A Nation Joined: The Transcontinental Railroad

Posted on: August 22, 2014

On May 10, 1869, the east and west ends of the transcontinental railroad were joined 115 miles northwest of Park City. The meeting of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads signaled the ceremonial joining of the United States.

The Golden Spike National Historic Site, in Box Elder County provides a splendid day trip opportunity from Park City. Through September, you can see working replicas of the locomotives that “met” at the site, the Jupiter and the 119. There are two auto tours available: a 14 mile round trip which affords views of the original track locations, and a two mile loop. The tours are self-guided. The Big Fill Walk is a 1.5 mile hike to the last rail and last spike of the massive engineering project.

Interestingly, the golden spike was symbolic. Engineers had hoped to lay a final golden rail and tamp it with the golden spike, but gold is too soft to be spiked or run across by a steam-powered locomotive. You can see the actual, final spike but don’t expect it be golden. And you will also be surprised by the gaudy colors of the train replicas. Trains weren’t flat black until the twentieth century.

railway A Nation Joined: The Transcontinental Railroad

Golden Spike Visitor Center

The Golden Spike Visitor’s Center, open year round, features films, talks by park rangers, exhibits and a western history-themed book store.

For more information, call (435) 471-2209, extension 29. The park cautions tourists not to rely on GPS when traveling in the area. Follow road signs instead.

The main part of your drive to the Golden Spike National Historic Site will extend between the eastern and northern shores of the Great Salt Lake and to the east, peaks of the CacheNational Forest, part of the greater WasatchMountain range. There are any number of accessible mountain peaks to explore and wonderful views of the lake along the way.

If you are a Nature Lover…

If you are a nature lover, a special highlight of your day trip is the 41,000 acre Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, fifty miles north of Salt Lake City. The refuge, a chain of fresh  and brackish waters and alkali wetlands and 5,000 acres of grasslands, is acclaimed as one of the world’s ten best birding places.

Millions of birds stop there in the fall, including the American avocet, black-necked stilt, tundra swan, American white pelican and snowy plover. Wildlife at Bear River includes mule deer, yellow-bellied marmots, long-tailed weasels and coyotes and fox. The grasslands are home to thousands of sandhill cranes.

Stop at historic Ogden for lunch, especially if you like Japanese food (Ohana Sushi, Tona, Temari, and Hanamaru restaurants—go figure!). Mountains loom in every direction. Hike on one of the area’s 210 miles of maintained trails.

At Syracuse, drive west to the Antelope Island causeway and explore Utah’s largest island, now Antelope Island State Park, discovered by John C. Fremont and Kit Carson in 1845. A herd of bison have lived on the island for well over a hundred years. You can also see porcupine, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, bobcat and may varieties of birds. No humans live on the island. It is a popular destination for mountain climbing (2,000 feet), hiking, biking and sight seeing.

If you’re still filled with wanderlust, add points to your states list and dip north into Idaho or east into Wyoming. You’ll still be within shouting distance of the fine dining and cultural events in and around beautiful Park City, Utah.

Whether Park City is your destination or your pit stop, your perfect resting place for all of the above is the inviting and affordable Park City Peaks Hotel, with splendid mountain views, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the Rustic Creek Grille, the Upper Deck Sports Bar and much more. Park City Peaks Hotel is within three miles of a municipal golf course, Park City Mountain Resort and the Canyons Ski Area.