Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Visiting the Spiral Jetty at the Great Salt Lake

Spiral Jetty at the Great Salt Lake

Of course, during all the drought years, I never made it up to see the Spiral Jetty while it was out of the water.  When we visited the jetty this year, it was not only under water, but the time of day made it hard to see.  There was a lot of glare on the water, and I suspect it may be more visible at other times of day.  The Spiral Jetty was constructed by Robert Smithson in 1970.  It has always been a bit controversial (was he messing up nature?  was it a dumb idea?  was it "art"?), so I was curious to see it.

Lichen on an igneous rock.

The jetty, from shore, was scarcely visible in the glare, so we hiked up the hillside for a better look.  There is a faint trail heading up...and up.  It isn't a bad climb, though, and one of the attractions of this point on the north end of the Great Salt Lake is the fact that it is quite remote.  The breeze and a few birds and insects were all we could hear.  The igneous rock makes this look like an alien landscape, and there is beauty in the starkness.

Interesting rock shapes overlooking Great Salt Lake

Rabbit at the top of the hill

My husband and son followed and photographed this rabbit after climbing up for a better view of the jetty.  One of the fun things about getting out is seeing different wildlife!  This was a beautiful spot to end our day trip.  It was hot, though, and a couple of us wanted to get our hair off our necks, but hadn't brought any hair elastics.  If you have a well-packed picnic bag (I'll talk about that in a future post), however, anything is possible.  Twisty-ties for plastic bags did the trick!

A little ingenuity...twisty-ties for pony tails!

So, I think Robert Smithson didn't do anything to damage nature here.  This is a remote, barren place, and the Great Salt Lake is large enough to absorb this small intrusion without much consequence.  Of course, you couldn't have dozens of people wanting to create art in the lake, so maybe this is a case of the advantage going to the first one.  I DO think the Spiral Jetty is a piece of art.  Great thought and effort went into its creation, and rather than distracting from the landscape, it fits in.  Smithson was wise to choose such a remote place, where only those who really want to see it would bother to come.  It is worth a look, and I look forward to returning in a dry year so I can see the jetty out of the water as well.

A barely visible Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty as seen from the hillside.

Make sure you take in the scenery if you go.  After all, you don't "stumble" upon this location, so take the time to have a good look around, and appreciate the size of this unique lake that spans several counties in Utah. 

View of the Great Salt Lake

Ugly-Bot at the Spiral Jetty

NOT the Spiral Jetty!

This jetty is a remnant of an old oil-drilling operation.  It is NOT the Spiral Jetty.  While we were in the parking lot, we saw a vehicle from Arizona stop at this jetty. It's occupants looked at it and photographed it then pulled in the parking lot by the actual Spiral Jetty, turned around, and left without seeing the real thing! So, if you drive all the way out here, please make sure you see the real thing.

Leaving the Spiral Jetty

On the trip back up the dirt road from the jetty, we saw beautiful scenery, and a little unexpected surprise!  Perhaps we are not alone....

Alien road signs?

If you travel to the Spiral Jetty, take Highway 83 west from Brigham City.  After you pass the Golden Spike National Historic Site, you will see a turn-off heading south on a dirt road.  This dirt road will take you to the Spiral Jetty (there is a sign).  The staff at the Golden Spike visitor's center are also very helpful with information on the jetty.  This is a pretty good dirt road, although the last 2 miles are more rutted and rough.  We traveled in a mini-van, and it is passable by passenger car.  Park at the circular "parking lot" at the end of the road, and you are at the Spiral Jetty!
As I am sure you might guess, there are NO services here.


  1. What an awesome day! So glad we got to see this in person. Let's go again when it's above water!

  2. I loved everything we saw that day. 12 hours, 6 counties, 2 states, about 450 miles, and the best company made for a great day trip! Too bad we didn't get a photo of the "frequent cows" sign.