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Sugar House Journal

Off the beaten path – wildlife, history and art up north

Aug 01, 2018 11h57 ● By Jana Klopsch

The Spiral Jetty earthwork art in the Great Salt Lake. (Lori Gillespie/City Journals)

By Lori Gillespie | [email protected] 

As the summer wanes and boredom sets in, get up early, pack a lunch and load your friends or family into the car and head northbound on I-15. You can spend the whole day enjoying nature, outdoor art and historic sites just a few hours away from the Salt Lake valley. 

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Located on the northeast edge of The Great Salt Lake, near Brigham City, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a stunning place to visit. The Wildlife Education Center is a great place to learn about why this space attracts so many birds each year. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday. But the true gem of this refuge is the 12-mile auto tour loop, which is open daily, sunrise to sunset. The loop takes you through the marshes and grasslands at the end of the Bear River and the beginning of the Great Salt Lake. Fall migrations start in July and peak in August, but any season offers something new and exciting to see. It also offers some great photo opportunities.

Stop often, get out and soak in the majesty of this place. More than 200 bird species stop here on their way north or south each year, so you are likely to see a bird you’ve never seen before. Don’t forget your binoculars.

Go to the “plan your visit” tab at to find more about the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. 

Golden Spike National Monument

Next stop on the day trip is Golden Spike National Monument. This historic spot is where the transcontinental railroad met in 1869. If you are a train buff, know a train buff, or just curious about national and Utah history, Golden Spike is a place to visit. Located about 30 miles northwest of Brigham City, the monument center is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. except a few holidays listed on the website. While at the center you’ll learn the history of the Transcontinental Railroad, watch a film and visit the site that the golden spike was laid. In addition to the visitor’s center, the site contains a 15-mile segment of the original Transcontinental Railroad, and can be seen as part of the auto tour.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, volunteers reenact the Driving of the Last Spike Site ceremony. Visitors are invited to get up close to the replica engines used in the reenactment and ask questions of the knowledgeable volunteers. In fact, the site is planning a celebration for the Transcontinental Railroad Sesquicentennial on May 10, 2019. Information on that event and all other events can be found on the National Park Service website at 

Spiral Jetty

Luckily, right outside the entrance to the Golden Spike National Monument, is the road that will lead you to the Spiral Jetty. Driving southwest on North Golden Spike Road, go until you hit the fork in the road and continue south. The travel becomes much slower on the narrow dirt road, and you may often wonder if you are still going the right way. The travel is approximately 16 miles, but when you finally take the curve and see the Great Salt Lake you forget about the bumps and dirt. 

The Spiral Jetty was constructed by Robert Smithson in 1970 and two years after it was built, it was submerged underwater for 30 years. Re-emerging in 2002 when water levels in the Great Salt Lake receded, it has been a pilgrimage spot since.

The earthwork sculpture was constructed by using natural materials found near the site. Basalt rocks form the structure of the Jetty that extends 1,500 feet into the Great Salt Lake. You can walk around the Spiral Jetty, marvel in the scope of the structure, and capture some beautiful images as the water glimmers an unusual shade of pink in the distance. As you walk out past the Jetty, you will feel like you’ve been transported to another planet. The views are spectacular and serene.

The Jetty is located in the Great Salt Lake, but is surrounded by private land, so please be respectful of your surroundings. Visit to find more info on the Spiral Jetty.