Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park: A Guide to the Park and Surrounding Area

Gretchen M. Baker
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    Great Basin National Park
    Book Description:

    Great Basin National Park is in large part a high-alpine park, but it sits in one of America's driest, least populated, and most isolated deserts. That contrast is one facet of the diversity that characterizes this region. Within and outside the park are phenomenal landscape features, biotic wonders, unique environments, varied historic sites, and the local colors of isolated towns and ranches. Vast Snake and Spring Valleys, bracketing the national park, are also subjects of one of the West's most divisive environment contests, over what on the surface seems most absent but underground is abundant enough for sprawling Las Vegas to covet it-water.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-841-1
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Part 1: The Beginning
    • 1 Introduction and Description
      (pp. 3-11)

      Just the name “Great Basin” evokes images of broad, empty places, barren of vegetation. Although the Great Basin region covers a huge area, including most of Nevada and portions of Utah, California, and Idaho, most people know little about it. In 1986, Congress did something to change that, passing the Great Basin National Park Act, which included the following: “In order to preserve for the benefit and inspiration of the people a representative segment of the Great Basin of the Western United States possessing outstanding resources and significant geological and scenic values, there is hereby established the Great Basin National...

    • 2 Ecology and Natural History
      (pp. 12-30)

      The Great Basin National Park area is located in the Great Basin Desert, one of four deserts in North America. The Great Basin Desert is higher and cooler than the Mojave, Chihuahuan, and Sonoran Deserts. Because of its climate, the Great Basin Desert can be defined by the vegetation it supports, which consists of large amounts of sagebrush (Artemesiaspp.), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnusspp.), greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), Mormon tea (Ephedra viridis), and shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia), with very few cacti.

      The term “Great Basin” was coined by one of the first explorers to see the area, John C. Frémont. Frémont crossed the...

    • 3 Human History
      (pp. 31-47)

      Humans have been coming to the Great Basin National Park area for thousands of years for many different reasons, including hunting, gathering, exploring, mining, ranching, sightseeing, and isolation. This chapter presents an overview of the human history of the area. More detailed historical events are found in the chapters about specific places.

      Archaeological surveys have found artifacts that indicate people were in the area as early as twelve thousand years ago (Bryan 1977). The first humans in the area, called the Paleo-Indians, lived when Lake Bonneville filled Snake Valley, white firs grew down to the shoreline, and fantastically different animals...

  5. Part 2: Great Basin National Park
    • 4 Lehman Caves and Great Basin National Park Overview
      (pp. 51-71)

      Great Basin National Park (figure 4-1) appears on the map as just a small spot in the enormous Great Basin Desert. It is 234 miles (377 km) from Salt Lake City, reachable by driving south on I-15 to Nephi, then heading west through Delta. From Delta, Utah, the park is about 100 miles (160 km) away. From US Highway 6/50, turn south on Nevada Highway 487 and travel 5 miles (8 km) to Baker, Nevada, home to the new Great Basin Visitor Center. To reach the park headquarters, turn west on Highway 488 and travel 6 miles (10 km) to...

    • 5 Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive
      (pp. 73-87)

      After Lehman Caves, the most popular destination in Great Basin National Park is Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive (figure 5-1). This road ascends about 3,500 feet (1,100 m) from near the park boundary to the subalpine area below Wheeler Peak. Along the way are excellent hiking trails and campgrounds. During the winter, the lower section of the road is open to at least Upper Lehman Campground, and sometimes farther depending on snow conditions. Beyond that, the road is open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for those with backcountry equipment and expertise. The Natural Resources Conservation Service installed a SNOTEL site in...

    • 6 Northern Area: Baker and Strawberry Creeks
      (pp. 89-99)

      The northern part of the South Snake Range includes Baker Creek north to Mill, Strawberry, and Weaver Creeks and the Sacramento Pass area (figure 6-1). This chapter focuses on the Baker and Strawberry Creek areas. These are both easily accessible during the warmer months and have many options for visitors. They also are good places for backcountry skiing or snowshoeing.

      After Lehman Caves and the sights along Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, the next-most-visited area in the park is the Baker Creek watershed, with its excellent hiking trails, less-crowded campgrounds, picnic area, and interesting sights, including pictographs. The Baker Creek Road...

    • 7 Southern Area: Snake Creek, Big Wash, and Lexington Arch
      (pp. 101-115)

      The main attractions in the southern part of the South Snake Range (figure 7-1) include Snake Creek, a scenic canyon with camping and hiking trails, and the enormous Lexington Arch, made of limestone. For those wanting a luxurious getaway, Hidden Canyon is an option and is also a good starting place for exploring the rugged North Fork and South Fork of Big Wash. The Mount Washington area provides a high-elevation getaway for those who like their beauty in difficult-to-reach locales. The southern part of the range has fewer streams due to the more prevalent limestones and dolomites, permeable rocks that...

    • 8 Gateway Town: Baker, Nevada
      (pp. 117-131)

      The gateway to Great Basin National Park is Baker, Nevada, a small community of about two hundred people—if you count everyone who lives close by (figure 8-1). The town was settled in the 1880s and is the largest community in Snake Valley today. If you are visiting Great Basin National Park, you will likely be spending a night or eating a meal in this tiny town (appendix A).

      Just to the north of Baker is the Great Basin Visitor Center, on the west side of the road. The visitor center opened in 2005 to help the park fulfill one...

    • 9 Getting to Great Basin National Park
      (pp. 133-147)

      Getting to your destination can be half the fun, and there are some quick, enjoyable stops on the way to Great Basin National Park (figure 9-1). These are all close to the principal roads that lead to the park boundary.

      Highway 6/50 is the main highway that connects Great Basin National Park with the outside world. It enters Snake Valley from the east at Utah mile marker 24, continues 38 miles (61 km) across Snake Valley (figure 9-2), climbs up and over Sacramento Pass, and then crosses Spring Valley and ascends Connor Pass.

      Although US Highway 6/50 is combined through...

  6. Part 3: Other Destinations near Great Basin National Park
    • 10 North Snake Range and Mount Moriah Wilderness
      (pp. 151-163)

      If you like the scenery in the South Snake Range but want an even more remote experience, head to the North Snake Range on the other side of US Highway 6/50 (figure 10-1). Several hiking trails of different lengths are available (table 10-1), with the Mount Moriah Trail topping the range at 12,067 feet (3,678 m). Below the peak is the nearly 1-square-mile (3 km²) Table, a high-elevation grassland. Beautiful isolated canyons support streams with Bonneville cutthroat trout. Old mines attract geologists and history buffs.

      In 1989, much of the North Snake Range was designated the Mount Moriah Wilderness (figure...

    • 11 Gandy Warm Springs, Crystal Ball Cave, and Blue Mass Scenic Area
      (pp. 165-179)

      The Gandy, Utah, area (figure 11-1), is about forty-five minutes north of Baker and can be visited in a pleasant half-day trip from there to see warm springs and a scenic cave. For a full day loop trip, after visiting Gandy, head east to some springs with interesting fish and frogs and on to the Confusion Range (chapter 15). Or drive northwest to Blue Mass Scenic Area in the Kern Mountains to see some beautiful granite rock spires in an idyllic spot.

      Gandy Warm Springs begins as a natural spring emerging from a cave at a constant temperature of 81°F...

    • 12 Deep Creek Range, Partoun, Gold Hill, and Goshute Indian Country
      (pp. 181-197)

      The Deep Creek Range, an hour north of Baker, is a great destination for backpacking, climbing 12,087-foot (3,684 m) Ibapah Peak, fishing for Bonneville cutthroat trout, and admiring the varied geology (figure 12-1). Along the way you travel through the remote communities of Partoun and Trout Creek.

      The Deep Creek Range was overlooked by early foresters during the creation of the national forests, despite its high elevation and variety of tree species, including pinyon pine, juniper, white fir, aspen, Douglas-fir, limber pine, and Great Basin bristlecone pine. The BLM thus administers this fascinating piece of land (figure 12-2), much of...

    • 13 Pony Express Trail and Callao
      (pp. 199-209)

      Three notable historic cross-country routes traversed the terrain near Great Basin National Park: the Overland Stage, the Pony Express, and the Lincoln Highway. Parts of these routes overlapped and can still be followed today. From Great Basin National Park, a good starting point is Callao, Utah, 65 miles (105 km) north of Highway 6/50 on Gandy (Snake Valley) Road (figure 13-1).

      Callao is the oldest settlement in Snake Valley, and there were three periods when it had quite a bit of excitement: the Pony Express days, when it was called Willow Springs and was a resting station; the 1890s, when...

    • 14 Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge
      (pp. 211-221)

      An oasis in the desert, Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge covers 17,992 acres (7,253 ha), of which more than half is water (figure 14-1). The national wildlife refuge was established in 1959 and named Fish Springs due to the numerous Utah chub found in the spring waters.

      Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is a fun day trip from Baker, Nevada. Located 75 miles (120 km) to the northeast of Baker, it is not in Snake Valley proper but is adjacent to it and receives a great deal of water from there. Water emerges along a fault line at the base...

    • 15 Crystal Peak, Confusion Range, and EskDale
      (pp. 223-239)

      If you would like to climb a strange mountain, look for fossils, observe interesting geology, find wild horses, ride OHV (off-highway vehicle) trails, or find some solitude, Crystal Peak and the Confusion Range are for you. The Confusion Range is named for its confusing geology, with numerous faults showing rocks at strange angles. The range extends almost the entire length of Snake Valley along its east side from east of Trout Creek to near Crystal Peak, although it is split into several named ridges (figure 15-1). Most of the range is sedimentary rock, but black volcanic rock of Tertiary age...

    • 16 Burbank Hills and Garrison
      (pp. 241-249)

      Prominent in the view to the south from Great Basin National Park and Baker are the Burbank Hills, a small mountain range that is infrequently traveled(figure 16-1). Its proximity allows quick trips for desert exploration. At the base is the small town of Garrison, which was more vivacious in past eras than now (figure 16-2). Today Garrison is traversed by the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.

      In many other places, the Burbank Hills would be called mountains, but with nearby ranges containing peaks over 1 mile (1.6 km) higher than the valley bottom, the Burbank Hills are diminutive by comparison; the...

    • 17 Pruess Lake and Farther South
      (pp. 251-267)

      South of Garrison there are a variety of places to visit. Pruess Lake is a good place for a summertime swim or kayak. Farther south are wet meadows that made early travelers decide to settle instead of continuing on to California. The aquatic habitats in the area support an interesting biota and have a history of inspiring ambitious (but not necessarily well-planned) water projects and developments.

      Pruess Lake, about 3 miles (5 km) south of Garrison, is the largest perennial body of water in Snake Valley (figure 17-1). It was named after Major Preuss of General Frémont’s party, but a...

    • 18 Osceola and Spring Valley
      (pp. 269-280)

      Spring Valley, on the west side of Great Basin National Park, was named for the numerous springs that emerge in many places in the valley bottom (figure 18-1). The Native Americans called it the “Valley of One Thousand Springs” (Read 1965, 175). Despite this relatively large amount of water for the driest state in the nation, the valley has remained comparatively pristine. Settlers made their homes and ranches near these water sources, but much of it, flowing out into wetlands and wet meadows, has created a rare habitat in the valley.

      Spring Valley is home to many mining districts, some...

  7. Appendices
  8. References
    (pp. 310-316)
  9. Index
    (pp. 317-332)