I always wanted to visit Great Basin National Park, but distance, time, and alternate plans had a tendency of getting in the way. My recent departure from Reno-Tahoe, however, finally afforded me the opportunity to pay this substantial piece of Nevada a visit.
You always hear the term “Great Basin” used to describe the state of Nevada. I thought I more or less understood what it meant, but it turns out I didn’t. When I heard the term my mind would immediately flash to wide open places and large expanses of land; but I never really included water into that equation. I know it seems obvious considering the use of the word “basin,” but because much of Nevada is seemingly dry to the naked eye, I didn’t think about it 3-dimensionally.
What is really occurring is the flow, and sometimes trickle, of water both over ground and underground to a central and internal source. What is unusual about the Great Basin is that it has no external outlet. In other words, it does not lead to the sea. Instead, water eventually evaporates, giving itself up to the atmosphere, returning again to the earth at some later date.
I always knew this was the case with the Truckee River, as it carried water from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, but I just never thought of it in larger terms. I did not know that it incorporated the entire state of Nevada, as well as parts of Utah, California, and Oregon. It is huge!
I of course learned all of this at Great Basin National Park. I also developed a larger appreciation of what the ramifications of Las Vegas growth means to Nevada’s most precious resource. As the city reaches further and further out into the Great Basin, they are slowly but surely depleting a confined water system. It may be large, but it is not infinite, and it is connected to many different environments and communities that depend on it.
Great Basin National Park is a popular stop off for those who are interested in exploring Lehman Caves and climbing Wheeler Peak. I actually did neither. But I did go hiking, and I found this most incredible tree. I’ve seen my fair share of trees, including the Giant Sequoias, some of the oldest Bristlecones, and the large Live Oaks of the south, but I have never come across such a peculiar configuration of rooted wood in my life. We spent some time together.