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The GREAT BASIN is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America
North America
. It spans across sections of Wyoming
Wyoming
, Idaho
Idaho
, Utah
Utah
, Nevada
Nevada
, Oregon
Oregon
, California
California
and the Mexican state of Baja California
California
. 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
Badwater Basin
to the highest point of the contiguous United States
United States
, less than 100 miles (160 km) away at the summit of Mount Whitney
Mount Whitney
. The region spans several physiographic divisions, biomes /ecoregions , and deserts .

CONTENTS

* 1 Definition * 2 Hydrology

* 3 Ecology
Ecology

* 3.1 Fauna

* 4 Geography

* 4.1 Great Basin
Great Basin
physiographic section * 4.2 Settlements and roads

* 5 History * 6 Climate

* 7 Significant special designations

* 7.1 See also

* 8 References * 9 External links

DEFINITION

The hydrographic Great Basin
Great Basin
(magenta outline), distinguished from the Great Basin
Great Basin
Desert
Desert
(black), and the Basin and Range Geological Province (teal).

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. Frémont , 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

The Great Basin
Great Basin
Desert
Desert
is defined by plant and animal communities, and, according to the National Park Service
National Park Service
, its boundaries approximate the hydrographic Great Basin, but exclude the southern "panhandle ".

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
Snake River Plain
, the Colorado Plateau , the Uinta Basin , and parts of Arizona
Arizona
north of the Mogollon Rim .

The Great Basin
Great Basin
physiographic section is a geographic division of the Basin and Range Province
Basin and Range Province
defined by Nevin Fenneman in 1931. The United States
United States
Geological Survey adapted Fenneman's scheme in their Physiographic division of the United States
United States
. The "section" is somewhat larger than the hydrographic definition.

The Great Basin
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
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.

HYDROLOGY

The Tule Valley watershed and the House Range ( Notch Peak ) are part of the Great Basin's Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
hydrologic unit For the subdivisions and major waterways of the Great Basin, see List of Great Basin watersheds and List of rivers of the Great Basin .

The hydrographic Great Basin
Great Basin
is a 209,162 square miles (541,730 km2) area that drains internally. All precipitation in the region evaporates, sinks underground or flows into lakes (mostly saline). As observed by Frémont, creeks, streams, or rivers find no outlet to either the Gulf of Mexico
Mexico
or the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
. The region is bounded by the Wasatch Mountains
Wasatch Mountains
to the east, the Sierra Nevada
Nevada
and Cascade Ranges to the west, and the Snake River
Snake River
Basin to the north. The south rim is less distinct. The Great Basin
Great Basin
includes most of Nevada
Nevada
, half of Utah
Utah
, substantial portions of Oregon
Oregon
and California
California
and small areas of Idaho
Idaho
, Wyoming
Wyoming
, and Mexico
Mexico
. The term "Great Basin" is slightly misleading; the region is actually made up of many small basins. The Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
, Pyramid Lake , and the Humboldt Sink
Humboldt Sink
are a few of the "drains" in the Great Basin. The Salton Sink
Salton Sink
is another closed basin within the Great Basin.

The Great Basin Divide
Great Basin Divide
separates the Great Basin
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
Humboldt River
drainage of roughly 17,000 sq mi (44,000 km2). Most Great Basin
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
Lake Tahoe
, North America's largest alpine lake , is part of the Great Basin's central Lahontan subregion.

ECOLOGY

Main articles: Great Basin
Great Basin
Desert
Desert
and Mojave Desert
Desert
Ecoregions as currently delineated by the Environmental Protection Agency and World Wildlife Fund
World Wildlife Fund

The hydrographic Great Basin
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
Great Basin
are unclear.

The Great Basin
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
Great Basin
and Oregon
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
Great Basin
is strongly dependent on elevation: as the elevation increases, the precipitation increases and temperature decreases. Because of this, forests occur at higher elevations. Utah
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
Populus tremuloides
) groves exist.

Because the forest ecosystem is distinct from a typical desert, some authorities, such as the World Wildlife Fund
World Wildlife Fund
, separate the mountains of the Great Basin
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
Great Basin
was wetter. As it dried during the Holocene
Holocene
, some species retreated to the higher isolated mountains and have high genetic diversity

Other authorities divide the Great Basin
Great Basin
into different ecoregions, depending on their own criteria. Armen Takhtajan
Armen Takhtajan
defined the "Great Basin floristic province". The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency divides the Great Basin
Great Basin
into three ecoregions roughly according to latitude: the Northern Basin and Range ecoregion
Northern Basin and Range ecoregion
, the Central Basin and Range ecoregion , and the Mojave Basin and Range ecoregion . Great Basin
Great Basin
snowstorm in the Snake Valley of Utah
Utah
and Nevada
Nevada

FAUNA

Great Basin
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 ( Aphonopelma genus) and Mormon crickets . Exotic species, including chukar , grey partridge , and Himalayan snowcock
Himalayan snowcock
, have been successfully introduced to the Great Basin, although the latter has only thrived in the Ruby Mountains
Ruby Mountains
. Cheatgrass , an invasive species which was unintentionally introduced, forms a critical portion of their diets. Feral
Feral
horses (mustangs ) and wild burros are other highly reproductive, and ecosystem-controversial, alien species. Most of the Great Basin
Great Basin
is open range and domestic cattle and sheep are widespread.

GEOGRAPHY

Basin and Range topography as seen from the air

The Great Basin
Great Basin
includes valleys, basins, lakes and mountain ranges of the Basin and Range Province
Basin and Range Province
. Geographic features near the Great Basin include the Continental Divide of the Americas
Continental Divide of the Americas
, the Great Divide Basin , and the Gulf of California
California
. Map showing the Great Basin physiographic section (shown as 22a)

GREAT BASIN PHYSIOGRAPHIC SECTION

The Great Basin
Great Basin
physiographic section of the Basin and Range Province contains the Great Basin, but extends into eastern Oregon
Oregon
, southern Idaho
Idaho
, and the Colorado River
Colorado River
watershed (including the Las Vegas metropolitan area and the northwest corner of Arizona
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
Nevada
the most mountainous state in the country.

SETTLEMENTS AND ROADS

The Great Basin's two most populous metropolitan areas are the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area to the west and Wasatch Front
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
California
Susanville , in Oregon
Oregon
Burns and Hines , in Idaho
Idaho
Malad and in Wyoming
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
Palmdale
, Victorville , and Palm Springs
Palm Springs
. Interstate highways traversing the Great Basin
Great Basin
are 80 and 15 , and Interstates 70 and 84 have their respective beginning and terminus within its boundaries. Other major roadways are U.S. Route 6
U.S. Route 6
, U.S. Route 50
U.S. Route 50
, U.S. Route 93
U.S. Route 93
, U.S. Route 95 and U.S. Route 395
U.S. Route 395
. The section of U.S. Route 50
U.S. Route 50
between Delta, Utah
Utah
, and Fallon, Nevada
Nevada
, is nicknamed "The Loneliest Road in America", and Nevada
Nevada
State Route 375 is designated the "Extraterrestrial Highway". The Great Basin
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 .

HISTORY

Sediment build-up over thousands of years filled the down-faulted basins between ranges and created relatively flat lacustrine plains from Pleistocene
Pleistocene
lake beds of the Great Basin. For example, after forming about 32,000 years ago , Lake Bonneville
Lake Bonneville
overflowed about 14,500 years ago in the Bonneville Flood
Bonneville Flood
through Red Rock Pass and lowered to the "Provo Lake" level (the Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
, Utah
Utah
Lake , Sevier Lake , Rush Lake , and Little Salt Lake remain). Lake Lahontan , Lake Manly
Lake Manly
, and Lake Mojave were similar Pleistocene
Pleistocene
lakes. Native American tribes that inhabited the Great Basin
Great Basin
were divided between the "Great Basin" and, in the Colorado desert region, the " California
California
" tribal classifications.

Paleo-Indian habitation by the Great Basin tribes
Great Basin tribes
began as early as 10,000 B.C. (the Numic-speaking Shoshonean peoples arrived as late as 1000 A.D.). Archaeological evidence of habitation sites along the shore of Lake Lahontan
Lake Lahontan
date from the end of the ice age when its shoreline was approximately 500 feet (150 m) higher along the sides of the surrounding mountains. The Great Basin
Great Basin
was inhabited for at least several thousand years by Uto-Aztecan
Uto-Aztecan
language group-speaking Native American Great Basin
Great Basin
tribes, including the Shoshone
Shoshone
, Ute , Mono , and Northern Paiute
Paiute
.

European exploration of the Great Basin
Great Basin
occurred during the 18th century Spanish colonization of the Americas
Spanish colonization of the Americas
. The first immigrant American to cross the Great Basin
Great Basin
from the Sierra Nevada
Nevada
was Jedediah Strong Smith in 1827. Peter Skene Ogden
Peter Skene Ogden
of the British Hudson\'s Bay Company explored the Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
and Humboldt River
Humboldt River
regions in the late 1820s, following the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada
Nevada
to the Gulf of California. Benjamin Bonneville
Benjamin Bonneville
explored the northeast portion during an 1832 expedition . The United States
United States
had acquired control of the area north of the 42nd parallel via the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty
Adams–Onís Treaty
with Spain and 1846 Oregon
Oregon
Treaty with Britain. The US gained control of most of the rest of the Great Basin
Great Basin
via the 1848 Mexican Cession
Mexican Cession
. The first non-indigenous settlement was in 1847 in the Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
Valley, leading to first American religious settlement effort of the Mormon provisional State of Deseret
State of Deseret
in 1849 in present-day Utah
Utah
and northern Nevada. Later settlements were connected with the eastern regions of the 1848 California
California
Gold Rush , with its immigrants crossing the Great Basin
Great Basin
on the California
California
Trail along Nevada's Humboldt River
Humboldt River
to Carson Pass
Carson Pass
in the Sierras. The Oregon
Oregon
Territory was established in 1848 and the Utah
Utah
Territory in 1850.

In 1869 the First Transcontinental Railroad
First Transcontinental Railroad
was completed at Promontory Summit
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
Desert
for California- Nevada
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
United States
payment of $117 million to the Great Basin
Great Basin
tribe for the acquisition of 39,000 square miles (100,000 km2).

The Dixie Valley, Nevada
Nevada
, earthquake (6.6-7.1) in the Great Basin was in 1954.

CLIMATE

Wah Wah Valley
Wah Wah Valley
, Utah
Utah
, thunderstorm For more detail of Great Basin climate, see Great Basin
Great Basin
Desert
Desert
§ Climate , and Mojave Desert § Climate .

Climate varies throughout the Great Basin
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
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
Diurnal temperature variation
.

SIGNIFICANT SPECIAL DESIGNATIONS

* Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park
: President Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding
created LEHMAN CAVES NATIONAL MONUMENT by presidential proclamation on January 24, 1922. It was incorporated into the national park on October 27, 1986. * Death Valley
Death Valley
National Park : Death Valley
Death Valley
National Monument was designated in 1933 and the park was substantially expanded and became a national park in 1994. * Joshua Tree National Park was initially created as a National Monument on 10 August 1936, containing 825,000 acres (334,000 ha), after Minerva Hoyt led activism aimed at persuading the state and federal governments at protecting the area. The park was elevated to a National Park on 31 October 1994 by the Desert
Desert
Protection Act , which also added 234,000 acres to the park. * The Golden Spike National Historic Site
Golden Spike National Historic Site
as authorized as a National Historic Site on April 2, 1957 under non-federal ownership. It was authorized for federal ownership and administration by an act of Congress on July 30, 1965. * The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
was designated in 1990. * The Pony Express
Pony Express
and California
California
National Historic Trails were designated in 1992. * The Mojave National Preserve
Mojave National Preserve
was established October 31, 1994 with the passage of the California
California
Desert
Desert
Protection Act by the US Congress . * The Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area was created by the Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area Act of 2000. * The Old Spanish National Historic Trail was designated in 2002. * The Great Basin National Heritage Area was designated on October 13, 2006 under P.L.109-338 * A section of the Amargosa River was a designated Wild and Scenic River in 2009 and is also a Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management
Natural Area. * The Basin and Range National Monument was designated on July 9, 2015 under the authority of the Antiquities Act
Antiquities Act
by President Barack Obama on the boundary of the Great Basin
Great Basin
and Mojave Deserts, encompassing Garden and Coal Valleys in Southern Nevada.

SEE ALSO

* Hidden Cave , an archaeological cave site located in the Great Basin * Bonneville Salt Flats
Bonneville Salt Flats
* Hastings Cutoff * Salton Sea
Salton Sea

REFERENCES

* ^ A B " Great Basin
Great Basin
(2087988)". Geographic Names Information System . United States
United States
Geological Survey . Retrieved 2011-10-01. * ^ "What is the WBD?". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2010-10-23. * ^ A B C D E F G H I This article incorporates public domain material from the National Park Service
National Park Service
document "What is the Great Basin?" (retrieved on 2015-07-14). * ^ A B C D E F Grayson, Donald K. (1993). The Desert's Past. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1560982225 . * ^ Thorne, Robert F. "Phytogeography of North America
North America
North of Mexico". Archived from the original on 2004-03-17. * ^ Fenneman, Nevin Melancthon (1931). Physiography of western United States. McGraw-Hill. pp. 326–328. OCLC
OCLC
487636 . * ^ "Physiographic Regions". United States
United States
Geological Survey . 2003-04-17. Archived from the original on 2006-05-15. * ^ Pritzker, Barry M (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples (Google Books). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1 . Retrieved 2010-06-04. * ^ "Salton Sea: California\'s Everglades" (PDF). Redlands Institute. p. 6. Retrieved 2015-08-02. * ^ "Bear River Watershed Description". Bear River Watershed Information System. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-04-28. (an additional ~1% is in the SW corner of WY) * ^ "Great Basin". Geologic Provinces of the United States: Basin and Range Province. nature.nps.gov: National Park Service
National Park Service
. Archived from the original on 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2009-01-10. * ^ "Amazing Lake Tahoe". Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe
Visitors Authority. Archived from the original on 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2008-10-26. * ^ Level III and IV Ecoregions of the Continental United States, EPA * ^ " Great Basin
Great Basin
shrub steppe". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. * ^ Brussard, P.F.; Charlet, D.A.; Dobkin, D.S.; Ball, L.C.; et al. (1998). "Great Basin-Mojave Desert
Desert
Region" (PDF). In Mac, M.J.; Opler, P.A.; Puckett Haeker, C.E.; et al. Status and trends of the nation’s biological resources. 2. Reno, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey. * ^ "Deserts of North American". Encyclopedia of Earth. * ^ A B " Great Basin
Great Basin
montane forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. * ^ Schmitt, Dave N. (Winter 1995). "The Taphonomy of Golden Eagle Prey Accumulations at Great Basin
Great Basin
Roosts" (PDF). J. Ethnobiol. 15 (2): 237–256. * ^ Hogan, C.Michael; Papineau, Marc; et al. (1987). Development of a dynamic water quality simulation model for the Truckee River
Truckee River
. Environmental Protection Agency Technology Series. Washington D.C.: Earth
Earth
Metrics Inc. * ^ "Basin and Range Province". Geologic Provinces of the United States. United States
United States
Geological Survey . 2004. Retrieved 2009-01-10. * ^ "Physiographic regions" (PDF). Tapestry of Time and Terrain. USGS. * ^ "The Official Hwy 50 Survival Guide — The Loneliest Road in America" (PDF). Nevada
Nevada
Commission on Tourism. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2007-12-15. * ^ "Tourism Commission Has Really Gone Far Out There". Las Vegas Sun. July 5, 1996. Retrieved January 13, 2009. * ^ Jackson, Richard H.; Stevens, Dale J. (1981). "Physical and Cultural Environment of Utah
Utah
Lake and Adjacent Areas". Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs (5: Utah
Utah
Lake Monograph): 5. Retrieved 2010-04-06. * ^ Gilbert, Grove Karl (1890). Lake Bonneville
Lake Bonneville
( Google Books
Google Books
). p. 127. Retrieved 2010-04-23. * ^ Morgan, Dale L (1947). The Great Salt Lake. Salt Lake City: University of Utah
Utah
Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-87480-478-7 . * ^ "Archaeology, Cultural Transmission, and the Indigenous Native American Indians of the Great Basin
Great Basin
Region of North America". Bauu Institute. Retrieved 2010-04-22. * ^ Morgan (1953, 1964), Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West, p. 7 * ^ Ogden, Peter Skene, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online * ^ "Ceremony at "Wedding of the Rails," May 10, 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah". World Digital Library
World Digital Library
. 1869-05-10. Retrieved 2013-07-20. * ^ NPS contributors (2003). The National Parks Index (PDF). Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. p. 26. Archived from the original on 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-10-05. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link ) * ^ Zarki, Joe. "A Park for Minerva". Joshua Tree National Park, NPS. Retrieved 17 December 2013. * ^ "Park History". Joshua Tree National Park, NPS. Retrieved 17 December 2013. * ^ " California
California
Desert
Desert
Protection Act". Joshua Tree National Park. U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-08-02. * ^ "Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area Act of 2000" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-11-08. Retrieved 25 July 2015. * ^ "Join Our Friends". Great Basin
Great Basin
National Park. U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-08-02. * ^ " Amargosa River Natural Area". U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Archived from the original on 2016-02-03. Retrieved 2015-08-02. * ^ "Secretary Jewell Applauds President Obama\'s Designation of Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada". Bureau of Land Management News Release. U.S. Department of the Interior.

EXTERNAL LINKS

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