It’s about forty miles south of the Zuni Rez, almost in AZ.
There’s a ghost town you can barely see in the pic…. used to be a considerable community down in there when it was private land, from the mid-1800s until the 1950s, evaporating salt from the huge concrete beds. Most of the buildings are still intact, though they’re going away rapidly.
Today it belongs to the Zuni tribe, one section of land, but it’s not in the national trust as part of the Rez. Tribes have been acquiring a lot of land from casino monies and other ways during the past decades, making the lands acquired ‘tribal’, but not Rez, which puts them into an interestingly ambiguous position insofar as road maintenance and county taxes.
Salt Lake was acquired as a piece of a lawsuit against the US government involving an airplane with a hydrogen bomb aboard that crashed on the Rez, with first responders being Zunis, but which the feds didn’t bother telling them about the bomb, leaving emergency workers exposed to hazardous materials without knowing it. The tribe got a few million out of that, which they used to purchase 60k acres of land to the south of the Rez, but Salt Lake was thrown in as a bonus.
Salt Lake’s a sacred place for the Zunis, home of Salt Mother. If you are willing to risk hopping the fence and wandering around down there ….. it’s a volcano crater with a hollow secondary plug you can climb, then a spiral trail leading back down inside … that’s where most of the rituals for Salt Mother are held… but all over that section you’ll pass over various religious items from recent times you’d be well advised to leave untouched.
Salt Lake used to be the place all the warring tribes got their salt throughout history. A place where a constant truce between enemy tribes existed.
It’s also part of what the power companies would love to strip mine. The great percentage of the desert surrounding it, from north of Springerville, and Saint Johns, Arizona is government land with shallow coal deposits comparatively inexpensive to ‘recover’. They’ve already converted the desert on the Arizona side to a wasteland. Still desert, but more in the moonscape vein than the usual, regular arid country mode.
The people in El Paso and Phoenix need electricity so they can fire up their hair dryers every morning, and keep their homes refrigerated. Those places have climates uncomfortable to the human skin most of the time and they’d rather savage a few million acres of country they’ve never visited and never will than suffer a few degrees of discomfort and use a towel to dry their hair.
Which the Zuni believe would thoroughly piss off Salt Mother, with considerable resulting pain for the Zunis, and all the rest of us.
They might be right.
The Zuni and a few commie-pinko-obstructionist greenie environmentalists are the only people who give a damn, and the other desert-dwellers in the area would welcome the jobs helping ravage the country around them would bring to the area. The last time I looked the Zuni tribe was burning up a lot of tribal money trying to stop the mine expansion into New Mexico. The prospects didn’t appear promising because the New Mexico government, the feds, and the mining interests were stacked up singing songs of human progress and greater good.
Heck, it’s been a few years now. Maybe they’re already mining it. Probably easier to ask someone in Phoenix or El Paso whether the hair dryer worked this morning and if it did, assume that desert has gone to the moon.