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Great Salt Lake Desert
Utahgeography.jpg
The desert's white salt is depicted in Utah's northwest.
Geography
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The Great Salt Lake Desert (locally known as the West Desert) is a large dry lake in northern Utah, United States, between the Great Salt Lake and the Nevada border. It's a subregion of the larger Great Basin Desert, and noted for white evaporite Lake Bonneville salt deposits including the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Description

MiddleSpring
Middle Spring in the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge at the northeast corner of the Fish Springs Range


Several small mountain ranges occupy the edges of the desert, such as the Cedar Mountains, Lakeside Mountains, Silver Island Mountains, Hogup Mountains, Grassy Mountains, and Newfoundland Mountains. On the western edge of the desert, just across the border in Nevada, stands Pilot Peak in the Pilot Range.

The desert is cool during the winter and includes unusual plants adapted to the dry conditions. Most of the desert receives less than 8 inches (200 mm) of annual precipitation. The salt crust covering the desert reforms each year when the rain evaporates. The military's Utah Test and Training Range is in the northern portion of the desert. The lowest part of Juab County is located just south of the Dugway Proving Grounds, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northwest of the northwest corner of the Fish Springs Range.

History

2015-11-03 07 22 33 View south across the Utah Test Range in the Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah from an airplane flying from Reno, Nevada to Salt Lake City, Utah
View of the desert from an airplane

During Jedediah Smith's 1826-27 expedition, Robert Evans died in the desert and in the 1840s, westward emigrants used the Hastings Cutoff through 130 miles (210 km) of Great Salt Lake desert to reduce the distance to California. The 1846 Donner Party's difficulties in making the crossing contributed to their becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Howard Stansbury explored the desert in 1849. In 1956, I-80 replaced the Wendover Cut-off across the desert, including a straight east–west section for ~50 miles (80 km) between the Cedar Mountains to the east and Wendover on the Utah/Nevada border. Following a railway completed across the desert's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1910, the flats were first used as a speedway in 1914. The world records for highest land speeds are regularly broken here.

Climate

The Great Salt Lake Desert experiences a desert climate with hot summers and cold winters. The desert is an excellent example of a cold desert climate. The desert's elevation, 4,250 feet above sea level, makes temperatures cooler than lower elevation deserts, such as the Mojave. Due to the high elevation and aridity, temperatures drop sharply after sunset. Summer nights are comfortably cool. Winter highs are generally above freezing, and winter nights are bitterly cold, with temperatures often dropping well below freezing.

Climate data for Knolls, Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah. (Elevation 4,250ft)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 63
(17.2)
63
(17.2)
79
(26.1)
87
(30.6)
98
(36.7)
104
(40)
106
(41.1)
103
(39.4)
99
(37.2)
89
(31.7)
71
(21.7)
66
(18.9)
106
(41.1)
Average high °F (°C) 36.5
(2.5)
41.4
(5.22)
54.4
(12.44)
62.3
(16.83)
72.3
(22.39)
83.5
(28.61)
92.8
(33.78)
90.9
(32.72)
80.0
(26.67)
64.3
(17.94)
46.5
(8.06)
36.5
(2.5)
63.4
(17.44)
Average low °F (°C) 16.9
(-8.39)
19.3
(-7.06)
29.1
(-1.61)
36.6
(2.56)
44.9
(7.17)
54.7
(12.61)
62.1
(16.72)
59.5
(15.28)
48.0
(8.89)
34.4
(1.33)
23.3
(-4.83)
14.5
(-9.72)
37.0
(2.78)
Record low °F (°C) −16
(-26.7)
−17
(-27.2)
−1
(-18.3)
14
(-10)
24
(-4.4)
35
(1.7)
43
(6.1)
39
(3.9)
25
(-3.9)
8
(-13.3)
−3
(-19.4)
−25
(-31.7)
−25
(-31.7)
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.61
(15.5)
0.46
(11.7)
0.91
(23.1)
1.01
(25.7)
1.23
(31.2)
0.68
(17.3)
0.36
(9.1)
0.31
(7.9)
0.56
(14.2)
0.77
(19.6)
0.61
(15.5)
0.38
(9.7)
7.88
(200.2)
Snowfall inches (cm) 0.3
(0.8)
0.1
(0.3)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0.1
(0.3)
0.5
(1.3)
Source: The Western Regional Climate Center
2014-06-29 16 44 42 Panorama of the Great Salt Lake Desert from Pilot Peak, Nevada
Great Salt Lake Desert as seen from Pilot Peak
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