Monday, April 11, 2011

Salt from Bonneville Salt Flats

Bonneville Salt Flats looking north toward the Silver Island Mountains and Floating Island (small and to the right).

While on our recent trip to Ogden, Utah, MOH and I stopped at the northern of two view-oriented rest stops located on I-80 near the Salduro railroad siding about 8 miles east of the Utah-Nevada border (MSRMaps location). Both rest stops provide good viewing of the Bonneville Salt Flats. From the northern rest stop parking lot you can walk out onto the flats, or at least to the edge of the flats, depending on water level or dryness.

I didn't walk out very far, just to water's edge. A few other people were out a little farther; someone was collecting salt in large bags, probably for personal use.
A chunk of salt in its native habitat.
MOH brought a small piece of salt home, to add to our mostly unlabeled mineral collection. This is the side with the largest crystals.
Side view of same salt chunk.
View of the opposite side. One of the two sides had encrusted a surface of some kind; I'm not really sure which side was up and which was down.
Salt, more properly known as halite or NaCl, is a cubic mineral.
Cubes on top of cubes.
Tiny cubes.
More cubes.

Halite is a relatively soft mineral with a Mohs Hardness of 2½, meaning that it's barely not scratchable with your fingernail (which is also 2½), but it can be scratched by almost anything else, including a copper penny, a knife, a piece of glass, and steel. Halite tastes salty (surprise!), but not as bitter as the related potassium salt, sylvite (KCl).

Potash (mostly KCl) is mined from the Bonneville Salt Flats, as is magnesium chloride brine, which is used to produce magnesium metal and chlorine gas (for various purposes), and magnesium chloride, which is used as a dust suppressant on dirt roads and for other products.

A Few Links:
Mineral production from the Great Salt Lake

Mining and land speed records come together at Bonneville Salt Flats

View halite with a petrographic scope at Life in Plane Light


Gaelyn said...

Nice to collect salt in it's natural form. Love the crystal form.

Jazinator said...

I didn't know you were headed through here. You drove within 3 miles of my house probably. Nice salt pics, I love traveling out there.

Silver Fox said...

Jim, I really hadn't placed your location in my mind - as was true for a nearby (as it turns out) H.S. friend.

There's a lot of neat stuff to see out there, so we maybe we'll make another trip sometime. (I usually avoid big cities.)

Silver Fox said...

Gaelyn, the salt seems nice and tasty (but salt always is) and it's coarse and crunchy. We aren't eating ours - it would be pretty time intensive to collect for personal use, and you'd have to hit the flats after the winter water goes off most years.

Jazinator said...

I have a similar problem whereever I go. Yea there is a ton to do out here. Trilobites, geodes, salt flats. We definitly have a fair share of geologicial wonders.