Tree of Utah (Tree of Life) by artist Karl Momen

What is the big tennis balls on I80? That is a common question for google.  The answer? The Tree of Utah!!

Tree of Utah

Few pieces of art (or anything) are as distracting to drivers as this massive towering tree.

What Does the Tree of Utah Mean?

The Tree of Utah has a plaque that quotes Schiller’s Ode to Joy, as sung in the choral climax of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, “A hymn to our universe whose glory and dimension is beyond all myth and imagination.”

The Tree of Life is made of 225 tons of cement, almost 2,000 ceramic tiles and 5 tons of welding rods. It is 87 feet tall.  It has a squarish trunk holding up six spheres that are coated with natural rock and minerals native to Utah.  The tree brings bold color and beauty to the stark, flat, salty landscape.

Tree of Utah

Yes, there are pieces of tennis balls on the ground. These several hollow sphere segments on the ground around the base, representing leaves falling from the tree.

Who Made the Tree of Utah?

The Tree of Utah took 6 years for Swedish artist named Karl Momen to create.  Momen was was inspired by the desolate Bonneville Salt Flats.  He financed the project himself. After its dedication in 1986, it was given to the State of Utah. Then Momen moved back to Sweden.

Where is the Tree of Utah?

The sculpture is located on the north side of I-80 about 95 miles west of Salt Lake City and 25 miles east of Wendover. The location is interesting because the harsh environment here hindered many travelers in pioneer times. Members of the ill-fated Donner Party were tragically delayed in this area before their awful demise in the Sierra Nevada mountains. During WWII, the crew of the Enola Gay practiced bombing runs over the Great Salt Lake Desert before proceeding to Hiroshima to end the war.

What You Need to Know:

  • There isn’t much around it. Just a fence to surrounding the base to protect people from falling tiles.
  • Have your camera ready. You will drive by it quickly and there isn’t room to turn around on the freeway.
  • There is NO parking lot or pull off.
  • Yes, it really is that tall and neat.

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