Nevada History by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

Return to John's homepage
The Flattest Place on Earth

Wendover and the Bonneville Salt Flat
by John C. Evanoff
May, 2006

North of Ely on Highway Alternate 93 lies one of the most dangerous, unique and awesome places on the entire Earth. To get started, you might want to take a detour first to the Gosute Indian Reservation just across the Utah boarder just below Haystack Peak which stands more than 12,100 feet above the valley floor. If you are a birder and especially one who likes to watch migrations of hawks, eagles and falcons, this is the place you should go. Gold Hill and the surrounding mountains are a testament to the massive movement of granite upwards out of the Great Basin. For this reason, a host of birds make these hillsides and mountain ranges a stop on their way south during fall migration. Take some time and hike or ride your mountain bike into these surrounding areas and you will be forever grateful to me for giving you this information. I’ve seen dozens of raptors catching lift in the air currents at one time along certain western and eastern cliffs of the Antelope Range and around Dutch Mountain to the north of Gold Hill. Haystack Peak is a grand climb and well worth the effort if you have a couple days.

North on 93, past White Horse Pass, you begin to descend into a vast flat wasteland. There are roads that go off to the right into this area but instead, wait until you get to a small sign that says Blue Lakes about ten miles south of Wendover. The road ventures off into the salt marsh and you suddenly come upon some pools of steam. These lakes are deep, almost 100 feet in places and full of bass, crappie and sun fish. If you are an angler and you like to catch and release a lot of bass, this is the place. Also, if you are a scuba diver, take the time to search the depths of the biggest lake. It is used during the winter months as a testing area for deep water certification by Salt Lake City scuba instructors. The water is extremely clear and you’ll be in actual contact with the fish along the steep shores.

Wendover is a fast growing little town of casinos and hotels. Its very life exists because of gaming and its position on the boarder between Nevada and Salt Lake City and the rest of the many towns in Utah along the Wasatch Front. This makes it a busy weekend resort. What few people know about Wendover is its unique history in world events. World War II brought thousands of pilots and servicemen to the army air force field near the town to train for bombing and strafing runs in the Pacific war theatre. One of the most important trained groups was the crew of the B-29 SuperFortress Bomber named “Enola Gay,” the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The plane’s crew was put together and training began at this field before it left for Rota and Marcus Islands to train using heavy bombing ordinance for a month and then eventually drop the Little Boy Atomic Bomb device on Japan.

The museum at the Utah side of Wendover has much more about the air field, but it’s also distinctive in its enlightening picture of very fast and somewhat eccentric individuals. Just a few miles west of town, the Bonneville Salt Flat, one of Mother Nature’s most renowned areas, occupies your line of sight for many miles in every eastern direction. You can actually see the curve of the earth all the way to floating mountain in the distance and in the summer, thousands of people line its salty shores to watch hundreds of race drivers hit unbelievable speeds in pursuit of breaking records in many categories of vehicles. For a time, Bonneville was the fastest place on Earth with drivers moving across the flats in rocket cars exceeding 500 miles per hour. That distinction now belongs to the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, but still today, the salt flat is recognized as the fastest place on earth for certain other vehicles including motorcycles, piston driven autos and an array of other means of transportation.

My wife, Sharon and I used to take daily bicycle rides for ten miles or more on the paved section from town to the salt flat. The road and area was used as a scene in the sci-fi flick Independence Day. F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt flights are a constant exciting reminder of the area’s importance as a training center for pilots from Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah. Low level targeting shots are going on all the time in this area of the desert, so don’t be surprised when one of these extremely efficient fighting machines suddenly comes up behind you.

This barren salt flat was also a trail for many moving west in wagons in the early 1800’s. Hundreds of 49’ers and thousands of animals lost their lives attempting to cross this great plain of desolation, their only guide in some cases a mountain in the distance named Pilot Peak just to the north of Wendover. The top of Pilot Peak, at 10,716 feet can be seen all the way across the Great Salt Lake expanse and Kit Carson, the most notable guide and frontiersman of the period, climbed to the top to light a fire so that Charles Fremont could move his troop of men across the flats to the only clean running water for miles located at Peavine Creek.

The climb up Pilot Peak is extremely tough and you will need at least a day to get to the top and down in one piece. There are rocks as big as houses and loose shale in certain sections that make this ascent a hazardous climb and only for the more experienced and adventuresome backpacker. From the top, you can see the Silver Range to the southwest, the Thousand Springs area to the Northwest, the Grouse Creek Mountains to the North East and all the way to Tooele and the Dugway Military Proving Grounds to the South East. Many of the cliffs around the area are slanted into the sky at eerie positions and a camera is a must on these trips.

There are few places anywhere in the world that has darker nights than here. Except for some unusual lights and secret activities around Dugway, this area is an astronomer’s delight. So, if you have a big telescope with computer go-to capability which includes the ability to take you to thousands of objects in the sky with a click of a remote, you will be happily rewarded with clear seeing and great astroflicks. And if you don’t have a fancy scope, take out your binoculars and a chaise lounge or inflatable air mattress and look up at the dazzling blanket of stars and planets. You will be amazed at what you haven’t seen at night. Astronomy has always been a passion of mine and I’m still amazed at the sight of the heavens under clear dark skies.

Make no mistakes when entering into this country. Don’t go without plenty of food, water and a reliable vehicle. Some of these roads are mere scratches in the dirt and need to be taken seriously. It’s important to have some method of communication with the outside world if possible and a good first aid kit. Also, some of this area is a major training and testing area for the military and government. To cross into a fenced area with signs that inform you of no trespassing is a federal crime punishable with fines and immediate prison time.

Next month, we will venture northwest to Montello and further north to Jackpot into the Jarbidge Wilderness. I tell you now, if we can save this wonderful area for our children’s children and those beyond, we will be doing a great service for all mankind, for this is truly awesome territory. The visit will begin with some of these natural wonders in the next month.


| Home | Shows | Events | Special Events | Hotels & Casinos | Wedding Chapels | Restaurants | John Evanoff's Nevada | Free Coupons | Reno Business Listings | Message Board | Virginia City | Attractions | Free Activities | Art Galleries | BJ Loss Minimizer | Helpful Links | Tipping Guide | Taxis and Limos | Reno's Parks | Golf Courses | RV Parks | Reno Entertainers | Reno's Bus Service | Senior Services | Local Reno Artists | Downtown Casino Map | Lawyers & Legal | Bars & Clubs | Day Spas & Health Clubs | Website Design
All content on this site © VisitReno.com, 2017
and may be used with permission.
~ Site designed and maintained by John Muller 775-829-8425 ~

Web hosting by ActionWeb.com