April 17, 2019

The Bonneville Salt Flats

If you have any interest in breaking a land speed record or enjoy basking in the Utah sun, pay a visit to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Under management of the Bureau of Land Management, the Salt Flats consist of 46 square miles of hardened salt crust. Common table salt makes up 90% of the Salt Flats. 

Teams from around the world travel to the Salt Flats every year to compete for the landspeed record. Diesel, rocket, jet, piston, turbine, and motorcycle vehicles show up every summer to push speed records to the next level. The racetracks on the Salt Flats are buffered with drag sleds in preparation for speed. Not only for speed, but the Flats are also used for commercials, fashion shoots, and motion pictures. The Bureau of Land Management allows the Bonneville Salt Flats to be open to the public for majority of the year. 

The Salt Flats date back all the way to the end of the last ice age. Lake Bonneville has receded to what is now know as the Great Salt Lake. With the shrinking waters, minerals have been left behind in the soil forming the Salt Flats. 

The first successful promotion of racing on the Salt Flat is credited to the “Mormon Meteor”. Ab Jenkins began setting landspeed records in 1930. Since then, the Bonneville Salt Flats has become an attraction for racers around the world. The yearly renewing hard salt has provided many land speed records for decades. 

“Some of the astounding landspeed records established at Bonneville over the decades:

1914: Teddy Tetzlaff, Blitzen Benz, 141.73 mph (unofficial), piston

1935: Sir Malcolm Campbell, Bluebird, 301.126 mph, piston

1940: Ab Jenkins, Mormon Meteor III, 161.180 mph, 24 hr endurance run, piston

1947: John Cobb, Railton Mobil Special, 394.194 mph, piston

1964: Craig Breedlove, Spirit of America, 526.277 mph, jet

1965: Craig Breedlove, Spirit of America, 600.601 mph, jet

1967: Burt Munro, Munro Special, 183.586 mph, 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle

1970: Gary Gabolich, Blue Flame, 622.407 mph, rocket

2001: Don Vesco, Turbinator, 458.440 mph, turbine

2006: Chris Carr, BUB Streamliner, 350.884 mph, motorcycle

2006: Andy Green, JCB Dieselmax, 350.092 mph, diesel”

Bonneville Salt Flats

The public is able to pay an entrance fee to access and witness the racing events. Racers must preregister for landspeed events. Broadcasting for events is available on the radio. 

The last outright record to be set at Bonneville Salt Flats was on October 23, 1970, when Gary Gabelich's rocket-powered Blue Flame peaked at 1,014.656kph, making him the first to exceed 1,000kph.

In 1970, the Blue Flame set the last outright record on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Gary Gabelich's rocket-powered vehicle reached 1,014.656kph, the first to break 1,000kph.

Before you go: It is advised to play it safe in the Salt Flats. Always have a plan and always have someone know where you plan on being. Bonneville Salt Flats Travel Advisor will provide you the knowledge and safety tips to venture off road. Sun shelter (umbrellas, hats, sunscreen, sun glasses), chairs, and water are all recommended. Cars, motorcycle, ATVs, and bicycles are all permitted on the Salt Flats

An hour and a half away from Salt Lake City, the Bonneville Salt Flats are located off exit 4 on I-80 right before the Nevada/Utah state line. After the exit, take a right and follow the paved road for 4 miles to a BLM land sign at the end of the pavement. Park or continue onto the Salt Flats at your own risk with safety as the number one priority. Only drive on dry salt to avoid getting stuck in mud. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off the bottom of your vehicle to avoid corrosion.    

Most events offer restrooms, food, and beverage. During all other times of the year no facilities are available. Service near Wendover is available. Most major cellphone networks provide coverage near Wendover as well. Overnight camping on the Salt Flats is prohibited to maintain safety and natural resources. Free camping is permitted on public lands accessible by local roads near the Salt Flats. 

After your day in the dessert, make sure you check out Salt Lakes local food and bar scene.

Enjoy your time on the Bonneville Salt Flats!

Seven Slopes

Seven Slopes in a local's guide to what to do in Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains.  The articles on this site were written by students from the University of Utah as part of a digital marketing curriculum.
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