At the end of the Nevada section of Hwy 50 is the Great Basin National Park, a national park that we had never heard of before we began our drive on the Loneliest Highway in America. We love the national parks, and visiting new ones is always fun.
The Great Basin is comprised of multiple basins, from the Sierra Nevadas on the West to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains on the east, with lots of mountain ranges and few rivers. These narrow basins surrounded by mountains offer no outlet to the sea for their streams and rivers. So the water in its shallow salt lakes, marshes and mud flats evaporates.
Great Basin National Park was created in 1986 and includes much of South Snake Range, a desert mountain island surrounded by desert. This and other mountain islands support species of plants and animals that can only survive on the tall, cool mountains. At these higher altitudes there is lots of diversity – streams, lakes, and wildlife.
There are five campgrounds in the national park, one that accommodates big rigs. But we chose to stay at Sacramento Pass Recreation Area, a free BLM campground. It was just off the road but quite nice. There is an equestrian campground with even lovelier views on the upper level but there was one trailer there, so we chose to be on our own on the lower level. Read my review of the campground here.
We signed up for a ranger-led tour of the cavern, which has lots of beautiful features. The one requirement to tour the cavern is that anyone that has visited another cave needs to wear different clothing than they wore then, or make sure that articles worn or carried into the previous cave were laundered.
This is in order to try and stop the spread of white-nose syndrome which has killed millions of bats beginning in upstate New York and now spreading to Missouri. One common denominator has been people going from one cave to another. I just love bats and was hoping to see some on our tour, but we didn’t see any.
The cave is best known for a having many shields, a particular feature where circular plates are connected in a way that looks a bit like a clam shell. Very cool.
There were six of us in our tour group which was nice, but the ranger mentioned that in summer the groups can be as large as twenty. I most definitely recommend the tour.
The wildflowers were beginning to come out, but we did not see much wildlife other than marmot and wild turkey.
On the road leading into the park there were some fun “Nevada Fence Art” pieces on the posts along the fence line. This “Post-Impression Art” was started by a partially paralyzed gentleman who placed concrete filled rubber gloves on top of some posts and called them “The Permanent Wave Society”.