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Monday, February 27, 2012

Visiting The Sun Tunnels

I just returned from a visit to the Sun Tunnels, a funky artistic work out in the middle of nowhere, just west of the Bonneville Salt Flats. The tunnels are large concrete tubes positioned so they align with the sun - two tubes line up with the rising or setting sun during the summer solstice, two line up for the winter event.

Utahns in general are not aware of the Sun Tunnels - they are not a local attraction. But there are people who seek out this kind of art and the tunnels are visited by people from around the county - even some from around the world.

Each tube is 9 feet high and 18 feet long. They contain holes drilled in patterns depicting some star constellations. They were created by artist Nancy Holt in 1976.

The tunnels are located near the Utah/Nevada line about 45 miles north of Wendover. If you want to see them drive I-80 to the Wendover area and then take Exit 4 for the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway. The road heads north on the edge of the Salt Flats. Follow it for about a half mile, to the point where the main road takes a sharp turn to the right. A road signed as the "TL Bar Ranch Road" forks left at that point.

Zero your odometer and follow the TL Bar Ranch Road north for 45.5 miles. The road is paved for the first few miles. It then turns into washboardy gravel and then dirt. It is graded and you can usually drive it in a family car. However, during storms it may become muddy and travel may be difficult.

The area gets light snow. I visited during late February and the road was dry and in good condition.

The road crosses Leppy Pass and then descends into a large valley. It crosses the eastern foothills of Pilot Peak and then passes the TL Bar Ranch. The ranch is a prominent landmark and easy to identify. You will also see a few other ranches but in general the area is very remote. I did not see another vehicle during my entire trip.

At about 45.5 miles you will see a dirt road that heads right. From that point you can see the tunnels down in the valley, if you look closely. Turn right onto that road and follow it for about 2 miles, then turn right again and follow a spur road to the tunnels.

The most popular time to visit the tunnels is during a solstice - at that time there may b e a small crowd. The area will probably be deserted during other times of the year.

There are no services or facilities at the tunnels or anywhere along the TL Bar Ranch Road. Top off your gas tank before heading up the road. Carry emergency equipment, food and water. During summer the area gets quite hot. During winter days may be mild but nights are bitterly cold.

The Great Basin desert is uniquely beautiful in this area. You'll see rolling hills and distant mountains, with cattle grazing in open rangeland. I enjoyed my visit.

- Dave Webb


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