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Flooded Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

This unique and stunning landscape attracts visitors from all over the world to experience the unforgettable 'mirror effect'

Flooded Bonneville Salt Flats
Flooded Bonneville Salt Flats
Flooded Bonneville Salt Flats

Approximately 15,000 years ago, there was an enormous lake that covered around two-thirds of Utah. Nowadays, it has completely dried up and turned into a vast salt carpet. Currently, its surface covers the area of 1,214 square km. It looks like a frozen lake covered with snow but only until the wet season. In winter and spring, namely November through May, the water collects on the surface of flats and creates a magical mirror effect.

In 1985 the Bonneville Salt Flats was designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, due to its unique geology and beauty. The surface breaks easily under the weight of a vehicle, especially during the wet season, when it becomes softer. There were accidents when drivers got stuck in the mud beneath the salt, some of those unfortunate accidents were lethal. That's the main drawback of the season—you can only walk across the flats, as vehicles aren't allowed to the area. Still, people come during wet months to see two skies, one above and the other beneath.

Also, note that in winter months the air temperature may easily drop below zero. Overnight stays are forbidden in the area, and campsites are available only on surrounding public lands.

Practical info

What is the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah?

The vast Bonneville Salt Flats area in Utah covers 1,214 square km. It has a barren, frozen surface that appears as a vast white plain within the desert topography. An enormous lake that once covered two-thirds of Utah's landmass created the flats around 15,000 years ago. Show more

When is the best time to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats?

From November through May, visitors can witness the magical 'mirror effect' on the Bonneville Salt Flats. During these winter and spring months, the wet season creates a layer of rainwater on the flat surface, offering a striking illusion of a reflection between the sky and the flat surface. However, with the temperature often below zero in the winter months, overnight stays in the area are impossible. Show more

How does the 'mirror effect' occur on the flats?

The 'mirror effect' on the Bonneville Salt Flats occurs during winter or spring, created by the wet season. When rainwater collects on the flat surface, the layer of water creates an illusion of a reflection between the sky and the surface's white layer of salt. It creates a surreal image unlike anything else available elsewhere on earth. Show more

Can vehicles be driven on the Bonneville Salt Flats during the wet season?

The fragile ecosystem of the Bonneville Salt Flats forbids vehicles from driving through its surface, including off-road vehicles, during the wet season. The surface becomes soft and hence easy to get stuck in. For geological significance and safety purposes, the BLM prohibits vehicle access to the Bonneville Salt Flats area. Show more

Are there any restrictions for visitors to the Bonneville Salt Flats?

Due to the ecosystem's fragile nature and geological significance, visitors to the Bonneville Salt Flats must adhere to regulations and guidelines set by the BLM. Camping is only allowed in surrounding public lands, and overnight stays on the flats are prohibited. Visitors are not allowed to disturb the flat surface or collect salt from the area. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin