The Need for Speed
The Bonneville Salt Flats
Imagine a place so flat you seem to see the curvature of the planet, so barren not even the simplest life forms can exist. Imagine the passing thunder of strange vehicles hurtling by on a vast dazzling white plain. This is not an alien world far from earth; it is Utah's famous Bonneville Salt Flats.
The Bonneville Salt Flats is one of the most unique natural features in Utah. Stretching over 30,000 acres, the Bonneville Salt Flats is a fragile resource. It is located along I-80 near the Utah-Nevada border. Wendover is the closest city. Thousands of visitors, commercial filmmakers, and of course, high speed auto racers, make the Bonneville Salt Flats a world famous destination.
Racing For Speed
The Salt Flats are perhaps most famous for their use as the Bonneville Speedway for high-speed race cars which have achieved speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour (1000 km/h).
The Salt Flats' potential for racing was first recognized in 1896 by W.D. Rishel who was scouting a bicycle race course from New York to San Francisco. Rishel returned and convinced daredevil Teddy Tezlaff to attempt an automobile speed record on the flats. Tezlaff drove a Blitzen Benz 141.73 m.p.h. to set an unofficial record in 1914.
The salt flats drew international attention in the 1930's when Utah driver Ab Jenkins lured British racer Sir Malcolm Campbell to compete for speed records on the salt surface. By 1949, the raceway on the Bonneville Salt Flats was the standard course for world land speed records. On this natural straightaway the 300, 400, 500, and 600 mile per hour land speed barriers were broken.
In the 1960's, jet powered vehicles and names like Craig Breedlove (600.6 mph) and Art Arfons (576.55 mph) captured the imagination of millions. In 1970, Gary Gabolich's rocket car, "Blue Flame", attained a spectacular 622.4 miles per hour. Since the first speed record attempts in 1914, hundreds of records have been set and broken in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes. Typically, speed trials are scheduled throughout the summer and fall at the Bonneville Raceway. Most events are open to the public. The annual Speed Week is usually held in mid-August.
A Barrier of Salt
Humans have lived in the Great Basin for thousands of years. Excavations at nearby Danger Cave have proven occupation of the area as early as 10,300 years ago. While Native Americans adapted to the desert environment, more recent arrivals found the area less hospitable.
By 1824, Jim Bridger and other mountain men explored the Great Salt Lake desert region. The first recorded crossing of the desert was made in 1845 by Captain John C. Fremont's survey party, with scouts Kit Carson and Joe Walker. Early the next year, 23 year old Lansford Hastings retraced Fremont's trail across the salt plain. Joe Walker's writings warned emigrants not to attempt the untried route; however, Hastings convinced several emigrant parties to follow him. Despite Walker's warnings, the Donner-Reed party, seeking a shortcut to California in 1846, attempted the "Hastings Cutoff". They failed to take enough water and lost a critical number of oxen. Four of their wagons were abandoned just 10 miles northeast of the salt flats. Time was lost, and the delay resulted in their late arrival to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and their tragic winter. Later, in 1910, the first permanent crossing of the Bonneville Salt Flats was completed when the Southern Pacific Railroad was built linking Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
Ancient Lake Bonneville
Although he never visited the salt flats, the area is named in honor of a gentleman whose expeditions in the 1830's proved the area was part of an ancient basin.
During the last Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville was the size of Lake Michigan. It covered one-third of present day Utah and parts of neighboring states. You can see traces of the shorelines, representing different levels of the receding lake, etched into the mountains surrounding the salt flats.
The Bonneville Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake are remnants of ancient Lake Bonneville. Wind and water combine to create the flat surface of salt. Each winter, a shallow layer of standing water floods the surface of the salt flats. During spring and summer, the water slowly evaporates while winds smooth the surface into a vast, nearly perfect flat plain. The salt surface contains potassium, magnesium lithium and sodium chloride (common table salt).
Several movies have been filmed at the Salt Flats, including portions of Independence Day, The Worlds Fastest Indian, and Pirates of the Caribbean: at Worlds End.
Information provided courtesy of www.utah.com
To get credit and claim a “Find” for this EarthCache you must answer any three questions from the list below. There is very little information on the sign so Internet research may be required. Also, let us know how many people were in your party. Please do not include your answers on the Cache page.
#1: Tell us what the depth of the salt in many areas of the Bonneville Salt Flats has been recorded at (How many feet or meters)?
#2: Tell us the Date, Driver, Car Name and Speed of 5 past or present Land Speed Record holders on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
#3: Tell us how the Bonneville Salt Flats were formed and why there is so much salt here.
#4: Tell us who the Bonneville Salt Flats and Lake Bonneville was named after? What year were they born, what year did they die, and what was their occupation?
Optional, and I will respect you for doing so. Post a picture of yourself and your GPS at the Bonneville Salt Flats sign at the posted coordinates (not the sign pictured. This will keep your log from being deleted if you don't send the correct answers as a photo PROVES you were there. Any couch cacher can Google answers.
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