As mysteriously as it appeared, silver monolith vanishes from Utah desert

Rocks mark the location where a mysterious metal monolith once stood in a remote area of the Utah desert.
Rocks mark the location where a metal monolith once stood in a remote area of red-rock desert in Spanish Valley, Utah, near Canyonlands National Park.
(Kelsea Dockham / Canyon State Overland)

As bewilderingly as when it appeared, a shiny silver monolith in Utah’s red-rock desert has vanished less than 10 days after it was spotted on a flyover by wildlife biologists conducting a helicopter survey of bighorn sheep, federal officials and witnesses said.

“We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith,’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management public lands by an unknown party” on Friday, bureau spokesperson Kimberly Finch said in a statement. The bureau did not remove the structure, she added.

The Utah Department of Public Safety said biologists spotted the monolith Nov. 18, a report that garnered international attention. It was about 11 feet tall, with sides that appeared to be made of stainless steel.

A metal monolith installed in the ground in a remote area of red rock in Utah.
A metal monolith installed in the ground in a remote area of red rock in Utah. Its provenance is unknown.
(Utah Department of Public Safety)

Although officials did not specify where the monolith was located, people soon found it on satellite images dating to 2016 and determined its GPS coordinates, prompting some to hike to the area in Spanish Valley, south of Moab, near Canyonlands National Park.

Reporters with the Salt Lake Tribune trekked to the spot Saturday and confirmed that it was gone.

Spencer Owen of Salt Lake City said he saw the monolith Friday afternoon and camped in the region overnight, but as he hiked to the area again Saturday, people passing him on the trail warned him it was gone, the Tribune reported. When he arrived at the spot, all that was left was a triangular piece of metal covering a triangular-shaped hole in the rocks.

“I was really bummed,” said Owen, who posted a video on his Instagram. “It was so pretty and shiny. I wanted to go see it again.”

Deep in the Mars-like landscape of Utah’s red-rock desert lies a mystery: a gleaming metal monolith in one of the most remote parts of the state.

Riccardo Marino and his girlfriend, Sierra Van Meter, were traveling from Colorado to California on Friday and decided to stop and see the object after finding the GPS coordinates online.

“This was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we couldn’t miss out,” Marino told KUTV.

On the way, they passed a long-bed truck with a large object in the back, and he said he joked, “Oh look, there’s the Utah monolith right there,” he said.

When they arrived at the spot, it was gone.

No one has publicly claimed to have planted the structure in the Utah wilds. Speculation has swirled that it was an art installation of some kind, but if so, the artist has not come forward, and placing an object on federal land without permission is illegal.

A mysterious steel monolith appears on a windswept Seattle hilltop

The enigma has drawn comparisons to the weird black monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Its abrupt disappearance is also similar to an incident in 2001, when a squat structure appeared on a windswept Seattle hilltop around New Year’s Day, then vanished a few days later.

Steve Adams said he left Helper, in central Utah, at 7 a.m. Saturday to drive to the area where the silver monolith was found. When he arrived and asked someone for directions, he was told the tower was gone. He and some friends made the hike anyway.

“It was pretty disappointing,” he told the Tribune. “We were really excited to go down and have an adventure to see it. It feels like it was everybody’s and then it was nobody’s. It’s gone.”