Great Basin National Park, Nevada
The Great Basin Nat’l Park is both a park and a description of a much larger basin (200,000 square miles) that describes a huge area where all the water in it drains internally. This is known as the “Hydrographic Great Basin”. All precipitation in the region evaporates, absorbs into groundwater, or flows into lakes such as the Great Salt Lake. All riverways find no outlet into ocean waters. The Great Basin includes nearly all of Nevada, half of Utah, and sections of Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and California. The Great Basin is not one basin but a sum of many small basins and the mountain ridges that surround them.
There are 2 other ways of defining the “Great Basin” – geologic and biologic. But hydrographic is the most common method. The basin and range region is the product of geological forces stretching the Earth’s crust, creating north-south trending mountain ranges. These mountain ranges are separated by valleys or basins. The basin desert is defined also by plant and animal communities. The climate is affected by the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. When prevailing winds from the Pacific ocean rise to go over the Sierras, the air cools and looses most of its moisture as rain. By the time the winds cross over the mountains and sweep down the far side, they are very dry and absorb moisture from the surrounding area. It is a temperate desert with hot dry summers and snowy winters. The Great Basin is the largest desert in the U.S. It is the only “cold” desert where most precipitation falls in the form of snow. A desert is defined as a region that receives less than 10 inches precipitation per year. Valleys are dominated by sagebrush. Plant communities differ in elevations and individual ranges act as islands isolated by seas of desert basin. Because the Great Basin exhibits such wide margin in elevation changes from its valleys to its peaks, the region supports an impressive diversity of species, from those adapted to desert to those adapted to forest and alpine environments. When you take a look at some of the fauna images that I have displayed here from the Great Basin, the lush vegetation and deep wooded forest is not one what one thinks of when they think of Nevada. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the country and indeed has some beautiful forest to go along with incredible desert scenery.