Five ways to enjoy the Great Salt Lake
Spiral Jetty and Golden Spike National Historic Site • Considering the nearly three-hour trip and more than 100 miles to get there, it’s easy to say that only art freaks or railroad aficionados need sign up for this trip. Refuse either one, though, and you’re missing out on two of the lake’s biggest nearby draws.
On the lake’s northeastern shore is Robert Smithson’s massive Spiral Jetty. Created in 1970 from black basalt boulders arranged just above the lake’s water, it’s widely considered one of the world’s premiere works of environmental art.
Discovering whether it’s available for viewing, or otherwise submerged, is one of the great slow-motion spectator sports of the art world. At last report, it remains submerged, but that’s contingent on the current heat wave. The work is so iconic that Westminster College’s Great Salt Lake Institute, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the New York-based Dia Foundation all share a kind of joint custody over its future.
History and train buffs can drink in the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which commemorates the spot in 1869 that the Central Pacific and Union Pacific rails where joined by, you guessed it, the "golden spike." The site features its own bookstore, historic films, and two fully functional locomotives identical to the original engines.
The two sites together are a mere 16 miles apart, which makes it either practical to see both, or foolish to ignore one for the other. Natalie Barrow, a bookstore employee with the Western National Parks Association at Golden Spike, said the historic site still gets more inquiries from railroad fans, but more than enough calls asking if the Spiral Jetty is viewable for a trip.
"Most people who come to see one or the other don’t realize they’re so close to another key attraction," Barrow said. "It’s good that at least some people visit both, otherwise we wouldn’t get reports about whether the Jetty’s visible or not."