Saturday, August 1, 2015

Stepping out onto the Bonneville Salt Flats is like setting foot on the
surface of another planet.
(Photo: Glynnis MacNicol)One late afternoon this summer, I found myself
driving along the Bonneville Salt Flats during my weeklong sojourn across
America.
It’s rare for a travel editor to be caught completely off-guard.
When it comes to exotic and beautiful destinations, we like to think we know
it all.
But I knew next to nothing about the flats before I happened upon them, west
of Salt Lake City on the Utah-Nevada border.
Related: A State-by-State Guide to America’s Natural WondersPerhaps the
element of surprise was part of the reason I was so blown away by the
incongruous landscape.
Imagine a pristine white plain, the sun shining brilliantly off its shiny
surface, stretching far into the distance and culminating in magnificent rocky
mountain peaks.
There’s an ethereal otherworldly feel as you wander out onto the
crunchy salt.
On incredibly hot days, heat waves can rise into the air and create mirages
that dance across the salty desert.
I didn’t see anything but a few tourists and their Chihuahua, which
was quickly covered in a salty layer of dust that made it resemble a very
angry poodle.
When the flats are covered in a fine layer of water, they look like a vast
underwater desert.
(Photo: Thinkstock)Created after the last Ice Age, approximately 15,000 years
ago, the flats are named after the army officer and Western explorer Benjamin
Bonneville.
Since 1914 they have been a popular site for car racing, due to the
salt’s typically pristine surface that allows racers to achieve
astronomical speeds of up to 400 mph.

Five major land-speed events take place at the flats each year in mid-August
for the Bonneville Speed Week.
But this year the events were canceled for the second year in a row,
according to the Associated Press: Wet weather has forced the cancellation of
Speed Week for the second straight year and revived a debate about whether
nearby mining is depleting the Bonneville Salt Flats of their precious
resource.
Racers say they’ve worried for decades that mining is draining an
aquifer that helps replenish the flats each year, leaving smaller amounts of
the smooth, hard salt that makes for a nearly glass-like surface for cars
hurtling across the landscape.
… "The main international racetrack used to be 13 miles in length,"
said Stuart Gosswein with Save the Salt, a group of race-aficionados that has
raised the alarm.
"Now we can’t even find 7 miles.
" Sleek aerodynamic vehicles perform best on the flats.
(Photo: Thinkstock)The shrinking of the flats could be a combination of both
weather and the mining of natural resources in the region.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported last month that the salt crust was, on
average, 2 to 3 feet thick a little over 50 years ago.
These days the crust is barely two inches thick, and beneath it lies a
sludgy, almost quicksand-like mud that could prove dangerous for both drivers
and visitors who walk out onto the flats.
Related: 7 Natural Wonders You Must See Before You DieThe shrinking flats are
distressing for racers, to be sure, but also for the general public who want
to take in the natural beauty of the flats.
This area plays second and third fiddle to Utah’s flashier natural
wonders — Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Arches, but it is
no less magnificent.
Related: This Amazing Utah Canyon Hike Comes With a Rescue DogThe flats are a
place of wonder and a must-see before they disappear.
Cars are not permitted to drive willy-nilly over the flats, but you can walk
out on them.
The best spot for visitors to stop and take pictures is a rest stop on I-80,
10 miles east of the very small town of Wendover.
The stop caters to tourists looking to romp around in the salt.
It even has a water spray station to clean off your shoes.
Visitors are not allowed to sleep overnight on the flats, but they can camp
out in  surrounding public and private campgrounds.
This just might be the perfect place to take a selfie.
No one will believe you are in Utah.
(Photo: Jo Piazza)Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
and Pinterest.
Check out our original adventure travel series, "A Broad Abroad.
" Stepping out onto the Bonneville Salt Flats on the border of Utah and
Nevada is like setting foot on the surface of another planet.
.
The shrinking of the flats could be a combination of both weather and the
mining of natural resources in the region.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported last month that the salt crust was, on
average, 2 to 3 feet thick a little over 50 years ago.
These days the crust is barely two inches thick, and beneath it lies a
sludgy, almost quicksand-like mud that could prove dangerous for both drivers
and visitors who walk out onto the flats.
Related: 7 Natural Wonders You Must See Before You DieThe shrinking flats are
distressing for racers, to be sure, but also for the general public who want
to take in the natural beauty of the flats.
This area plays second and third fiddle to Utah’s flashier natural
wonders — Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Arches, but it is
no less magnificent.
Related: This Amazing Utah Canyon Hike Comes With a Rescue DogThe flats are a
place of wonder and a must-see before they disappear.
Cars are not permitted to drive willy-nilly over the flats, but you can walk
out on them.
The best spot for visitors to stop and take pictures is a rest stop on I-80,
10 miles east of the very small town of Wendover.
The stop caters to tourists looking to romp around in the salt.
It even has a water spray station to clean off your shoes.
Visitors are not allowed to sleep overnight on the flats, but they can camp
out in  surrounding public and private campgrounds.
This just might be the perfect place to take a selfie.
No one will believe you are in Utah.
(Photo: Jo Piazza)Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
and Pinterest.
Check out our original adventure travel series, "A Broad Abroad.
" Stepping out onto the Bonneville Salt Flats on the border of Utah and
Nevada is like setting foot on the surface of another planet.

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