Desert Design Lab
interacting with the Bonneville Salt Flats

"Researchers have determined that primitive people lived [in the Salt Flats] more than 10,000 years ago at nearby Danger Cave. How did they live? Did the receding Lake Bonneville provide them with food and water? These questions have only been partially answered by archaeologists.


"Trapper and frontiersman Jedediah Smith crossed the Salt Flats while returning to Utah from an expedition to California in 1827. John C. Fremont and his U.S. government-sponsored expedition crossed through the heart of the Salt Flats in 1845 while trying to find a shorter overland route to the Pacific Ocean. The next year Fremont's route across the flats would come to be known as the Hastings Cutoff as part of the California Trail. Promoted by Lansford Hastings as a faster, easier route to California, Hastings Cutoff proved to be just the opposite for the Donner-Reed party of 1846. The party's infamous winter survival was partly necessitated by the delay the emigrants experienced while crossing the Salt Flats when their wagons became mired in the mud found just below the salt crust. Artifacts from the Donner-Reed Party and other emigrants who crossed the trail are on display in the Donner-Reed Museum in Grantsville."—Bureau of Land Management