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Delta

A gateway to Utah's West Desert

Once the delta of ancient Lake Bonneville, today the aptly-named city of Delta is known as a base camp for exploring the Little Sahara Sand Dunes and the West Desert. With a little imagination, you might even imagine the massive seas covering the wide-open expanses in the area.

Delta is an excellent home base for rockhounding in the Great Basin and riding off-highway vehicles (OHVs). Others use Delta as a stopping point on the way to Great Basin National Park, visiting town to see the Great Basin and Topaz Museums, Fort Deseret and the old Van’s Dance Hall. But Delta’s most outlandish claim to fame might be its 2007 Guinness World Record: a 3,841-person bunny hop.

Forgotten History and Wild Horses in the Heart of the West Desert

by Andrew Dash Gillman

An outpost in the west desert, Delta, Utah, offers easy access to the distinct outdoor adventure and western heritage of the Great Basin. The recently opened Topaz Museum recounts the troubling history of Japanese-American internment during World War II while the desert landscape blossoms with discover ranging from wild horses and rock hounding to solitary hikes.

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Local Highlights


Topaz Museum
The atrocities of war should never be forgotten, and Delta has taken great care to preserve the lands and legacy of Japanese Americans relocated to Topaz Internment Camp during World War II. The camp’s buildings were cleared after the war, but you can still see the desertscape where they stood and imagine what life was like for its inhabitants. Visit the free Topaz Museum in Delta to see artifacts and hear the stories of the internees that lived at Topaz. Many of the camp’s buildings were purchased by Delta residents and can be seen on a driving tour available at the museum.

Great Basin Historical Society Museum
Learn about the area and Great Basin at this free museum that uses historic objects and photos to tell the stories of Delta’s past. A haven for rockhounders searching for geodes, trilobites, and rarer fossils, Great Basin Museum showcases many local rocks.

Sunset View Golf Course
Play a round at this oasis in the desert at Sunset View Golf Course, a challenging 18-hole, par-72 course with amazing views spread over 7,000 yards.

Gunnison Bend Reservoir
Minutes from Delta, you’ll find this calm reservoir that’s perfect for water skiing, boating, and relaxing. A peninsula in the lake keeps large waves from forming so it’s never too choppy, and the shallow depth keeps the water warm. Entrance to Gunnison Bend Reservoir is free, and there are plenty of picnic tables, pavilions, and a boat dock.

Delta Snow Goose Festival
Every spring, watch thousands of snow geese fly over Delta on their annual 3,000-mile migration back to Canada. Delta is situated along the route from their California winter home and hosts the Delta Snow Goose Festival during the February migration. Attend to run the Wild Goose Chase 5K or 10K, observe the snow geese, and visit a craft and quilt fair put on by local artisans.

Fort Deseret
Head over to the neighboring town of Deseret and see Utah’s last remaining adobe fort. Built in 1865 to protect settlers during the Black Hawk Indian War, the adobe mud and straw mixture used in Fort Deseret’s construction was “mixed by the feet of oxen,” and built in just 18 days by 98 men.

Van's Dance Hall
Once voted the best dance hall in America, Van’s Dance Hall is the place many World War II love stories began. Veterans met their wives here and people danced the night away until its closure in the 1960s. Famous more for what it was than what it is today, the dance hall sits empty but intact, with Delta residents hoping to restore it to its former glory.

Little Sahara Sand Dunes
Explore the remnants of an ancient river delta at 60,000-acre Little Sahara Recreation Area, 38 miles from Delta. Off-highway-vehicle riding is the most popular pursuit for exploring the region’s sand dunes and trails, and it’s especially popular to climb Sand Mountain — a 700-foot wall of sand. Venture off from here and you’ll likely be all alone in this huge expanse of the Sevier Desert.

U-Dig Fossils
Find ancient fossils at U-Dig Fossils, a private trilobite quarry an hour west of Delta. It has one of the world’s richest collections of trilobites, and it’s finders keepers—take home whatever you unearth.

For more detailed information on attractions, accommodations and dining, visit Millard County Tourism www.millardcounty.com

Slideshow

  • View of the Tushars

    View of the Tushars

    The distant Tushar Mountains frame the eastern horizon of Utah's west desert, part of the Basin and Range province. Photo: Eric Erlenbusch

  • East of the House Range

    East of the House Range

    To the southwest and northwest, roads trickle off into the indiscernible distance toward a motionless dust storm and a hazy other range. Photo: Andrew Gillman

  • Jackrabbit and Jalopy East of Death Canyon

    Jackrabbit and Jalopy East of Death Canyon

    A jackrabbit’s flying-saucer ears are tuned toward the visitor. The window of the passenger door, ajar for unknown ages, frames her. It's a quintessential desert tableau at a crossroads east of Dome/Death Canyon. Photo: Andrew Gillman

  • Dome Canyon, House Range

    Dome Canyon, House Range

    Historical marker at Captain James H. Simpson's House Range route of the Central Overland Trail. Photo: Andrew Gillman

  • Snow Geese

    Snow Geese

    Each February, Lesser Snow Geese make their way into Utah and use the fields and waters in the Delta area as a rest stop on their northern migration.

  • Hermit's Cave House/Cabin

    Hermit's Cave House/Cabin

    After breaking down in the west desert, Bob Stinson (who had recently returned to heartbreak from World War I) cleverly walled in a natural alcove overhang with a stone-and-mortar enclosure complete with framed windows, a door and externally exhausted stove. Photo: Andrew Gillman

  • End of the Sinbad Spring Road

    End of the Sinbad Spring Road

    Even without binoculars, the Basin and Range comes into clear focus; it defines itself. The bleached-bone-white and ashen deposits of an ancient lakebed stir up in the wind. There are multiple horizons. Photo: Andrew Gillman

  • Wild Horses

    Wild Horses

    They are far enough away not to be spooked; close enough to be curious. They watch as the car comes to a halt. They return our gaze and pose for our cell phones, then return to their grazing. Many journeys along the backways of Utah's west desert pass through Wild Horse Herd Management Areas. Photo: Rosie Serago

  • Wild Horses of Utah's West Desert

    Wild Horses of Utah's West Desert

    Millard County's House Range cluster of herd management areas and the Swasey Peak HMA are excellent bets for seeing wild horses. Photo: Rosie Serago

  • A Gathering of Wild Horses

    A Gathering of Wild Horses

    Even at a distance, wild horses capture the imagination and command respect due to their centuries-old lineage. Photo: Rosie Serago

  • Lone Mustang in the Wild Open Space of Utah's West Desert

    Lone Mustang in the Wild Open Space of Utah's West Desert

    "When you grow an intimate relationship with the west desert you’ll always be coming back." — SunHawk, quote from a logbook at the Hermit's Cabin. Photo: Rosie Serago

What's Nearby?


Great Basin National Park
Delta is the gateway to Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, one of the country’s least-visited national parks due to its remote location. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit! Great Basin is home to 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak (the state’s second highest mountain), Lehman Caves and ancient bristlecone pine trees. Guided cave tours showcase Lehman’s limestone stalagmites, stalactites and rarer formations. See the world’s oldest known living trees on bristlecone pine trails to Wheeler Peak, Eagle Peak and Mount Washington.

Utah Territorial Statehouse
The town of Fillmore briefly served as Utah’s territorial capital, and territory leader Brigham Young directed the building of the territorial statehouse in 1851 in anticipation of gaining statehood. Unfortunately, just one wing of the building was completed and one legislative session held there in 1855 before the capital moved to Salt Lake City. The building has since functioned as a dance hall, jail, school and library. Today it’s a pioneer history museum.

Eureka Ghost Town
On state Route 6 from Salt Lake City to Delta, you’ll find the mining ghost town of Eureka. Founded in 1870 when gold and silver were discovered there, the population boomed in 1910 to nearly 4,000 inhabitants. Today, 600 folks still call Eureka home, and its historic buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore its mining heyday at the old jail and the Tintic Mining Museum.

Beehive Charcoal Kilns
Near Eureka, right on the highway to Delta, look for two well-preserved charcoal kilns from the pioneer era. Built from stone and shaped like beehives, the kilns were likely built in 1871.

Yuba Lake State Park
Sandy beaches, warm water, and excellent fishing draw visitors to Yuba Lake State Park, just one hour east of Delta. Yuba Reservoir welcomes every type of water recreationist, and there’s even boat-camping along its shores.

Planning Resources

Delta