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Salt Lake City
We woke to the pitter-patter of raindrops, which continued on and off all morning. Ben and I spent some time this morning posting our story for Day 2 of this journey. We have a good Wi-Fi connection at this campground, and I don’t want to have the un-chronicled days stack up too much.
We all seem to have settled into a good traveling rhythm now.
The children rode their bicycles around the campsite area while Ben and I did the breakfast dishes and got ready.
The campgrounds are next to a river and a large park, with miles of bicycle trails. We set off on a family bike ride.
Another parent at the campground had told us that there was a great children’s playground nearby, so that was our first stop. The children had a lot of fun.
The playground equipment had some different features, such as these “beds” and a twisted ladder.
We rode the bicycle path along the river.
We saw these ducks:
The bike path had bridges that crossed over the river every so often.
Next to the state fairgrounds, we passed by two female geese and a baby chick:
We rode quite a few miles along the paths and the bridges.
At the end of our ride, we returned to the playground for some more fun.
Genevieve gets very carsick over twisty mountain roads, but she loves the spinners at parks. Just watching her spin makes me feel like I am turning green.
Sebastian enjoyed the “bowl” spinner:
There was an unusual donut-shaped spinning device, and it took us a while to figure out the best way for the kids to stay attached while being spun. Genevieve labeled it the “child flinger”.
On the ride back to the RV, Genevieve spied a mass of ants that we just had to investigate:
Before we left home, I had arranged for us to take an afternoon tour today of the Great Salt Lake and the Kennecott Copper Mine. A tour van picked us up at the campground.
Here is Genevieve on our walk to the pick-up spot:
Jon Olson was our tour guide, and we were joined by a family with two boys from Iowa, and a woman from Washington D.C.
A few miles from our freeway exit, we encountered traffic that was stopped.
We waited, but the traffic didn’t budge. Jon filled in the time with interesting tidbits about the Great Salt Lake. I learned that the Great Salt Lake is what remains from a huge freshwater lake, Bonneville Lake, that covered a large portion of Utah thousands of years ago. Bonneville Lake was very deep, and the present day Salt Lake City would have been 1000 feet under water. The Great Salt Lake does not have any outlets to the sea. Rivers and streams that flow into the lake bring salt and other minerals; when the water in the lake evaporates, the concentration of salt and minerals increases. Approximately 2 million tons of salt and minerals are extracted from the lake each year. The quality of the salt, however, is not pure enough to eat.
Jon showed us a bottle of water from the Great Salt Lake, along with another bottle showing how much salt would be left if the liquid from the first bottle were to be evaporated.
As we were waiting, Ben used his cell phone to access the internet, and we learned that there was a tragic traffic accident, involving a fatality and serious injuries, far ahead and that the freeway was temporarily closed. We had been waiting for over an hour, so we got out of the van and walked around.
The traffic stretched ahead and behind as far as we could see:
Eventually the traffic started inching forward, and we could see part of the lake with Antelope Island rising above it. Antelope Island is a large island that has a population of antelope and buffalo.
We finally reached the exit to the lake. Hurrah!
The path down to the lake:
Genevieve was the first one down the path:
We had to touch the water to see what it felt like:
It was COLD!
The lake is approximately 75 miles long and 25 miles wide.
Jon told us that the railroad company had built a track across the middle of the lake, bisecting it into a northern section and southern section. The track used to have a wooden causeway, but then it was changed to an earth causeway. The earth causeway prevents the water from flowing between the north and south. Since most of the fresh water rivers empty into the southern portion, diluting the salt water there, the northern portion of the lake is much more salty.
The salinity of the lower portion of the lake is 12% (compared to 3% for the ocean). When I initially made this tour reservation, I had pictured a hot day with the possibility of floating in the water. Not only was the lake water cold, but there was a ferocious wind. The joyful experience of floating like a cork would have to wait.
We still had a good time exploring. Here is our family:
We watched the seagulls flying:
Then the children went “flying” from rock to rock:
Another fun activity for the kids was catching some “brine shrimp.” The Great Salt Lake is too salty for fish to survive in it. However, there are hoards of tiny creatures called “brine shrimp”.
The eggs of the brine shrimp are harvested and packaged into children’s kits on making “sea monkeys.” At the lake, Genevieve and Sebastian (as well as the two boys on our tour) had fun scooping up large amounts of brine shrimp into a clear plastic cup.
In this photo of Genevieve running, you can see a smokestack in the background.
The smokestack, which is taller than the Empire State Building, belongs to a smelter from the Kennecott Copper Mine (which we were going to visit next).
The smelter is supposed to have the cleanest emissions in the world. However, on the shores of the lake, I could still smell the putrid odor of sulfur from the smelter.
When Jon was growing up in Salt Lake City, the smelter had two smokestacks that belched huge dark clouds of toxic gas (sulfur dioxide) into the environment, killing all of the plant life on the northern side of the adjacent mountain.
Next to the smelter were long and tall stretches of pilings, which are waste materials left over after the copper and minerals are extracted during the smeltering process. In the photo below, the pilings are that large band of tan/grey that starts half way down the photo.
We loaded back into the van and headed for the Kennecott Copper Mine, the largest open pit mine in the world. The mine is a registered National Historic Landmark. Copper is one of the oldest used metals. It is alloyed with tin to make bronze, and alloyed with zinc to make brass.
On the way to the mine, we passed a long row of train cars carrying sulfuric acid from the smelter.
The “C” on this hill stands for “Cyprus”. Many of the mine workers came from the Greek island of Cyprus, where ancient people mined copper. In fact, the word “copper” comes from “kyprios”, which is the Greek word for the island of Cyprus.
We passed this interesting barn and home on the way:
We approached the mine and could see the tall heaps of “overburden.” Only about 1/3 of the material extracted from the earth contains minerals or other useful substances; the remaining 2/3 is deposited into “overburden dumps”, which look like long barren hills with flat tops.
On the outskirts of the mine we caught our first view of the gigantic dump trucks that transport overburden and ore around the mine. Each truck can carry around 300 tons in a load.
We stopped at the visitor’s center.
There was an actual tire from one of the trucks, which gave perspective to the size of the vehicle:
We also stood in amazement, looking at the pit and watching the activity below. The Kennecott Copper Mine pit was humongous--2 ¾ miles across and ¾ mile deep. It is hard to capture the size in a photograph, and it is even difficult to judge the size from the viewing platform.
Sebastian pretended that he was a robot with the magnifying machine:
Ben took a lot of great photographs:
Inside the visitor’s center we watched a short movie about the history of the mine. The movie contained a lot of public relations material promoting all of the benefits of the Kennecott Copper Mine to the community of Salt Lake City.
The visitor’s center also had many exhibits about the history of the mine. I learned that the mine has operated for over 100 years. In 1906, this large open pit was actually a tall mountain. The most shocking exhibit were the series of three-dimensional geographical models showing how the mining area transformed from a mountain into a deep pit that will grow another 500 feet downward over the next six years.
Currently, the mine produces about 150,000 tons of copper ore and 330 tons of overburden every day. A ton of ore only contains about 10.6 pounds of copper.
During the electrolysis process of copper extraction, bits of gold and silver are also isolated. The mine produces 500,000 ounces of gold each year, and is the second largest gold producer in the world.
When I asked Genevieve what she thought of the tour, she said that the tour was “very interesting”, “fun”, and “it taught me a lot.”
Ben said that the tour was very “eye opening” and that he “was blown away at the scale of the mine.”
Sebastian said that he really “liked the scenery inside the mine.”
All in all, the tour was a fun and educational experience for our family.
On the drive back to the RV park, we could see the Salt Lake City skyline in the distance:
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