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A Failed Attempt at Finding the Spiral Jetty Leads to Helpful Tips for a Successful Jetty Jaunt

I was hesitant to write this post, as it means confessing that I attempted the pilgrimage to Robert Smithson’s sublime earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) and failed. It still hurts to admit it. With failure comes opportunity — this is what I’m telling myself — and I’ve decided to share what I learned on my foiled […]

I was hesitant to write this post, as it means confessing that I attempted the pilgrimage to Robert Smithson’s sublime earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) and failed. It still hurts to admit it.

With failure comes opportunity — this is what I’m telling myself — and I’ve decided to share what I learned on my foiled trek to the Spiral Jetty, so that your path, should you choose to seek the work, is clearer.

If you follow the Dia Art Foundation’s driving instructions, please note that the first directive is incorrect. If you’re traveling from Salt Lake City you’re looking for exit 365 and NOT exit 368, which doesn’t exist. To my knowledge the remaining directions given by Dia are correct and I wish I had trusted them. They’re more akin to prose than driving instructions, but are probably the best resource available.

Even the park service employee at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which you pass on your way to the Spiral Jetty, didn’t have useful information for Spiral Jetty seekers. I believe her response to my request for directions was, “ Take a left at the first fork, a right at the second fork and then it’s somewhere beyond that second fork. No one’s ever come back to tell me if they found it, so good luck.” Great.

In addition to Dia’s instructions, here are a few tips that should ease your journey:

  • I normally don’t encourage people to drive 4-wheel drive high-clearance vehicles; however, you will potentially destroy the alignment of your Prius if you attempt to drive it on the lake shore “ road,” which is the last leg of your journey. You really need a vehicle that can aptly handle deep mud, large rocks and encroaching scrub brush. This is not your typical dirt road. It’s treacherous.
  • Once you reach the jetty shown below DO NOT STOP. Here is where I made my mistake. I didn’t follow my gut, which was telling me that this jetty, created in the 1920s to assist in oil exploration, didn’t look right. Do not stand on the precarious mounts of basalt convincing yourself that you see a slight curve beginning way out in the lake. There is no curve and this is not the Jetty. It would be great if there were a physical sign driving this point home.

Wrong Jetty

  • Be prepared to hike. Dress warmly if it’s cold and dress sparsely if it’s warm. Bring water and wear shoes that can handle rugged terrain.
  • Download Google Earth, do a search for Spiral Jetty and carry this Google Earth satellite image with you, as it should show the poser jetty and the Sprial Jetty.

For a taste of what it might be like to make a successful pilgrimage to Smithson’s work, check out the following video: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNrorfUNrdE[/youtube]

The Walker has several Smithson works in its collection such as Leaning Strata (1968) and a film from the Ruben Film/Video Study Collection, directed by Robert Smithson, which looks at the conception and execution of Spiral Jetty.

In the news talks are intensifying over whether oil drilling will be allowed across the lake from Spiral Jetty. Here’s the latest in an article by Kirk Johnson for the New York Times dated March 27, 2008.

The future of the Spiral Jetty’s remote home is up in the air. It would seem there is no place too remote for industry to come knocking.

  • Chad Freeburg says:

    The video was nice to see, since we didn’t quite make it to the Spiral Jetty! The background music used in the video is “Hello Tomorrow,” a song written by Karen O. (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Squeak E. Clean. It was used for an creative Adidas commercial a few years ago but I like it better here. Just some mindless trivia.

  • Check out Jeffrey Kastner’s “Entropy and the New Monument: on the Future of the Spiral Jetty” in the April issue of ArtForum for an in-depth discussion on the environmental implications of oil drilling in the Great Salt Lake and a look at aging Land art and the stewardship necessary for its survival.

  • Sarah says:

    thanks for posting my video! :D

    Sarah

  • james_b_wads2000 says:

    These are the best directions around complete with maps and GPS coords:

    http://www.climb-utah.com/WM/spiraljetty.htm

    James