by Carl Strang
A November conference in 2003 gave me the opportunity to take some extra time off, rent a car, and tour central Nevada. Previous Lessons from Travels posts have highlighted the Lehman Cave and Extraterrestrial Aliens aspects of that trip. Today’s focus is on the ecology of the Great Basin. This is an area where the crust of the Earth stretched thin, as though pulled from its eastern and western edges. It occupies much of Nevada, and extends south. The stretching produced a series of north-south cracks, or faults. Alternate wide blocks dropped down to produce low basins, and the areas between them thrust upward to produce narrow mountain ranges. The spacing of these ranges and basins is rhythmic and regular.
Higher mountains bounding the west edge of the Great Basin draw most of the moisture from the prevailing westerlies. The little remaining rain falls mostly on the ranges and evaporates, or soaks into the ground long before it can flow to the centers of the desert plains.
This landscape is not monotonous. There are abundant unique features sprinkling it. Sand Mountain is one example.
The thinning of the crust produced volcanic activity in places.
There are occasional badlands areas as well, where weakly cemented stone has eroded into beautiful shapes.
People have lived in this region for thousands of years, and left their mark in many areas.
Wildlife is diverse, as well, in the region.
I took a hike on the Pole Creek Trail, in Big Basin National Park.
On the way back down I found where a bobcat had stepped in my tracks.
The basins have their own array of wildlife.
It was still warm enough for a snake and other reptiles to be active in southern Nevada.
From its geology to its distinctive ecology, the Great Basin provides no end of contrasts that, upon reflection, help to define our own home region.
P.S. This is the 1000th post of this blog.