Bonneville Salt Flats
All motorheads should take a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats at least once in their lives to see the best mechanical circus on wheels. Each summer, professional and amateur teams from around the world compete for land speed records in different vehicle classes.
WHERE IS IT?
Located at 114 degrees west longitude and 40 degrees, 45 minutes north latitude, or along Interstate 80 near the Utah/Nevada border.
MAJOR RACE DATES
There are three time-trial events each year conducted by two sanctioning bodies, the Southern California Timing Association/Bonneville Nationals, Inc. (SCTA/BNI) and the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA).
Speed Week 2008: August 18-24
World of Speed 2008: September 17-20
World Finals 2008: October 8-11
- The Salt Flats expanse covers 30,000 acres (nearly 47 square miles) and lies 4218 feet above sea level. The federally owned land is operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Salt Lake field office. Decades of land speed racing put Bonneville on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
- The 99 million cubic yards of salt crust is almost five feet thick in the center, tapering off to less than one inch at the edge. It is nearly all table salt.
- Formed during the last ice age, Lake Bonneville covered nearly two-thirds of Utah and was almost 1000 feet deep where the Flats are today.
- Racers formed "Save the Salt" to protect Bonneville from harm, mainly from mining operations that extract up to 850,000 tons of salt from the flats each year. Working with the BLM, USFRA, SCTA/BNI, and mining officials, the group now returns 1.5 million tons a year.
IF YOU GO
There's no shade or seating, so bring your own and make sure you cover the salt where you are sitting, or you'll cook from the bottom up. Heat stroke is a real danger if you ignore personal protection. Wide-brimmed hats, dark sunglasses, light-colored clothes, SPF 50 sunscreen, salty snacks, fruit, and a couple of liters of water per person are essential, because afternoon temperatures can hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit and feel like 125 degrees. The humidity can dip to seven percent. Those who are sun-sensitive should wear long sleeves and loose-fitting clothing.
ENTRY FEE (DURING SPEED WEEK)
$15 per day, per person
$40 per week, per person
On KSALT (1610 AM), radio salt jockey Ron Christensen calls the action to your earbuds.
Fly into Salt Lake City, rent a ride (but don't even think of driving your rental on the salt), and head west on Interstate 80 for 120 miles to Wendover. Only a couple miles from the salt, Wendover is a half-and-half city situated on the Nevada/Utah state line with both casino-based and pious accommodations.