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About Bonneville Salt Watch

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The Bonneville International Speedway and the adjacent Bonneville Recreation area is a unique historical and geological site in the world.
This historic area, is where international speed records were set for nearly a century, (first documented use about 1914).
It is to this day, still the only place in the world that is suitable for some of these record breaking attempts.
It is regularly used as a location for movie and video production.
It supports several forms of outdoor recreation.
It was the barrier that held up the Donner party on their fateful journey west, as they tried to traverse what became known as the "Hastings Cutoff to California".
The Pony Express trail skirted the south side of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
It was also a key wartime training location during WWII and the home training location for the crews of the Enola Gay and the 509th Composite Group as they trained for their missions that ended WWII with Japan.
To this day the Bonneville Salt Flats bump up against military training areas, and it is not uncommon for spectators at the racing events to have a military aircraft do a low altitude flyby.
Late at night you can sometimes watch the Jet Jockeys playing catch me if you can dog fighting training in the skies above Wendover.
It is also a priceless wild place that is unique in the world both for its rare beauty, and its easy accessibility via I80 (U.S. Highway Interstate 80).

People travel from all over the world to visit this location, and this special geological wonder is at great risk of being destroyed by short sighted commercial exploitation in direct violation of a legal requirement that it be protected for future generations.

In fairness the current mining operation south of Interstate 80 has been cooperative with the Save The Salt efforts to protect the salt flats, although currently there is no legal mandate that they do so. Company ownership does and has changed so there is no guarantee that any additional efforts will be made to protect the Bonneville Salt Flats recreation area and the Bonneville International Speedway course and the adjacent salt suitable for racing.

barren salt at sunrise

This image copyright Larry Ledwick Black Horse Photo

The Bonneville Salt Flats is composed of approximately 30,000 acres (nearly 45 square miles) of crystaline salt deposit and adjacent alkali mud flats. It is designated as an "Area of Critical Environmental Concern" by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and a Special Recreation Management Area. It has also been included in the National Register of Historic Landmarks

It is perhaps most famous for it historical contribution to land speed racing, where it was the first place in the world where powered vehicles first exceeded 200, 300, 400, 500 and 600 mph records.

Unfortunately the area has also been exploited for its mineral riches for many years, with out due regard for the destructive impact of the extraction of some minerals from the salt deposit, and no continuing effort to mitigate these damages through sustainable management practices of the mining operations. Currently the primary mineral harvest is potasium chloride (potash) from the salt deposit.

This extraction of potassium chloride is accomplished by pumping off brine from the shallow brine aquifer under the salt crust after it is collected in drainage ditches, and allowing the brine to concentrate due to evaporation in shallow evaporation ponds on the south side of I80.

When the brine concentration gets high enough the sodium chloride (table salt) in the brine falls out of solution and collects in the bottom of the evaporation ponds (it is considered a waste product for the potash production). Then the potassium rich brine is allowed to concentrate again in other ponds where eventually the postassium chloride also drops out of solution and it is harvested as a mineral resource. This has been going on for decades. The first mining leases were signed near the turn of the century. As a result millions of tons of sodium chloride salt have been slowly removed from the Bonneville International Speedway course and adjacent racing venues. In spite of the fact the Bonneville Salt Flats is designated as a historic site and it is required to be protected for future generations there has never been a manditory requirement that this waste salt be returned to the salt flats where it came from.

sunrise at the I-80 rest stop
Sunrise at the I-80 rest stop

This image copyright Larry Ledwick Black Horse Photo

Sunrise on the Flats with cloud deck
Sunrise on the Flats with cloud deck

This image copyright Larry Ledwick Black Horse Photo

Sunrise in the pits
Sunrise in the pits

This image copyright Larry Ledwick Black Horse Photo

Sun set at the Bend
Sun set at the Bend

This image copyright Larry Ledwick Black Horse Photo

Please see following pages for more information on salt conditions at Bonneville

Page 2 Salt Depletion and Thickness

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