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|Great Basin National Park
home of bristlecone pines, Mount Wheeler, and Lehman Caves
location of the Great Basin
Great Basin National Park protects 77,1800 acres of a 200,000-square-mile dry and mountainous region between the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch mountain ranges that is fairly unique because it drains internally, with no streams, creeks or rivers reaching either the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, water collects in shallow salt lakes, marshes and mud flats, where it evaporates in the desert air.
Flora and Fauna
Eleven species of conifer trees and over 800 species of flowering plants are found within the park. The most notable of those species is the bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva), which is known for its ability to live for thousands of years in adverse growing conditions. In fact, one of the oldest living organisms ever discovered was a bristlecone pine on Wheeler Peak that was at least 5,000 years old when it was cut down for research purposes in 1964. Other common plants found within the park are sagebrush, saltbrush, single-leaf pinyon pine, Utah juniper, white fir, quaking aspen, and Ponderosa pine.
The park is home to 61 species of mammals, 18 reptiles, 238 birds, 2 amphibians, and 8 fish.
The highest point within the park is Mount Wheeler, the peak of which is 13,063 feet above sea level, which makes it the second-highest peak in Nevada. Despite being located in what is almost a desert, the top of the mountain is covered by deep snow most of the year. A paved road takes visitors to the 10,000-foot mark, which is just below the permanent snow line.
Lehman Caves National Monument lies at the base of Mount Wheeler. Guided tours of this limestone cave system offer glimpses of stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, flowstone, and underground pools. The caves are also "home" to over 300 shield formations, more than any other cave.
Lexington Arch, which rises high above the floor of Lexington Canyon, is one of the relatively few natural arches in the western United States to be carved from limestone; most of them are composed of sandstone.
President Warren G. Harding created Lehman Caves National Monument by presidential proclamation on January 24, 1922. It, Humboldt National Forest's Wheeler Peak Scenic Area, and surrounding areas were incorporated into Great Basin National Park on October 27, 1986.
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This page was last updated on June 21, 2018.