American Roadtrip | Utah – Fossils Digs and Salt Flats

After an incredible time in South Dakota we were back on the road and heading towards Utah for some fossil digging and salt flats driving.

From Keystone in South Dakota we were in for another big day of driving mostly across the huge plains and prairies of Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah. The total was in fact 645 miles (1,032 km). After a full day of driving we arrived at our next Wyndham property, Days Inn by Wyndham Salt Lake City South (see our Wyndham Properties review here). Nothing to write home about but it was comfortable enough, we got a load of washing done using their washer and dryer (about $2 US/$2.90 NZD per machine) and the breakfast was satisfactory.

Utah has a rich dinosaur history so when Logan found a “dig your own fossils” that didn’t look too far from Salt Lake City we showed the boys and they were really interested. Once closer to the day we checked the driving distance to find it was actually three hours out of the city into what looked like the middle of nowhere. As the boys were already getting excited about the finding some fossils we had little choice but to load up Google Maps and head on out to U-Dig Fossils for one of their last days before they closed for the winter. After over two and a half hours Logan and I were beginning to wonder if we were actually in the right location or if this place actually existed. We hadn’t seen any signage or many other signs of life all the way out there and the fact that the road was called ‘Death Canyon Road’ didn’t help either; but we continued on and finally came across a small sign confirming we were in fact in the right place – thank goodness!! Heading to U Dig Fossils_Utah_AmericaWe continued on the gravel road and finally came to the quarry. As we knew we had at least three hours worth of driving afterwards we decided that a two-hour dig would be plenty for us. Braxton was free as children aged six and under are no charge when accompanied by a paying adult, children 7-16 years are $16 USD/$23.73 NZD and adults are $28 USD/$41.53 NZD (excluding taxes). However, we were in luck as it was the last week of their season so they had some discounts running and so for our two hours we paid a total of $57.35 USD /$85.05 NZD.

We were given a few instructions, saw the different species we could find, picked up a hammer and bucket and headed into the limestone shale. We were surprised to see another family coming back with their treasures, we weren’t the only ones who had ventured out this far.U Dig Fossils_Utah_AmericaAfter a couple of hours the boys picked out a few small, fossil trilobites to take with us and they were nicely polished up for us. In hindsight we probably didn’t really need to pay for both Logan and I to “dig” but nonetheless we had an interesting experience and the boys were very happy with their discoveries. And we saw yet another family arriving  as we were leaving. U Dig Fossils_Utah_America_1Back in the car and we were hoping to drive all the way through to Wendover, which was about four hours away, but we decided to just see how the drive went. After three hours on the road we were onto Interstate 80 heading towards Wendover and thought we would push on and go all the way. We started seeing huge salt piles and salt extracts on the sides on the road and then the incredible salt flats began. We saw numerous places where vehicles had gone straight off the Interstate to do a few skids and donuts as there were no barriers.Salt Lake City_Utah_AmericaWe were getting very close to Wendover but we suddenly became increasingly worried about the fuel gauge, it was very much a “will we or won’t we” make it situation and…….. we did not. Just 9 or so miles (15 kms) from the service station the car decided that there just wasn’t enough fuel to continue on. Thankfully we found a towing company in Wendover that could come out within about 15 minutes and bring us some fuel, although the $85 USD/$125 NZD cost certainly taught us a valuable lesson. So a little later than expected (and after a good fill up) we pulled into our accommodation for the night, Super 8 by Wyndham Wendover, just on the Utah side of the Utah/Nevada border.Roadtrip Map 2The next morning, before heading into neighbouring Nevada, we went back out to the Bonneville Salt Flats to see if we could do a little salt flats driving. Unfortunately the speedway area was now closed for the season and there was a little bit of water lying on top so we didn’t get to have our drive on this iconic location. However, it was still an incredible sight to see as they looked like they just went on forever and we got some stunning reflections.Bonneville Salt Flats_Utah_AmericaThe flats cover an area of around 30,000 acres/121 sq kms and it was fun to be able to see this amazing spot in the world, especially when there is a Kiwi connection. If you aren’t aware, the movie, The World’s Fastest Indian was the story of a great New Zealand legend by the name of Burt Munro. He spent years rebuilding a 1920 Indian motorcycle and was famous for setting an under-1,000 cc land speed world record, at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 at the age of 68. And his record still stands – fantastic!! Just like our time in Utah.

Average Daily Spend for 2 nights – $322.10 NZD ($34.60 over budget per day)

– Paula

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