Native American History
The area of Great Basin National Park has been inhabited by Native American tribes since as early as 9,000 years ago. The first inhabitants were known as the Fremont People, a hunter-gatherer society that left behind evidence throughout much of Nevada and Utah. Later, more nomadic peoples such as the Shoshone and Paiute tribes would call this region home. The greatest evidence of their presence still remains today in the form of rock art, such as petroglyphs adorning numerous canyon walls around the park.
The Great Basin gets its name from the unique way water is drained in the area. Instead of flowing into the sea, streams and rivers collect in shallow salt lakes, marshes, and mud flats where it evaporates in the desert air. The Great Basin is not just one basin, but many, separated by mountain ranges that run parallel to each other. This creates a stunning landscape of alternating basins and ranges, from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah to the Sierra Nevada in California. While it may appear monotonous with endless sagebrush, a vibrant ecosystem is hidden beneath the surface. Above the valleys, towering mountains create a high-elevation archipelago, providing cooler air and more water. This allows for a diverse range of plants and animals that couldn't survive in the lower desert.
The Great Basin has served as a thoroughfare for many explorers over the years, from John C. Fremont who mapped much of the area in the 1840s to settlers traveling along the California Trail in search of gold and silver. The park was first established as a US National Monument by President Warren Harding in 1922, but it wasn't until 1986 that it became a full-fledged National Park.
Establishing the Park
Established on October 27, 1986, this breathtaking park is an extraordinary representation of the remarkable Great Basin region. Before its establishment, the area was known as Lehman Caves National Monument (established in 1922) and the Wheeler Peak Scenic Area of Humboldt National Forest.
Encompassing over 200,000 square miles, the Great Basin is a unique hydrologic region. Here, all precipitation, whether as rainfall or melting snow, remains within the basin. It evaporates or filters into underground aquifers, never reaching the ocean.
From the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains in the West to the striking Wasatch Range in the East, and from the northern reaches of Idaho to the southern extents of Nevada, the Great Basin region presents an awe-inspiring landscape to explore. Come and discover the hidden wonders of Great Basin National Park.