The Spiral Jetty is a place I had heard of multiple times over the years of living here in Utah.We have lived here almost 9 years to be exact and still hadnt been.
What is this place all about?
It is a 1,500 foot long , 15 ft wide spiral sculpture built right on The northeastern shore of The Great Salt Lake. It is a spiral made up of black basalt rock. As of March 2017 it has been considered an official state work of art.
See all the white in that photo? It's not snow, or sand. It is salt. From a distance it looks white. Up close there are sections with little bits of water and wet salt that looks completely pink.
Coolest experience to walk around on these salt flats. Like a whole different world. At first it was visible when created by American sculpture Robert Smithson, then soon after it was not visible because of water levels for many years. Most recently , the water levels have been low enough you can see all of it most of the year. (The visit I talk about in this post we took late August 2018)
Where is it?
It is completely out in the middle of nowhere. Closest town is Corinne Utah. This is where you will want to be sure to make sure you gas tank is full. It is about a 2 1/2 hour drive north of Salt Lake City. The drive there after Corinne will have no gas stations or places with food. You can stop at The Golden Spike National Historic site for restrooms and water fountains.
To visit The Golden spike it is $10 a car, (or show them your annual National Parks America the beautiful pass) to use the restrooms and water you wont need to pay. Only if you plan to go see The Golden Spike also. (Might as well while you are there. A pretty neat piece of American history is there. Plus, if you have kids with you, they will love seeing the trains! More on that fun place in another post.)
After you stop at your last restroom stop at The Golden Spike it is about 20 miles until you get to The Spiral Jetty. You can go in a car without 4wd but.... you may enjoy those 20 miles better in one. haha I drove out there with a friend of mine. Each of us had our kids in the vans. not mini vans. 15 passenger vans. It is a graded gravel road. The drive was so bumpy (yes, tiny little bumps. think graded as in what they do before they pave a road.) I was not able to drive very fast at all because it just wasn't safe in my big van. This made for a very long drive.
The kids and I had a great time. We laughed alot. I could not believe how crazy we were to make this trip out there only to be stuck going 5-10mph sometimes because my huge van shook violently if we drove any faster. We laughed pretty hard. To say that drive felt like it was taking forever is an understatement. haha Thankfully, I was able to drive faster in different parts.Next time I would opt for two smaller cars or suv's before driving the huge van on that road again.
Follow directions from the paper you can get from The Golden Spike visitor center. Our gps maps were jumping us all over the place. We could have easily gotten lost. Once out at the jetty there was no cell service on our phones. There is a small parking lot and a monument marker up on a little hill.
Is it handicap accessible?
Mostly it is not. Yes, you can see it from your car parking lot (and could easily enjoy the views in a camping chair or wheel chair, but if you want to go down to the salt flats there is a hill of rocks you have to hike past to get there. It isn't too steep, but it still could be difficult for anyone that has a hard time walking, or needs assistance. I try to keep an eye out for things like this as I am sure it is more helpful to know before you decide to go out.
What to bring?
First reminder, it it is remote. There is nothing out there. Be prepared. Pack your normal emergency preparedness things for remote travel. Emergency first aid kit, make sure your tires are good and you have a spare, sweaters (it can get cold out there at night) etc..
For your day trip with kids it should be a simple in and out after playing a couple hours but I always like to be extra prepared just in case.
Bring a friend! I cant stress this enough. I invited to friends to go who also were hosting an exchange student from Japan. I knew it would be a really neat field trip for our Japanese students to see and a fun outing for the rest of us too. I didn't want to be alone. Just in case if there were any issues, It's always good to not be the only adult around.
Bring plenty of food(we packed a lunch and extra snacks) and plenty of water. I do not mean bring just a full water bottle for each person.
When I say plenty of water, I suggest you bring way more than you think you will need. The extra water will help you clean your kids off before they get back into your car. If they are like any of the 16 kids we had with us (ranging in age 16yrs -baby) they will want to get muddy and play in the pink salt and absolutely awesome thick clay mud. (The clay mud worked just like pottery clay. It was so cool!)
I had 5 gallons of water (milk jugs cleaned out and filled with water), plus drinking water bottles. We used all of that water! I think I just purchased a huge pack of 24 water bottles for drinking. A sprayer would have been so nice! I wish I had a brand new, just for water one of these to clean my kids muddy hands, feet, legs, ok....... everything.
Hand towels to dry their hands and feet off.
Change of clothes for little ones who may not enjoy salt or mud for another 2 or more hours drive home.
Garbage bags. One for dirty clothes/shoes and one for any of your garbage. Pack it in, pack it out!
If you plan to dig for selenite, (Selenite crystals form naturally in the bed of the salt mud and is super fun to dig for.) bring some shovels and buckets. Your kids will love this part. This is when everyone, yes, even the teenagers, got down and dirty in the clay mud to dig for treasure. We came home with a fun little collection. The kids had a blast and after a while soon figured out where they are and how to find them pretty quickly.
Because of on going drout conditions it is not only visible but you can get out there and walk around. Water is at a historic low! We mostly played near the jetty but not on it or too close. It was fun to see but because it is art we stayed to the side and played on the salt flats.
On our way back home we stopped once again at the Golden spike site and had a fun time browsing the gift shop. Probably the most interesting selection of books on Utah that I've ever seen in one location. My kids loved seeing the trains! (I will link to the post about that HERE soon!)
Anything I wish I knew in advance or wish I brought?
I would have packed camping chairs. It would have been nice to have a place to sit and enjoy watching the kiddos dig, and snuggle the younger ones up on our laps as they got tired. The salt is a little jagged and pokey.
Garden boots not sneakers, would have been perfect for this outing. In fact rain boots , garden boots, etc.on all the kids would have made clean up so easy!
Garden gloves. The kind that stay dry in wet mud. I wanted to take photos but once I got my hands muddy it was near impossible cleaning them off to grab my phone again. Garden gloves would have been easier to take off to take pics and put back on to play in the salt and mud with the kids.
Overall, the kids loved the day trip to The Spiral Jetty and they loved finding selenite! The 3 of us moms who took the kids agree it was a fun successful field trip out. I would definitely go back and hope to again with my husband and more family when they come visit Utah again. I want to plan a star gazing/ night photography camping trip out there. It would be perfect place to view the stars with a great telescope. Next summers bucket list for sure!
Have you been to The Spiral Jetty? Did I miss anything you would like to share? Let me know in the comments below or on my Instagram photo about this trip! Also, did you go after reading this? Let me know how it went! I always love to hear feedback on how your experiences are. Have fun!
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