From the Playa made famous by the annual Burning Man event, to our Valley of Fire, to our charcoal kilns used to propel Silver State mining pursuits, to our 300+ natural hot springs, Nevada is known for its impressive geology and otherworldly landscapes that in many cases, are better experienced than explained. As you make your way to the Silver State there’s yet another gotta-experience-it landscape at the world-renowned Bonneville Salt Flats. Straddling the Nevada-Utah state line, the Bonneville Salt Flats have been made famous as the location of many land speed records set at the Bonneville Speedway, and remains stunning if you’re road tripping your way to Nevada during Speed Week, or not.
Bonneville Salt Flats Become Famous
The Bonneville Salt Flats is an ancient dry lake bed of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, began forming at the end of the last Ice Age, and is known to be the largest of a series of salt flats on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake. The entire area is free public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), though people have been traveling across and recreating on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats for thousands of years.
By 1907, a couple of local businessmen test drove a Pierce-Arrow on the salt flats and by 1910, the first permanent railway stretched across the Bonneville Salt Flats. Since then, the Bonneville Salt Flats have been touted as one of the world’s premier land speed “racetracks” in the world. There are five major land speed racing events that happen here each year, including legendary Speed Week. The first land speed record was set during races at Bonneville in 1914, and the current Bonneville Salt Flats racing events welcome cars, trucks and motorcycles as they race to set the highest speed achieved by a person using a vehicle on land.
Land Speed Records
Between the Bonneville Salt Flats and Black Rock Desert, some of the world’s fastest ever land speed records have been set in the Great Basin Desert. The fastest ever land speed record set at Bonneville took place in 1947, that included the first single pass at over 400 mph, and after the introduction of jet and rocket propulsion became officially accepted as part of land speed regulations, was set at 622 mph in 1970. The world’s fastest land speed record took place on the Black Rock Desert in 1997 at an impressive 763 mph.
Visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats Today
Anyone can easily drive on the Bonneville Flats Speedway using just about any type of vehicle. When visiting, be sure to swing by the Speed Way Cafe and Truck Stop, where you can get your hands on Speed Week swag and other souvenir’s to commemorate your time of this world-famous landscape.
Just like the Black Rock Desert Playa, no driving is allowed on the Bonneville Salt Flats when the surface is wet or flooded, as vehicles can easily damage the salt crust and become stuck in the underlying mud. No overnight camping on the Salt Flats is allowed. There is camping available on the outskirts of the Salt Flats in a marked campground just past the turnoff to the Bonneville Speedway, or better yet, overnight it in West Wendover where you can bask in fine dining, live entertainment at the Peppermill Concert Hall, luxury suites and beyond.