Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bonneville Salt Flats offers unique landscape

In a state filled with beautiful, unique scenery, one famous feature fits only into the unique feature.  Whatever words you use to describe Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, pretty isn't one of them.

The salt flats, located in western Utah near the border with Nevada, are barren and, well, just plain ugly. Little vegetation grows near its most famous section, the Bonneville Speedway, though the dynamic is different in the surrounding hills.

At one time, eons ago, Lake Bonneville covered the area. It dried up, leaving the salt. The Great Salt Lake was once part of Lake Bonneville. The high salt content is one reason vegetation doesn't grow here. Ponds and marshes that support plants and wildlife can be found around the edges of the salt flats, which in some places look like snow-covered ground.

The salt flats, located about 10 miles from Wendover, Nevada, are visible from Interstate80. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which administers the 30,000 acres, has a rest stop where travelers can walk out onto the salt flats. It also has a facility where travelers can clean the salt from their shoes before resuming their journey.

Speed Week is perhaps the most famous event associated with Bonneville Salt Flats. Hundreds of vehicles show up for the annual event in hopes of being named the fastest vehicle in their class. The crusty packed salt is ideal for this. Unfortunately, Speed Week has been cancelled the last two years because of poor surface conditions.

The movie, The World's Fastest Indian, gives a good picture of what Speed Week is all about.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Utah's Zion National Park: a place of stunning beauty

Zion National Park
Utah isn’t the drab state that many people imagine it to be. Southern Utah is filled with colorful scenery, and nowhere is it more colorful than Zion National Park, one of five national parks in the state.

Zion has gorgeous red rock formations, accented by the greens of evergreen trees, the blues of its creeks and the many shades of brown found in its mountains. The canyon scenery is considered some of the best in the whole United States.

Human habitation of Zion began about 7,000 years ago, though it was the 19th century Mormon settlers who gave it its name, since it reminded them of a sanctuary. Hence, some of the religious oriented names, such as the Three Patriarchs, named for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or West Temple, the highest peak in southern Zion, and its Towers of the Virgin.

Zion is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts such as hikers, bikers, horseback riders and birdwatchers. The scenery also can be viewed by driving the scenic roads.
Kolob Canyon
Zion almost seems like two parks: two entrances are on Highway 9, known as the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, and the Kolob Canyon entrance, which is right at Exit 44 on Interstate 15.

The Zion-Mount Carmel route has a narrow tunnel that was considered an engineering miracle when it was built in the late 1920s.  Because it’s so narrow, RVs and other large vehicles must have escorts; traffic is blocked coming the other way when large rigs to through. The park service charges for this escort service.