Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats: Beauty, Speed and Archery

Driving on the Bonneville Salt Flats is like driving on packed snow. Photo by Brian Piret

By Brain Piret

Traveling on I-80, along the Bonneville Flats, in Utah, I couldn’t help the urge to pull off the road onto the salt flats, which is completely legal. It was like driving on packed snow.

Since I was reveling in an SUV, I did manage to fight the urge to “put the pedal to the metal” as we used say way back when.

Drivers are cautioned to be careful about driving on the salt flats when they are wet as you can easily get stuck. It’s like getting stuck in mud.

The salt flats are pretty amazing. They are a 30,000 acre expanse of hard, white salt crust on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake basin in Utah, located in Tooele County. The salt flats are about 12 miles long and 5 miles wide with total area coverage of just over 46 square miles. 

From an environmental concern, the overall area of the salt flats has reduced significantly over the past several decades. The cause or causes of this remain unclear, but many believe adjacent evaporative potash mining is the primary factor.

Land speed records are what people think most of when they think about the salt flats, which makes since the first racing there took place in 1896 on bicycles. There’s been a speedway there since 1914.

According to an article I read earlier, The Speed Demon A/Blown Fuel Streamliner earned the top spot in this year’s Bonneville Speed Week with a top speed of 466.290 mph with a turbocharged 443ci, LS-based engine built by Duttweiler Performance.

Speed Demon continues to hold its record as the world’s fastest Piston Driven, Wheel Driven car with a 481.576-mph, which it set at least year’s event. Can you imagine being behind the wheel of a vehicle going that fast?

The annual US Flight Archery Championships are also conducted at the salt flats. It’s a pretty interesting event. The goal of flight archery is to shoot arrows from bows at the greatest distance possible without regard to hitting a target, and so the vast flat plane of the flats serves as an ideal location to measure the linear distance traveled by arrows without geographic interference.

Its been home to two world records, with the current world record established in 1987 by Don Brown occurred near Smith Creek, Nevada.

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