Long before recorded history, thousands of years before native tribes called it home and settlers trekked across it in search of fame and fortune, much of the Great Basin between the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies was covered by water. If you were able to travel all the way back to the Jurassic Period,you would find Utah and most of the Midwest submerged beneath a saltwater ocean known to historians as the Sundance Sea. The parts of Utah not underwater resembled the Sahara Desert, sandy and barren. But over millions of years, climate change and a worldwide drop in sea levels eventually caused the Sundance to retreat to the north, replaced by a series of seas, lakes, rivers and swampy marshes that deposited layer after layer of mineral-rich sediment on top of the salt formations left behind on the seabed. What’s left behind today is the Great Salt Lake, still the largest body of water between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean, and the vast dry plain that once sat beneath the Sundance and other prehistoric seas. Today, residents of Salt Lake City can see evidence of its submarine past, cut into the walls of the Wasatch Range and deposited in the form of gravel benches that rise hundreds of feet above the current shoreline. And because the Great Basin had no final outflow, the dry seabed that encompasses much of Utah, Nevada, and Idaho is rich in the mineral deposits that settled to the bottom.The principle reward of these landlocked mineral deposits has been, ironically, sea salt. Mined by both natives and visitors to the area, the pure salt of the dry sea floor may even be in your own saltshaker at home.
These minerals are the building blocks of our prehistoric soil, and by extracting them from their rocky home we can recreate a snapshot of the mineral balance you would have found in the land, its flora, and its fauna hundreds of thousands of years ago.