Salt Lake City has a total area of 110.4 square miles (285.9 km²) and an average elevation of 4,327 feet (1,320 m) above sea level. The lowest point within the boundaries of the city is 4,210 feet (1,280 m) near the Jordan River and the Great Salt Lake, and the highest is Grandview Peak, at 9,410 feet (2,868 m).
The city is located in the northeast corner of the Salt Lake Valley surrounded by the Great Salt Lake to the northwest and the steep Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges on the eastern and western borders, respectively. Its encircling mountains contain many narrow glacial and stream carved canyons. Among them, City Creek, Emigration, Millcreek, and Parley's border the eastern city limits.
The Great Salt Lake is separated from Salt Lake City by extensive marshlands and mudflats. The metabolic activities of bacteria in the lake result in a phenomenon known as "lake stink", a scent reminiscent of foul poultry eggs, two to three times per year for a few hours. The Jordan River flows through the city and is a drainage of Utah Lake that empties into the Great Salt Lake.
The highest mountaintop visible from Salt Lake City is Twin Peaks, which reaches 11,330 feet (3454 m). Twin Peaks is located southeast of Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Range. The Wasatch Fault is found along the western base of the Wasatch and is considered overdue for an earthquake as large as 7.5. Catastrophic damage is predicted in the event of an earthquake with major damage resulting from the liquefaction of the clay- and sand-based soil and the possible permanent flooding of portions of the city by the Great Salt Lake.
The second-highest mountain range is the Oquirrhs, reaching a maximum height of 10,620 feet (3,237 m) at Flat Top. The Traverse Mountains to the south extend to 6,000 feet (1,830 m), nearly connecting the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains. The mountains near Salt Lake City are easily visible from the city and have sharp vertical relief caused by massive ancient earthquakes, with a maximum difference of 7,099 feet (2164 m) being achieved with the rise of Twin Peaks from the Salt Lake Valley floor.
The Salt Lake Valley floor is the ancient lakebed of Lake Bonneville which existed at the end of the last Ice Age. Several Lake Bonneville shorelines can be distinctly seen on the foothills or benches of nearby mountains.
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