The Spiral Jetty In the Great Salt Lake in Utah

5/12/2010 11:09:00 AM ·

Several years ago, I visited a friend that had moved to Salt Lake City with her family. I was quite young at the time, and my idea of a perfect vacation was shopping at the outlets and trekking through the canyons. However, I did happen to miss the Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson in the Great Salt Lake that was designed in the 1970's. I'm not sure I could have appreciated it as much then as I do now.

I was introduced to the Spiral Jetty in my geology class, not much as a geological phenomenon, but as an example of the types of sediments in the surrounding Great Salt Lake area. The jetty itself was constructed by moving basalt rocks, salt crystals, mud, and water into a 1500 foot long spiraling platform. The jetty, however, can not be accessed unless the water in the Great Salt Lake drops below a certain elevation.

According to Smithson, he built the Spiral Jetty close to Rozel Point due to the red hue of the waters, a blood red to be in fact. Similarly to the Mammoth Hot Springs, which have separate cells that contain algae and bacteria that add to the orange and yellow hues of the outer cell coating, the bacteria in the Great Salt Lake perform in the same manor.

Movement of the material was made possible by a $9000 grant and contractor Bob Phillips, who used 2 dump trunks, a large tractor, and a front end loader that hauled over 6000 tons of rocks and material.

The Spiral Jetty was completed in only 6 days. Unfortunately, three years later Smithson died in a plane crash in Texas.

Today, the Spiral Jetty is owned by the Dia Art Foundation in New York who acquired the jetty from Smithson's estate in 1999.

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