The salt flats were formed as ancient Lake Bonneville slowly evaporated and deposited concentrations of salt onto this playa. Shorelines carved into the mountainsides are visible to the north along the Silver Island range and extend to the Salt Lake Valley. Named after Captain B.L. Bonneville, an early military explorer of the West, the salt flats measure over 44,000 acres and are primarily Public Lands.
Historically, the flats have impeded man's movements westward. Early traders like Jedediah Smith and John Fremont crossed the vast saline plains only to return with awesome stories of the salt's harshness. In 1846, the Donner Reed party lost animals, wagons and valuable time on the salt. These losses contributed to their late arrival and subsequent disaster in the snowy Sierra-Nevada Mountains. The flats potential for racing was first recognized in 1896 by W.D. Rishel, who attempted to organize a carriage and bike race. He convinced Ferg Johnson to test drive his Packard here in 1911. In 1914 Teddy Tetzlaff reached 141 mph in his Blitzen Benz. Succeeding years saw many attempts to set faster record. In 1940 Ab Jenkins set 81 new speed records in his Mormon Meteor III, including a 24-hour endurance record of 161 mph. Jet and rocket cars appeared in the 1960's and exceeded the 500 and 600 mph marks.
The speedway, 80 feet
wide and 10 miles long, is prepared by the Bureau of Land Management in the early summer. Speed trials are scheduled throughout the summer and fall. They end when rains cover the area with water. Caution: Salt crust may appear firm, but is often moist and unstable. Enjoy the area; please keep it clean.