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The Spiral Jetty by the Great Salt Lake in Utah is a stunning piece of artwork on the lake’s northeastern shore. It’s one of the many unique sights to see near the Great Lake and should definitely be added to your itinerary if you’re in the area!
Originally created in 1970, this natural earthwork design was only visible for 2 years before it was submerged by the rising water levels in 1972. It was pretty well hidden under the water for a number of years until local droughts caused the water levels to drop around 2002.
Since then, this rock formation has been visible on the salt-flat and desert-like landscape near the ever-moving lake shoreline. This is a great place to spend some time admiring the natural landscape and appreciating this unique sight.
During periods when the water is at its lowest, this entire area becomes a dry salt flat and you will see large sections of salt collecting in piles on the ground. If you continue walking towards the lake itself, you will likely see the lake’s interesting pink colour!
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What is the Great Salt lake spiral jetty?
The Spiral Jetty is a piece of artwork created using natural materials in 1970 in Utah. The artist, Robert Smithson used over 6,000 tonnes worth of black basalt rocks to create this piece as well as the earth he collected from the local area.
The spiral is laid out anti-clockwise if you are looking at it from the small car park. It is 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide sticking out from the shore.
This rock sculpture is a form of Earthwork (which is also known as environmental art, land art and earth art). It’s a movement in the art world that was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
The history behind earthwork
Earthwork is a type of art style that focuses on the natural landscape and materials in order to make creative structures on a site-specific basis. It was used as a way to highlight the relationship between us humans and the environment by creating stunning art structures in a minimalistic style.
Due to relying on natural items such as rocks, leaves, and sand to name a few, these works of art created their own new subgroup outside of the “regular” art forms in the mainstream market. This new group of inspiring artists had just created the Earthwork we know today.
Since it is a creative genre that focuses on natural materials, they are often located in unique and interesting locations rarely touched by humans. Many of these structures are then left out in the elements and over time can experience changes in their shape or form due to natural causes.
Leave no trace: Since this is a piece of art, it is expected that visitors leave the area the same way they found it.
Where is the spiral jetty located?
The spiral Jetty is located on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Northern Utah. You can find its exact location here on Google maps.
Unfortunately, there is no access route for public transport so you can only reach this destination by car. If you do not have access to a car, you can easily rent one from either Ogden or Salt Lake City.
When travelling by car, you will travel through the Golden Spike National Historical Park which takes you through a valley with stunning mountain landscapes from every angle.
Please Note: Much of the road close to the jetty is a rocky terrain with uneven surfaces. Drive slowly to try and prevent rocks from damaging your car.
From Ogden, you can expect the journey to take roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes.
From Salt Lake City it will take approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes.
As you travel down the road you will reach a sign at a fork in the road. Although the GPS will take you the correct way (both ways to reach the destination) you can certainly save yourself a lot of time by following the handwritten sign.
Best time to visit
Since this spiral jetty is located on the shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, it is accessible pretty much year-round, however part of the road to get there runs through private property which can be closed at a moment’s notice.
Luckily for visitors, this is not a high-traffic area so no time is particularly busy. However, one of the best times to visit is a little before sunset due to the photo opportunities you can get between the mountains, lake and jetty.
You can check the time of sunset here to help plan accordingly. With the jetty behind you (while facing the direction of the water, the sun will set to your right. If you wish to get the jetty in your sunset photos then one of the best places to stand is at the hill near the information plaque.
Due to how beautiful the sunset and landscape are, it is not uncommon to see photographers and couples getting their wedding photos here.
Things to do nearby
If you happen to be visiting this area, you should definitely take advantage of the other activities and sights nearby. Plus, if you have a car it makes it much easier to reach many of these places since many of them are not accessible by public transportation.
- Visit the pink lake
- Hike the Big Fill loop trail
- Hike in the Promontory Mountains
- See the Chinese Arch
- Visit the ATK rocket garden
- Head to Antelope Island state park
- The Great Salt flats
Places to stay
Salt Lake City is the largest major city near the Spiral Jetty. Although Ogden is closer to the jetty access point, there are no hostels in the area. This means if you are hoping for a sociable hostel, you should expect to stay in Salt Lake City.
SLC Hostel is a popular option for travellers to the Salt Lake area. It’s conveniently located in the centre of town within walking distance of many local amenities.
If you are happy staying in a different type of accommodation then you have the option to stay much closer to the jetty itself in Ogden or Corrine for example.
Spending a lot of time in the USA? Brits can get a 90-day ESTA to visit the States. This is one country that is highly popular as a gap trip for those wanting to travel long term.