Bonneville Salt Flats

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Bonneville Salt Flats
salt flat
Saltph26.jpg
View North of Bonneville Salt Flats and the Silver Island Mountains beyond.
CountryUnited States
StateUtah
CountyTooele
Part ofGreat Salt Lake Desert
Borders onInterstate 80 in Utah (south)
West Wendover, Nevada (west)
PartsBonneville Racetrack
Location(USGS coordinates) [1]
 - elevation4,219 ft (1,286 m) [1]
 - coordinates40°47′59″N 113°48′00″W / 40.79972°N 113.80000°W / 40.79972; -113.80000
Area40 sq mi (104 km2) [2]
BiomeNorthern Basin and Range (ecoregion)
TimezoneMountain (UTC-7)
 - summer (DST)MDT (UTC-6)
GNIS ID1425872 [1]
 
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Coordinates: 40°47′59″N 113°48′00″W / 40.79972°N 113.80000°W / 40.79972; -113.80000
Bonneville Salt Flats
salt flat
Saltph26.jpg
View North of Bonneville Salt Flats and the Silver Island Mountains beyond.
CountryUnited States
StateUtah
CountyTooele
Part ofGreat Salt Lake Desert
Borders onInterstate 80 in Utah (south)
West Wendover, Nevada (west)
PartsBonneville Racetrack
Location(USGS coordinates) [1]
 - elevation4,219 ft (1,286 m) [1]
 - coordinates40°47′59″N 113°48′00″W / 40.79972°N 113.80000°W / 40.79972; -113.80000
Area40 sq mi (104 km2) [2]
BiomeNorthern Basin and Range (ecoregion)
TimezoneMountain (UTC-7)
 - summer (DST)MDT (UTC-6)
GNIS ID1425872 [1]

The Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely packed salt pan in Tooele County in northwestern Utah. The area is a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville and is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake. The property is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is known for land speed records at the "Bonneville Speedway".

There are five major land speed events that take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bonneville "Speed Week" takes place mid-August followed by "World of Speed" in September and the "World Finals" take place early October. These three events welcome cars, trucks and motorcycles. The "Bub Motorcycle Speed Trials" are for motorcycles only. World records are contested at the Mike Cook ShootOut in September. The Southern California Timing Association and the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association organizes and plans the multi-vehicle events, but all event promoters contribute to prepping and maintaining the salt.

Access is free and visitors can drive on the flats.

History[edit]

Bonneville Salt Flats during the winter
Bonneville Salt Flats during the summer

Geologist Grove Karl Gilbert named the area after Benjamin Bonneville, a U.S. Army officer who explored the Intermountain West in the 1830s.[3][4] In 1907 Bill Rishel and two local businessmen tested the suitability of the salt for driving on by taking a Pierce-Arrow onto the surface of the flats.[5] A railway line across the Bonneville Salt Flats was completed in 1910, marking the first permanent crossing.[3] The first land speed record was set there in 1914 by Teddy Tetzlaff.[6]

Entertainment filmed at the salt flats include portions of Knight Rider TV Series (1982), Warlock, Independence Day, SLC Punk, Cremaster 2 from Cremaster Cycle, The Brown Bunny, The World's Fastest Indian, Gerry, The Tree of Life, Top Gear and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Furthermore, the Pontiac Bonneville (former flagship sedan of the Pontiac motor division), the Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, and the Bonneville International media company are all named for the salt flats.

Reduction in size[edit]

Due to extraction of salt from the area, the salt flats have begun to disappear. Once around 90,000 acres (36,422 ha) in size, they are now only 30,000 acres (12,141 ha).[7] The salt layer is thought to be shrinking due to the use of the salt in the making of potash, a mineral ingredient used in fertilizer. A nearby potash plant uses a system of canals, pipes, and tunnels to collect the brine that is produced during the rainy winter season in the area. This brine is then used to make potash. The company has begun to voluntarily spray leftover brine back onto the salt flats. It is estimated that over 55 million short tons of salt have been taken from the salt flats since mining began in 1963. Geologists estimate that 18 inches of salt crust have been removed from the flats, and that the reduction of salt happens at a pace of one percent per year. In some areas, the salt is now a mere 1/2 inch thick.

Land speed racing[edit]

Despite being wrongly associated with drag racing, setting speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats is racing of a unique sort —no "0-60" records are broken here. Since the salt is somewhat slick, maintaining traction is a major concern of every racer. Cars start slower than many expect, but they make their way up to some very fast speeds. Given the great size of the flats, there is plenty of room for these race cars to reach their full potential. There are two to three tracks, depending on the condition of the salt, set up for each event. The shortest is usually a 5-mile (8.0 km) course while the long-course usually runs 7 miles (11 km). Depending on the class (there are hundreds of classes that participate, from motorcycles to streamliners to cars practically driven off the lot), racers are assigned to courses accordingly. Some classes, like the 49 cc motorcycles, have records set at under 100 mph (161 km/h) while others, such as high-powered streamliners, reach speeds of 400 to 500+ mph.[8]

Stardust[edit]

In 2004, the Stardust spacecraft released its sample-return capsule for a landing in the Bonneville Salt Flats after its flybys of asteroid 5535 Annefrank in 2002 and comet Wild 2 in 2004.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Query Form For The United States And Its Territories". U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  2. ^ Lines, Gregory C (1979). Hydrology and surface morphology of the Bonneville Salt Flats and Pilot Valley Playa, Utah. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  3. ^ a b "The Bonneville Salt Flats". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Joseph Tingley; et al. (2009). A Geologic and Natural History Tour Through Nevada and Arizona Along U.S. Highway 93 with GPS Coordinates. NV Bureau of Mines & Geology. p. 135. 
  5. ^ Hanna, Tim (2005). One Good Run: The Legend of Burt Munro. 
  6. ^ Radbruch, Don (2004). Dirt Track Auto Racing, 1919–1941. 
  7. ^ Adams, Guy (17 March 2012). "Flat Out: End of the road for Utah's speed plains". The Independent. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "Fia". 28 Aug 2012. 
  9. ^ "NASA's Comet Tale Draws to a Successful Close in Utah Desert". nasa.gov. 

External links[edit]