On October 27, 1986, Nevada’s Great Basin National Park was established, incorporating the Lehman Caves National Monument. Rather than being one actual great basin, the area is a collection of many small basins. The park, with its deserts, mountains, and caves, ranges in elevation from 1500 to 4000 m (5000 to 13000 ft). As the little precipitation falls and the small snow and ice melts, the water either evaporates or drains underground and into small lakes.
It is a home to Bristlecone pines, trees that are the longest-lived organism on Earth and grow in isolated clusters in challenging environments at the edges of the tree line. The slow growing Bristlecone pines acquire unusual gnarled, stunted shapes from wind, freezing, thawing, driving rains, and hard, rocky soils. Usually above the reach of fire and disease, the tree’s wood is dense and prevents it from rot. These combinations allow the tree to live for a thousand plus years and remain standing for thousands more after it dies. Each cluster of Bristlecone pines provides an historical record and first-hand teachers about long-past environmental changes.
Great Basin National Park provides a natural environment to conifers, mammals from bats to beavers, reptiles, hundreds of bird species, and plants that range from cacti to alpine wildflowers. Part of the park’s mandate is to gather and preserve information on the Great Basin’s prehistory, exploration, Native American life, to mining and ranching right up to the creation of the park.
Aside from the many recreational activities, the park offers astronomy programs and a popular, yearly BioBlitz that takes place over a one- or two-day period. Organized a year in advance with lead scientist specialists, each BioBlitz includes workshops, collecting hikes (day and/or night), and more, as one order of invertebrates becomes the focus of this timed snapshot. New species and new families have surprised the science teams.
Specially trained park rangers monitor and oversee visits to the Lehman Caves and prepare visitors for supervised tours. If you can’t make it to this great park, you can still make a non-impact visit by sampling its webcams, videos, and virtual tours.
B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage