the Bonneville Salt Flats include portions of Knight Rider (1982 television series)WarlockIndependence DaySLC PunkCremaster 2 from Cremaster Cycle,The Brown BunnyThe World’s Fastest IndianGerryThe Tree of LifeTop Gear and most recently the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

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Insiders tips to the Bonneville Salt Flats:

  • Near the center of the salt, the crust is almost 5 feet thick in places, with the depth tapering off to less than 1 inch as you get to the edges.  It is really easy to get stuck if your vehicle falls through the thin crust. So be careful.
  • Spring and fall (or heavy rain season) make the flats softer. You can see a horror story of what happens if you get stuck.
  • Wash your car after you leave the salt flats. The salt is not good for the paint or under carriage of your vehicle.
  • Watch out for other vehicles, especially when testing the speedway.
  • Ponded water is often encountered on the salt flats throughout the year. The salty water is highly corrosive and may short out the electrical system of your vehicle. This could leave you stranded, many miles from help. If you must drive thru water to reach dry salt, do so slowly (under 10 mph) so that there is minimal splashing into your engine compartment.
  • Distances and visual perception can be very deceiving, especially on hot days when a strong mirage takes effect. Many objects will disappear below the horizon as you get farther out on the salt. Obtaining a GPS (global positioning system) unit and using waypoints to mark your route is a good way to effectively navigate on the flats.
  • Traveling on the Bonneville Salt Flats at night is NOT recommended.
  • Cell phone coverage is generally available on the salt flats but becomes weak near the north end of the area. Do not rely on a cell phone to get you out of trouble.
  • Always take lots of water, extra food, and additional clothing. Temperatures can vary from below freezing in winter to triple-digits in the summer. The white surface produces intense reflection of sunlight. Bring a wide-brimmed hat, U/V sunglasses, and high SPF sunscreen.

If you do have an emergency on the salt flats, contact the Tooele County Sheriff Dispatch office at 435-882-5600. Towing assistance is available from “Mr. Tow” at 435-665-2525.