The Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely-packed salt pan in northwestern Utah that is a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. It is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake, is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and is known for land speed records at the “Bonneville Speedway”.
The area was named after Benjamin Bonneville, a U.S. Army officer who explored the Intermountain West in the 1830s. In 1907 Bill Rishel and two local businessmen tested the suitability of the salt for driving on by taking a Pierce-Arrow onto the surface of the flats. A railway line across the Bonneville Salt Flats was completed in 1910, marking the first permanent crossing. The first land speed record was in 1914 by Teddy Tetzlaff.
Movies filmed at the salt flats include portions of Warlock, Independence Day, SLC Punk, Cremaster 2 from Cremaster Cycle, The Brown Bunny, The World’s Fastest Indian, Gerry, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. In addition, the Pontiac Bonneville, former flagship sedan of the Pontiac motor division, the Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, and the Bonneville International media company, are named after the salt flats.*
Bonneville Speedway is an area of the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah, that is marked out for motorsports. It is particularly noted as the venue for numerous land speed records. The salt flats were first used for motorsports in 1912 but didn’t become truly popular until the 1930s when Ab Jenkins and Sir Malcolm Campbell competed to set land speed records.*
Events & Meetings
In August, the Southern California Timing Association and Bonneville Nationals Inc. organize SpeedWeek, the largest meet of the year, which attracts several hundred drivers who compete to set the highest speed in a range of categories.
In late August, the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials are held.
In September each year is the World of Speed, (similar to Speedweek) organized by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association. The USFRA also meets on the first Wednesday of each month throughout the summer.
In October, the Southern California Timing Association puts on World Finals, a scaled-down version of SpeedWeek.
Each year, there are usually a few private meets that are not publicized scattered between the larger public meets.*