Great Basin National Park. Basic information for visitors to the Great Basin National Park

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Great Basin National Park. Basic information for visitors to the Great Basin National Park In east-central Nevada, near Baker

Great Basin National Park

In east-central Nevada, near Baker

 

High-desert terrain yields to hundreds of small pools and lakes in Great Basin, and these are interspersed with dramatic mountains, including 13,063-foot-high Wheeler Peak. Roads and trails lead to the rim of the peak s cirque, in which you can see Nevada's only glacier. The park also has an ancient bristlecone-pine forest; the 75-foot Lexington Arch; and Lehman Caves, harboring many unusual limestone formations. The park was established as Lehman Caves National Monument in 1922. In 1986, 77,000 acres of surrounding forest land was added to the monument to create Great Basin National Park.

 

WHAT TO SEE & DO

Auto touring, cave touring, caving (permit required, see below), fishing, hiking, picnicking. Facilities: Visitor center (Lehman Caves entrance), scenic drive, wayside exhibits, nature trails, amphitheaters. Bookstore, gift shop, mail drop, picnic area. Programs & Events: Year-round cave tours, slide show, and movie. Ranger-led hikes, walks, talks, and evening programs; scenic drive to Wheeler Peak (mid-June-mid-Aug.). Tips & Hints: Watch for altitude sickness. Wear good walking shoes or boots in cave. Leave pets at home. Visit year-round for caves, June-Sept, to explore landscape and bristlecone pines. Busiest in May and July, especially during holiday weekends; least crowded Dec. and Jan.

 

FOOD, LODGING & SUPPLIES

Camping: 4 campgrounds ($10; pit toilets) in the park: Baker Creek (32 sites; closed Sept.-mid-May), Lower Lehman Creek (11 sites); Upper Lehman Creek (24 sites; closed Sept.-mid-May), Wheeler Peak (37 sites; closed Sept.-May). Primitive campsites along Strawberry Creek Rd. and Snake Creek Rd. (free). Backcountry camping allowed. In Baker: Border Inn (U.S. 6/50, tel. 775/234-7300, 22 sites; $15; flush toilets, showers, hook-ups).  Hotel: In Baker: Border Inn (U.S. 6/50, tel. 775/234-7300, 26 rooms; $37). X Restaurants: In the park: Lehman Caves Gift & Cafe (tel. 775/234-7221; closed Nov.-Mar.). In Baker: Border Inn (U.S. 6/50, tel. 775/234-7300; $5-$7); T & D's Country Store, Restaurant & Lounge (1 Main St., tel. 775/234-7264; $5-$10; no lunch Nov.-Apr, Mon.-Thurs.).  Groceries: None in park. In Baker: T & D's Country Store, Restaurant & Lounge (1 Main St, tel. 775/234-7264).

 

FEES, HOURS & REGULATIONS

Free. Cave tours $2-$8 adults, free-$4 ages 11 and under. Backcountry registration strongly recommended. Wild caving permits required two weeks in advance. Nevada state fishing license required. No bikes on trails. No fireworks. No guns. No pets on trails or in caves. Leashed pets elsewhere. Vehicles over 24 feet long not recommended on Scenic Dr. to Wheeler Peak. No watercraft on lakes. Park open daily. Visitor center open mid-June-Labor Day, daily 7:30-5:30; Labor Day-mid-June, daily 8-4:30.

 

HOW TO GET THERE

5 mi west of Baker on Rte. 488 and 68 mi east of Ely via U.S. 6/50. Closest airports: Ely (68 mi), Salt Lake City (234 mi), Las Vegas (300 mi).

 

CONTACTS

Great Basin National Park (Baker, NV 89311, tel. 775/234-7331 Ext. 242 cave tour reservations; Ext. 228 wild caving permits, fax 775/234-7269,). White Pine Chamber of Commerce (636 Aultman St., Ely, NV 89301, tel. 775/289-8877,).

Great Basin National Park. Basic information for visitors to the Great Basin National Park In east-central Nevada, near Baker

 

Above right, top: Bristle cone pines, among the oldest trees in the world, are found in three groves in Great Basin National Park.

Above right, middle: Rising high above the floor of Lexington Canyon, this imposing natural arch was created by the forces of weather working slowly over a span of centuries.

Below: Upon reaching the summit of Wheeler's Peak, the mountain climber is rewarded with panoramic vistas of the Great Basin.

 

Great Basin, Nevada

Established: 1986   Acreage: 76,800

 

In an area of wide basins and high mountain ranges lies Great Basin National Park, the newest park in the United States. The park includes the former Lehman Caves National Monument and Wheeler Peak Scenic Area.

 

A highlight of the park is Lehman Caves, one of the largest limestone solution caverns found in the western United States. Over centuries, the chemical reaction between acid water and marble carved out the cave chambers. When the water table dropped below the cave floor, the cave was filled with air. As calcite-laden (the mineral from which marble is formed) water seeped down through the overlying rocks, it gathered as drops or spread out in thin films on the ceilings and sides of the cavern. As a result, hundreds of stalactites developed from the ceilings, growing longer and longer. In turn, water dripping from the stalactites built up stubby stalagmites.

 

The cave is also filled with other unusual rock formations. Thin, round disks of calcite are found in angular positions on the walls and floors of the cave. Pools of water have created beautifully terraced miniature dams around the edges. Huge, fluted columns reach from floor to ceiling. Twisting helic-tites —strange popcornlike lumps—grow on many of the formations themselves and cover walls and ceilings where the formations do not grow. They range in color from creamy white to orange to chocolate. Visitors to the park can take a tour through the varied color cave with its array of strange rock formations.

 

Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet/3982 meters), one of the highest mountains in the Great Basin, is the pinnacle of the impressive Snake Range, on the eastern edge of Nevada. An ascent of Wheeler Peak is an exhilarating alpine adventure, but only for those in good physical condition. Hiking trails lead to alpine lakes and a rare and ancient bristlecone pine forest. These trees are remarkable for their great age and their ability to survive adverse conditions. During harsh growing conditions, the living foliage dies back until the moisture and nutrients are sufficient for the remaining root system. A bristlecone pine found near Wheeler Peak was dated to be over 4900 years in 1964. Unfortunately, the tree was cut down before the area was protected as a national park.

 

The mountain slopes are covered with wildflowers and forests of aspen, pine, spruce, fir and mountain-mahogany. Mule deer feed in the mountain meadows, while, overhead, golden eagles soar.