Did you know that Utah has a state “work of land art?”

As of 2017, the Spiral Jetty was given this official title.

The jetty was built in 1970 and is made entirely of basalt, an igneous rock that was formed by speedily cooling lava. Robert Smithson, the artist who created the jetty, chose to build it in the northern side of the Great Salt Lake because of the reddish color of the water. The high saline levels in the north side of the lake, coupled with unique bacteria and algae, cause the water to turn almost a blood-red shade.

I saw this for myself this June, and it was eerie! I couldn’t believe that the water could be such an interesting color.

Located at Rozel Point, the jetty is about 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide, according to utah.com. The rocks start going into the lake in a straight line, and then the line curves inward in on itself, forming a large spiral.

Depending on the water level of the Great Salt Lake, the work of art may or may not be visible. After the jetty was first built, it was submerged for 30 years! In 2002, the water levels receded due to drought and the rock sculpture was visible again. But because of the shallow nature of the lake, just a few inches of rainfall or runoff that collect could cause the jetty to be covered in water once more.

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Artist Smithson was born in 1938 in New Jersey. Smithson was a painter, a writer and a founder of the Land Art movement. He created many pieces of land art across the world, but Utah’s Spiral Jetty remains his most well-known project.

“The best sites for ‘earth art’ are sites that have been disrupted by industry, reckless urbanization, or nature’s own devastation,” Smithson once said.

The artist searched for locations that were interesting, not perfect. He died on July 20, 1973, in a plane crash in Texas; Smithson was looking for a new project site — he was only 35 years old.

The Spiral Jetty is preserved by the Dia Art Foundation of New York, and as a result, visitors can’t remove rocks from the piece of art. In addition, you can’t build fires or have fire pits on the beach near the jetty or in the parking lot.

To get to the Spiral Jetty, take Exit 365 (Corinne) and then follow the signs to the Golden Spike National Historical Park, about 20 miles away. Once you pass the national park, you’ll see some small white signs and those will take you to the Spiral Jetty. You drive 15 miles on a dirt road; the road isn’t very rough, it’s just gravel. My family went in our SUV and we didn’t use four-wheel drive.

When you are getting close, you’ll see an old oil jetty (not the spiral jetty) but the road will curve north and then you will end up in a parking lot that is located right above the Spiral Jetty. There are no picnic tables or restrooms at the site, but you are able to go out and walk on the art — just don’t remove or add rocks. There is also a trail you can hike up to get a better view of the jetty from a slightly higher angle.

My visit to the Spiral Jetty was very interesting! It was a lot different to see it in person rather than in a photo. I’d definitely recommend hiking the nearby hill. The jetty was smaller than I expected, however.

If you happen to visit the Golden Spike National Historical Park, you should make the trip out to the jetty, but I don’t know if I’d drive all that way just to see the jetty alone. However, I found the history behind this artwork very interesting, and the concept of land art is very unique.

Sara Tesch is a recent graduate of Roy High School. She enjoys playing tennis, traveling and chasing down the perfect photograph. Contact her at hatchtowngirl@gmail.com.

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