Photo by Bernard Van Ginkel

Known mostly for its high saline content, brine shrimp and flies, it may come as a surprise that the Great Salt Lake is home to a monumental, world renowned sculpture. Not the kind of artwork you will find in a museum however, but art non-the-less. Located at Rozel Point on the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake, the Spiral Jetty is a stunning surprise, well worth the two-hour drive from Salt Lake City.

In 1970, Robert Smithson created this coiling curiosity of organic materials: large basalt boulders, mud and salty water were purposefully combined to form an enigmatic landscape feature. Snowmelt determines yearly water levels and as the lake waxes and wanes the swirl is revealed or hidden. This elusive quality adds to the enigma. The Spiral Jetty is currently exposed in all its quirky glory.

Over time, salt crystals have formed on the basalt, turning the black rock a sparkling white, in striking contrast to the pink hued lake. The spiral loops counterclockwise from the lakeshore, gracefully turning inward. Walk the jetty’s 1,500-foot length, balancing your way to the center. A prescribed form surrounded by sky, lake and mountain, the Spiral Jetty seems both natural and alien to the landscape.


Photo by Kirk Marshall

Head across the mud flats toward the lake for the illusion you are walking on water, so brilliant is the reflection from the sky. The lake is so shallow here, and you can venture far from the terraced bank. Mud sucks at your shoes, crazy salt crystals poke out of the slime; you truly are immersed in the landscape.

Bring your camera, curiosity, water, towels, and a picnic. Prepare to ponder Smithson’s masterpiece. As it should be on every Utahns’ bucket list, seize a sunny day and take the drive. You might want to stay for sunset. Oh, by the way, the Spiral Jetty is sinking into the lakebed. Catch it while you can.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is offering a quartet of exhibits on the strange land that surrounds us here in Utah, including JG, a film by Tacita Dean exploring three artists’ thoughts on time, space and the Spiral Jetty from Jan. 24–May 4. Click here for more info.

Detailed driving directions available at spiraljetty.org.