America’s Deserts–Chihuahua, Sonora, Mojave, and ?


The Unites States contains 4 deserts.  The least known is also by far its largest–Great Basin–50,000 square miles larger than the Chihuahuan.   It stretches west from Utah’s Wasatch Mountains to California’s Sierra Nevadas, north into southeast Oregon and southwest Idaho, and south almost to Las Vegas.  Most of Nevada is in Great Basin.  It’s a vast region of sagebrush growing valleys interrupted by mostly parallel, north/south mountain ranges, some sporting unusual bristlecone pine trees, but also aspen, spruce, etc.

The Great Basin is almost devoid of people and has no interior cities.  Boise, Salt Lake City, and Reno are on its fringes, but when you cross it you have to book reservations in places like Delta, Winnemucca, and Tonopah.  It also has only anemic rivers that mostly flow off the mountains, pool in the valleys, and disappear in the hot, dry desert.  Few, if any, leave Great Basin. The highway dubbed the Loneliest Road in America, US 50, stretches across its middle and is one of my favorites.

In this 190,000 square mile area there is only one National Park, appropriately named Great Basin.  It was created fairly recently, 1986, and includes 2 outstanding attractions–13,000+ feet Wheeler Peak, Nevada’s highest elevation, and Lehman Caves.  The later is actually misnamed since there is only one cavern with lots of rooms.  Ruth & I spent a lot of time in it in mid-January, 2014.   There’s a road up Wheeler to almost 10,000 feet, but it’s closed in winter from about the 7,500 feet level.   There are more than a dozen other peaks in Great Basin National Park over 10,000 feet and a couple of reasons why it’s excellent to visit in deep winter that I’ll tell about tomorrow.

The people of Great Basin first moved in 10,000 years ago with Native American Fremonts, Paiutes, and Shoshone all having their time there before pioneers passed through on their way to California.  According to one ranger at Great Basin National Park, some of them actually became disenchanted with what most considered perfection and returned to this haunting, empty land to establish ranches.



About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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