Relief map with Great Basin overlay
| Mount Whitney summit|
14,505 ft (4,421 m)
|Area||209,162 sq mi (541,730 km2)|
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America. It spans nearly all of Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and portions of California, Idaho, and Wyoming. It is noted for both its arid climate and the basin and range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin in Death Valley to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than 100 miles (160 km) away at the summit of Mount Whitney. The region spans several physiographic divisions, biomes, ecoregions, and deserts.
An endorheic basin is a limited drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but converges instead into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation. Such a basin may also be referred to as a closed or terminal basin or as an internal drainage system or interior drainage basin.
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
Nevada is a state in the Western United States. It is bordered by Oregon to the northwest, Idaho to the northeast, California to the west, Arizona to the southeast, and Utah to the east. Nevada is the 7th most extensive, the 32nd most populous, and the 9th least densely populated of the U.S. states. Nearly three-quarters of Nevada's people live in Clark County, which contains the Las Vegas–Paradise metropolitan area where three of the state's four largest incorporated cities are located. Nevada's capital is Carson City.
The term "Great Basin" is applied to hydrographic, 11 biological, floristic, :21 physiographic, :14 topographic, and ethnographic geographic areas. :34 The name was originally coined by John C. Fremont, who, based on information gleaned from Joseph R. Walker as well as his own travels, recognized the hydrographic nature of the landform as "having no connection to the ocean". :8–9 The hydrographic definition is the most commonly used, and is the only one with a definitive border. The other definitions yield not only different geographical boundaries of "Great Basin" regions, but regional borders that vary from source to source. :11:
Hydrography is the branch of applied sciences which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers, as well as with the prediction of their change over time, for the primary purpose of safety of navigation and in support of all other marine activities, including economic development, security and defence, scientific research, and environmental protection.
Ecology is a branch of biology that studies the interactions among organisms and their biophysical environment, which includes both biotic and abiotic components. Topics of interest include the biodiversity, distribution, biomass, and populations of organisms, as well as cooperation and competition within and between species. Ecosystems are dynamically interacting systems of organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as primary production, pedogenesis, nutrient cycling, and niche construction, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. These processes are sustained by organisms with specific life history traits.
Topography is the study of the shape and features of land surfaces. The topography of an area could refer to the surface shapes and features themselves, or a description.
The Great Basin Desert is defined by plant and animal communities, and, according to the National Park Service, its boundaries approximate the hydrographic Great Basin, but exclude the southern "panhandle".
The Great Basin Desert is part of the Great Basin between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Range. The desert is a geographical region that largely overlaps the Great Basin shrub steppe defined by the World Wildlife Fund, and the Central Basin and Range ecoregion defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and United States Geological Survey. It is a temperate desert with hot, dry summers and snowy winters. The desert spans a large part of the state of Nevada, and extends into western Utah, eastern California, and Idaho. The desert is one of the four biologically defined deserts in North America, in addition to the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts.
The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. It was created on August 25, 1916, by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act and is an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. The NPS is charged with a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.
A salient is an elongated protrusion of a geopolitical entity, such as a subnational entity or a sovereign state.
The Great Basin Floristic Province was defined by botanist Armen Takhtajan to extend well beyond the boundaries of the hydrographically defined Great Basin: it includes the Snake River Plain, the Colorado Plateau, the Uinta Basin, and parts of Arizona north of the Mogollon Rim.
The Great Basin Floristic Province is a floristic province of the Madrean Subkingdom, in the Boreal Kingdom. It is located in the Western United States.
Armen Leonovich Takhtajan or Takhtajian, was a Soviet-Armenian botanist, one of the most important figures in 20th century plant evolution and systematics and biogeography. His other interests included morphology of flowering plants, paleobotany, and the flora of the Caucasus. He was born in Shusha. He was one of the most influential taxonomists of the latter twentieth century.
The Snake River Plain is a geologic feature located primarily within the U.S. state of Idaho. It stretches about 400 miles (640 km) westward from northwest of the state of Wyoming to the Idaho-Oregon border. The plain is a wide, flat bow-shaped depression and covers about a quarter of Idaho. Three major volcanic buttes dot the plain east of Arco, the largest being Big Southern Butte.
The Great Basin physiographic section is a geographic division of the Basin and Range Province defined by Nevin Fenneman in 1931.The United States Geological Survey adapted Fenneman's scheme in their Physiographic division of the United States. The "section" is somewhat larger than the hydrographic definition.
The Basin and Range Province is a vast physiographic region covering much of the inland Western United States and northwestern Mexico. It is defined by unique basin and range topography, characterized by abrupt changes in elevation, alternating between narrow faulted mountain chains and flat arid valleys or basins. The physiography of the province is the result of tectonic extension that began around 17 million years ago in the early Miocene epoch.
The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology, geography, geology, and hydrology. The USGS is a fact-finding research organization with no regulatory responsibility.
This list of physiographic regions of the contiguous United States identifies the 8 regions, 25 provinces, and 85 sections. The system dates to Nevin Fenneman's paper Physiographic Subdivision of the United States, published in 1917. Fenneman expanded and presented his system more fully in two books, Physiography of western United States (1931), and Physiography of eastern United States (1938). In these works Fenneman described 25 provinces and 85 sections of the United States physiography.
The Great Basin Culture Area or indigenous peoples of the Great Basin is a cultural classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas and a cultural region located between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. The culture area covers approximately 400,000 sq mi (1,000,000 km2), or just less than twice the area of the hydrographic Great Basin.
The Indigenous Peoples of the Great Basin are Native Americans of the northern Great Basin, Snake River Plain, and upper Colorado River basin. The "Great Basin" is a cultural classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas and a cultural region located between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, in what is now Nevada, and parts of Oregon, California, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah. The Great Basin region at the time of European contact was ~400,000 sq mi (1,000,000 km2). There is very little precipitation in the Great Basin area which affects the lifestyles and cultures of the inhabitants.
Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas is based upon cultural regions, geography, and linguistics. Anthropologists have named various cultural regions, with fluid boundaries, that are generally agreed upon with some variation. These cultural regions are broadly based upon the locations of indigenous peoples of the Americas from early European and African contact beginning in the late 15th century. When indigenous peoples have been forcibly removed by nation-states, they retain their original geographic classification. Some groups span multiple cultural regions.
The hydrographic Great Basin is a 209,162-square-mile (541,730 km2) area that drains internally. All precipitation in the region evaporates, sinks underground or flows into lakes (mostly saline). As observed by Fremont, creeks, streams, or rivers find no outlet to either the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. The region is bounded by the Wasatch Mountains to the east, the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges to the west, and the Snake River Basin to the north. The south rim is less distinct. The Great Basin includes most of Nevada, half of Utah, substantial portions of Oregon and California and small areas of Idaho, Wyoming, and Mexico. The term "Great Basin" is slightly misleading; the region is actually made up of many small basins. The Great Salt Lake, Pyramid Lake, and the Humboldt Sink are a few of the "drains" in the Great Basin. The Salton Sink is another closed basin within the Great Basin.
The Great Basin Divide separates the Great Basin from the watersheds draining to the Pacific Ocean. The southernmost portion of the Great Basin is the watershed area of the Laguna Salada. The Great Basin's longest and largest river is the Bear River of 350 mi (560 km), and the largest single watershed is the Humboldt River drainage of roughly 17,000 sq mi (44,000 km2). Most Great Basin precipitation is snow, and the precipitation that neither evaporates nor is extracted for human use will sink into groundwater aquifers, while evaporation of collected water occurs from geographic sinks. Lake Tahoe, North America's largest alpine lake, is part of the Great Basin's central Lahontan subregion.
The hydrographic Great Basin contains multiple deserts and ecoregions, each with its own distinctive set of flora and fauna.The ecological boundaries and divisions in the Great Basin are unclear.
The Great Basin overlaps four different deserts: portions of the hot Mojave and Colorado (a region within the Sonoran desert) Deserts to the south, and the cold Great Basin and Oregon High Deserts in the north. The deserts can be distinguished by their plants: the Joshua tree and creosote bush occur in the hot deserts, while the cold deserts have neither. The cold deserts are generally higher than the hot, and have their precipitation spread throughout the year.
The climate and flora of the Great Basin is strongly dependent on elevation: as the elevation increases, the temperature decreases and precipitation increases. Because of this, forests occur at higher elevations. Utah juniper/single-leaf pinyon (southern regions) and mountain mahogany (northern regions) form open pinyon-juniper woodland on the slopes of most ranges. Stands of limber pine and Great Basin bristlecone pine ( Pinus longaeva ) can be found in some of the higher ranges. In riparian areas with dependable water cottonwoods ( Populus fremontii ) and quaking aspen ( Populus tremuloides ) groves exist.
Because the forest ecosystem is distinct from a typical desert, some authorities, such as the World Wildlife Fund, separate the mountains of the Great Basin desert into their own ecoregion: the Great Basin montane forests.Many rare and endemic species occur in this ecoregion, because the individual mountain ranges are isolated from each other. During the last ice age, the Great Basin was wetter. As it dried during the Holocene, some species retreated to the higher isolated mountains and have high genetic diversity.
Other authorities divide the Great Basin into different ecoregions, depending on their own criteria. Armen Takhtajan defined the "Great Basin floristic province". The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency divides the Great Basin into three ecoregions roughly according to latitude: the Northern Basin and Range ecoregion, the Central Basin and Range ecoregion, and the Mojave Basin and Range ecoregion.
Great Basin wildlife includes pronghorn, mule deer, mountain lion, and lagomorphs such as black-tailed jackrabbit and desert cottontail and the coyotes that prey on them. Packrats, kangaroo rats and other small rodents are also common, and are predominantly nocturnal. Elk and bighorn sheep are present but uncommon. Small lizards such as the Great Basin fence lizard, longnose leopard lizard and horned lizard are common, especially in lower elevations. Rattlesnakes and gopher snakes are also present. The Inyo Mountains salamander is endangered. Shorebirds such as phalaropes and curlews can be found in wet areas. American white pelicans are common at Pyramid Lake. Golden eagles are also very common in the Great Basin.Mourning dove, western meadowlark, black-billed magpie, and common raven are other common bird species.
Two endangered species of fish are found in Pyramid Lake: the Cui-ui sucker fish (endangered 1967) and the Lahontan cutthroat trout (threatened 1970).
Large invertebrates include tarantulas (genus Aphonopelma ) and Mormon crickets. Exotic species, including chukar, grey partridge, and Himalayan snowcock, have been successfully introduced to the Great Basin, although the latter has only thrived in the Ruby Mountains. Cheatgrass, an invasive species which was unintentionally introduced, forms a critical portion of their diets. Feral horses (mustangs) and feral burros are highly reproductive, and ecosystem-controversial, alien species. Most of the Great Basin is open range and domestic cattle and sheep are widespread.
The Great Basin includes valleys, basins, lakes and mountain ranges of the Basin and Range Province.Geographic features near the Great Basin include the Continental Divide of the Americas, the Great Divide Basin, and the Gulf of California.
The Great Basin physiographic section of the Basin and Range Province contains the Great Basin, but extends into eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and the Colorado River watershed (including the Las Vegas metropolitan area and the northwest corner of Arizona).The Basin and Range region is the product of geological forces stretching the earth's crust, creating many north-south trending mountain ranges. These ranges are separated by flat valleys or basins. These hundreds of ranges make Nevada the most mountainous state in the country.
The Great Basin's two most populous metropolitan areas are the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area to the west and Wasatch Front to the east. The region between these two areas is sparsely populated, but includes the smaller cities of Elko, Ely, Wendover, West Wendover, and Winnemucca. To the north are; in California Susanville, in Oregon Burns and Hines, in Idaho Malad and in Wyoming Evanston. To the south are Cedar City, Tonopah, and Bishop and the very southern area of the basin has the communities of Pahrump, Palmdale, Victorville, and Palm Springs. Interstate Highways traversing the Great Basin are Interstate 80 (I-80) and I-15, and I-70 and I-84 have their respective endpoints within its boundaries. Other major roadways are U.S. Route 6 (US 6), US 50, US 93, US 95 and US 395. The section of US 50 between Delta, Utah, and Fallon, Nevada, is nicknamed "The Loneliest Road in America", and Nevada State Route 375 is designated the "Extraterrestrial Highway". The Great Basin is traversed by several rail lines including the Union Pacific Railroad's Overland Route (Union Pacific Railroad) through Reno and Ogden, Feather River Route, Central Corridor and Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad.
Sediment build-up over thousands of years filled the down-faulted basins between ranges and created relatively flat lacustrine plains from Pleistocene lake beds of the Great Basin.For example, after forming about 32,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville overflowed about 14,500 years ago in the Bonneville Flood through Red Rock Pass and lowered to the "Provo Lake" level (the Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Sevier Lake, Rush Lake, and Little Salt Lake remain). Lake Lahontan, Lake Manly, and Lake Mojave were similar Pleistocene lakes.
Paleo-Indian habitation by the Great Basin tribes began as early as 10,000 B.C. (the Numic-speaking Shoshonean peoples arrived as late as 1000 A.D.). 500 feet (150 m) higher along the sides of the surrounding mountains. The Great Basin was inhabited for at least several thousand years by Uto-Aztecan language group-speaking Native American Great Basin tribes, including the Shoshone, Ute, Mono, and Northern Paiute.Archaeological evidence of habitation sites along the shore of Lake Lahontan date from the end of the ice age when its shoreline was approximately
European exploration of the Great Basin occurred during the 18th century Spanish colonization of the Americas. The first immigrant American to cross the Great Basin from the Sierra Nevada was Jedediah Strong Smith in 1827.Peter Skene Ogden of the British Hudson's Bay Company explored the Great Salt Lake and Humboldt River regions in the late 1820s, following the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada to the Gulf of California. Benjamin Bonneville explored the northeast portion during an 1832 expedition. The United States had acquired control of the area north of the 42nd parallel via the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty with Spain and 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain. The US gained control of most of the rest of the Great Basin via the 1848 Mexican Cession. The first non-indigenous settlement was in 1847 in the Great Salt Lake Valley, leading to first American religious settlement effort of the Mormon provisional State of Deseret in 1849 in present-day Utah and northern Nevada. Later settlements were connected with the eastern regions of the 1848 California Gold Rush, with its immigrants crossing the Great Basin on the California Trail along Nevada's Humboldt River to Carson Pass in the Sierras. The Oregon Territory was established in 1848 and the Utah Territory in 1850.
In 1869 the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed at Promontory Summit in the Great Basin.Around 1902, the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad was constructed in the lower basin and Mojave Desert for California-Nevada rail service to Las Vegas, Nevada.
To close a 1951 Indian Claims Commission case, the Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act of 2004 established the United States payment of $117 million to the Great Basin tribe for the acquisition of 39,000 square miles (100,000 km2).[ citation needed ]
The Dixie Valley, Nevada, earthquake (6.6–7.1) in the Great Basin was in 1954.
Climate varies throughout the Great Basin by elevation, latitude, and other factors. Higher elevations tend to be cooler and receive more precipitation. The western areas of the basin tend to be drier than the eastern areas because of the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada. Most of the basin experiences a semi-arid or arid climate with warm summers and cold winters. However, some of the mountainous areas in the basin are high enough in elevation to experience an Alpine climate. Due to the region's altitude and aridity, most areas in the Great Basin experience a substantial Diurnal temperature variation.
California is a U.S. state on the western coast of North America. Covering an area of 163,696 sq mi (423,970 km2), California is geographically diverse. The Sierra Nevada, the fertile farmlands of the Central Valley, and the arid Mojave Desert of the south are some of the major geographic features of this U.S. state. It is home to some of the world's most exceptional trees: the tallest, most massive, and oldest. It is also home to both the highest and lowest points in the 48 contiguous states. The state is generally divided into Northern and Southern California, although the boundary between the two is not well defined. San Francisco is decidedly a Northern California city and Los Angeles likewise a Southern California one, but areas in between do not often share their confidence in geographic identity. The US Geological Survey defines the geographic center of the state at a point near North Fork, California.
The Intermontane Plateaus of the Western United States is one of eight U.S. Physiographic regions (divisions) of the physical geography of the contiguous United States. The region is composed of intermontane plateaus and mountain ranges. It is subdivided into physiographic provinces, which are each subdivided into physiographic sections.
Lake Bonneville was a prehistoric pluvial lake that covered much of the eastern part of North America's Great Basin region. Most of the territory it covered was in present-day Utah, though parts of the lake extended into present-day Idaho and Nevada. Lake Bonneville existed until about 14,500 years ago, when a large portion of the lake was released through the Red Rock Pass in Idaho. Following the Bonneville flood, as the release is now known, the lake receded to a level called the Provo Level. Many of the unique geological characteristics of the Great Basin are due to the effects of the lake.
The Mojave Desert is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America. It is in the North American Southwest, primarily within southeastern California and southern Nevada, and it occupies 47,877 sq mi (124,000 km2). Small areas also extend into Utah and Arizona. Its boundaries are generally noted by the presence of Joshua trees, which are native only to the Mojave Desert and are considered an indicator species, and it is believed to support an additional 1,750 to 2,000 species of plants. The central part of the desert is sparsely populated, while its peripheries support large communities such as Las Vegas, Barstow, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville, and St. George.
Pyramid Lake is the geographic sink of the basin of the Truckee River, 40 mi (64 km) northeast of Reno, Nevada, United States.
The ecology of California can be understood by dividing the state into a number of ecoregions, which contain distinct ecological communities of plants and animals in a contiguous region. The ecoregions of California can be grouped into four major groups: desert ecoregions, Mediterranean ecoregions, forested mountains, and coastal forests.
Carson Sink is a playa in the northeastern portion of the Carson Desert that was formerly the terminus of the Carson River. The sink is currently fed by drainage canals of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. The southeastern fringe of the sink where the canals enter is a wetland of the Central Basin and Range ecoregion, which is mostly included within the Fallon National Wildlife Refuge and the Stillwater Wildlife Management Area. This area serves as an important stopover for migrating waterfowl. The Sehoo Formation is in the south of the Carson Sink.
The Great Salt Lake Desert is a large dry lake in northern Utah, United States, between the Great Salt Lake and the Nevada border which is noted for white evaporite Lake Bonneville salt deposits.
The Intermountain West, or Intermountain Region, is a geographic and geological region of the Western United States. It is located between the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada on the west.
The Northern Basin and Range ecoregion is a Level III ecoregion designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. states of Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and California. It contains dissected lava plains, rolling hills, alluvial fans, valleys, and scattered mountain ranges in the northern part of the Great Basin. Although arid, the ecoregion is higher and cooler than the Snake River Plain to the north and has more available moisture and a cooler climate than the Central Basin and Range to the south. Its southern boundary is determined by the highest shoreline of Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, which once inundated the Central Basin and Range. The western part of the region is internally drained; its eastern stream network drains to the Snake River system.
The Deserts of California have unique ecosystems and habitats, a sociocultural and historical "Old West" collection of legends, districts, and communities, and they also form a popular tourism region of dramatic natural features and recreational development. All of the deserts are located in eastern Southern California, in the Western United States.
The Great Basin montane forests is an ecoregion of the Temperate coniferous forests biome, as designated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The Carson Desert is a desert in the Lahontan Basin and the desert valley of Churchill County, Nevada (U.S.), which receives an average 5 inches (130 mm) annual precipitation. The desert is the low valley area between the adjacent mountain ranges, while the larger watershed includes the interior slopes of the demarcating ranges. The desert was inundated by Lake Lahontan during the Pleistocene, and the watershed became part of Nevada's Conservation Security Program in 2005.
The Nevada Basin is the Great Basin area surrounded by river basins and, to the east, the Great Salt Lake basin. The bounding river basins include those of the following : Sevier River, Muddy River, Las Vegas Wash, Colorado River, Mojave River, Amargosa River, Owens River, Lake Lahontan basin, and Snake River. The 1850 diagonal California state lines with the Utah Territory & New Mexico Territory are along the general direction of the Nevada Basin's southwest drainage divide (rim), while the north-to-south rim on the east is through the area of the three meridians used for the Nevada-Utah state line.
Neopluvial is a term referring to a phase of wetter and colder climate in the western United States in the late Holocene, causing the levels of lakes in the Great Basin to increase and previously dry lakes and springs to refill. It is in part correlative to the Neoglacial, and might have been caused by a change in winter time conditions over the North Pacific. It resembles the pluvial period that occurred in western North America during the late last glacial maximum, but was much weaker than the LGM wet period.
Lake Thompson is a former lake in California. The name is derived from an academic who first speculated on the possibility that a lake existed in lower Antelope Valley. It occupied the area of the lower Antelope Valley and of the lakes Rogers Lake and Rosamond Lake during the Pleistocene. It dried up during the Holocene.
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