TOOELE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – In 2020, the canals in Bonneville Salt Flats popped up on social media, accompanied by pictures of people kayaking and paddle boarding on a stream of bright blue water.

However, the canals, which carry wastewater from mining company Intrepid Potash, are reportedly not safe to recreate in and have been drained.

“I don’t think it’s hazardous, but it is technically wastewater from their facility of some sort, and so they just wouldn’t recommend people getting in that water,” Lt. Cody McCoy, with the Utah Highway Patrol, UHP, says.

Lisa McNee, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says unsafe recreational activity on the canals has decreased significantly over the last year. BLM issued the following statement about the canals:

“The potash production canals north of Interstate 80 (I-80), located just east of the Bonneville Salt Flats, are leased and managed by Intrepid Potash and are located on a mix of private property, State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) land, and Bureau of Land Management-managed public lands.”

BLM continued, “The ​canals are industrial facilities leased to Intrepid Potash for potash mining activities and are not designed or safe for public recreation. Therefore, the public should not access, swim, float, kayak, canoe, or pursue any other recreation activities in these industrial canals.

In addition, the Utah Highway Patrol has indicated that parking along I-80 to access the canals is illegal and extremely dangerous due to the proximity to the interstate highway.

Photos courtesy of Scott Taylor

According to Lt. McCoy, the biggest concern UHP has is safety-related.

“There’s just a shoulder there with a cable barrier, and so there’s no good parking where it’s safe to pull off and pull on. Technically, people could be issued citations, we don’t want to have to go do that, but technically they could, because you’re not supposed to park out there,” he states. “And also the company has placed no trespassing signs because they don’t want people out there.”

“Our biggest thing is the speed limit is 80 miles an hour and there’s not a dedicated on-ramp and off-ramp. You have a semi coming or a car that’s doing the speed limit or even slightly faster, you’re pulling out from stop, it can be really dangerous,” he explains. “Then if people have pets and they don’t want pets out there running around, getting hurt or causing a crash.”

McCoy says UHP has troopers regularly patrolling the area that is stationed in Wendover. He says they can issue citations for parking along the roadway but they like to educate people about the situation first.