Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Visiting Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty

A ghostly Spiral Jetty is visible just below the surface.

I recently got the chance to visit one of the most famous earthwork sculptures in the world, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty. Built in 1970 on the northern edge of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the 1500 foot spiral of black basalt rock had been underwater for most of it's existence until five consecutive years of drought uncovered it in 2004. I was excited to see it when we made plans  to visit earlier this summer. Last winter was the wettest in thirty years and I feared it may again be underwater.

The Spiral Jetty as it appeared during the dry years

This proved to be the case as it is once again about two feet under the briny lake surface. Nevertheless, it is still visible, especially if you hike up to the top of the overlooking hill. For me, seeing an iconic piece of art for the first time in person is always an interesting experience. Sometimes a painting is smaller or bigger than the pictures, sometimes the emotion of seeing a work in the flesh is surprising. With the Spiral Jetty, I admit I was initially a little disappointed- mostly because it was under water. But the more time I spent there and after climbing the rise above, I began to appreciate more Smithson's vision.

some sort of red algae was blooming the day we visited

It was truly a unique feeling to gaze out across the water and see the shadowy spiral just under the surface. It was a one of a kind experience. Now that I have seen it, I will be waiting for the lake to drop back down so I can get the "out of water" experience as well.



The Spiral Jetty is very remote and nobody finds it by accident. It requires a very deliberate trip to arrive there. It took us about an hour driving from Brigham City to arrive at the Golden Spike National Historic Site and from there it is another bumpy 16 mile drive drive along gravel roads to arrive at the Jetty. The day we went the roads were dry and very passable for passenger cars, though in wet weather a four wheel drive may be warranted.

More photos, a trip review and driving directions to the Spiral Jetty on Art Wife Needs a Life

If you go, be sure to see the Golden Spike site as well. See a nice review on Art Wife Needs A Life. It is well worth the time

Additional driving instructions  to the Spiral Jetty can be found here.

3 comments:

Rob Colvin said...

We had to make the trip to the Golden Spike Monument for my daughters Utah history class once. After the long drive, no one else in the family would support me in the decision to drive 16 more miles to see Spiral Jetty. My life is not yet complete!

Greg Newbold said...

It's a bit of a trek, but I am really glad we went. If you ask at the Golden Spike, they will pull out a map and show you exactly how to get there, but it really is hard to get lost if you follow the signs. I'd go out there again with you sometime if you wanted.

Amy said...

This was worth the trip! Everything I read said the road was 4wd, but we didn't have any trouble in good weather with a passenger vehicle. I would go again!