Great Basin National Park is just a small portion of the much larger Great Basin region stretching across most of Nevada and parts of Oregon, California, Idaho, and Utah. The Basin lies between the Sierra Nevada and part of the Cascade Range in the West to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains in the East.
Geologically, as the Pacific Plate pulled away from the Continental Plate, the earth’s crust stretched to such an extreme that blocks of crust loosened and dropped off. The deepening valleys created a linear series of elevations running north to south. So, it’s not just 1 but many basins, separated by narrow parallel mountain ranges in succession. Over time the valley basins filled with sediment from the eroding mountains, forcing the water from rivers and streams to collect inland, where shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats evaporated. (usu.edu and park brochure)
If this sounds similar to the geology of Death Valley, you are correct, as Death Valley is a part of the Great Basin!
I was good at memorizing facts for tests in school, thanks to my Catholic upbringing of learning to answer Catechism questions verbatim. But I never really understood the “big picture”, until now as I try to remember and share the beauty and goodness around me as we travel across the United States. It becomes more than just a journal of living and traveling full-time in an RV. I have to read, research, and make sense of all I see. And then explain it in a simple way. Visiting the National Parks, taking the back roads, and staying or passing through towns and cities along the way… A priceless way to learn history, geography, and geology! Thank you for coming on this journey with me.
The entrance to Great Basin National Park is in Baker, Nevada. After passing the Great Basin Visitor Center, you turn right toward Lehman Caves Visitor Center.
We stop here to purchase tickets for the Grand Palace Cave Tour. Unfortunately, this tour was completely sold out into next week. We should have made reservations when we left Port Orford, but everything I read didn’t imply there would be such a problem.
Despite the name, Lehman Caves is a single cavern extending a quarter-mile into the limestone and marble base of the Snake Range, an example of a mountain island surrounded by desert. The south-central portion of this range is included within the National Park. (park brochure)
Disappointed, but not defeated, (I find out Jeff gets claustrophobic in caves…) we head up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.
Wheeler Peak, within the Snake Range, is the tallest mountain in the Great Basin with an altitude of 13, 063-feet. From sagebrush at its base, the 12-mile drive proceeds through pinyon-juniper woodland to spruce and fir communities and a sub-alpine forest. The trees highest up on the Snake Range, the bristlecone pines, can live for thousands of years. (park brochure)
So, up we go…
At 10,000 feet we arrive at the end of the drive and go exploring… We cross a babbling brook…
…and take the trail up to the bristlecone grove.