Spanish conquistadors called it the "Northern Mystery". Scouts of the Western Expansion called it "the big empty". But it was John C. Frémont's expedition of 1843 that finally gave this place its name: The Great Basin.
Much like caving, the spirit of discovery runs deep in Nevada. It is in our DNA. This territory was founded by miners searching for silver and gold, and by settlers searching for freedom and solitude. They are the soul of Nevada. Discovery is part of our history and heritage... and the same can be said for all cavers.
This magnificent land is both our destination and our passion for the 75th anniversary of the National Speleological Society.
Great Basin National Park
This state was made for wanderers and wonderers. From expansive wilderness areas to the busy hustle of our old-west casinos, Nevada offers transformational experiences unlike any other state - both above ground and below it.
To be sure, this is a very dry place. Water in the Great Basin is a scarce commodity. At 6,400 feet above sea level, Ely sits in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains. We call this place a desert because of the extremes in precipitation, not because of the temperature. Most people are surprised to learn that, only 35 miles from Ely, they can still visit a glacier.
It may be difficult to imagine how this temperate semi-arid environment could give rise to extensive cave development, but during the Paleozoic Era, this was beach-front property. There are no ocean waves here anymore. There's scarcely any water. But from your airplane window at 30,000 feet, you can almost imagine the deep valleys and high ridges washing across the land leaving a swath of naked geology in their wake.
Nevada is the most mineral-rich state in the nation. Over a century of mining activity has left quiet testimony in the many ghost towns that dot this landscape. Many of these places will be included in our trip schedule at the 2016 convention. Quite often, you can combine a cave trip with a side visit to a ghost town in the same excursion.
Nevada encourages visitors in this land to venture off the beaten path to discover what makes our state truly special. The 2016 convention staff plans to nurture this spirit of discovery in every possible way.
75th Anniversary Convention Video
The year 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the National Speleological Society. Our responsibility to produce a truly amazing convention has been the focus of our efforts over the last several years. Respecting the heritage and ethic of the NSS is integrally woven into the production plans we are pursuing.
While milestone events tend to focus on retrospectives, we also plan to gaze forward into the future of caving. Some of the sessions in development for the 2016 convention will speculate on where speleology may go over the next 75 years. Of course, we'll also deliver the sessions that cavers have endorsed and come to expect at NSS conventions. Covering topics from geology to exploration to artistic presentations, the 2016 convention hopes to offer something for everyone in our wide family of cavers.
From the "anything goes" attitude in our social events to the wide-open expanse of accessible public lands, Nevada embraces the call of the frontier and the promise of the west.
Above all else, this state knows two subjects very well: geology and recreation. We can't think of a better place to host the 75th anniversary of the National Speleological Society!
Please join us from July 16-23, 2016 in Ely, Nevada as we celebrate our past 75 years and look forward into the future of caving.
Welcome to the Great Basin of the American West!
A few clouds. Lows overnight in the mid 30s.
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Sunny. High 77F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.
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Nevada's Lovelock Cave is one of the most important classic sites of the Great Basin archaeological record because conditions of the cave are conducive to the preservation of organic and inorganic material.
In 1911 two miners, David Pugh and James Hart, were hired to mine for bat guano from the cave. They removed a layer of guano estimated to be three to six feet deep and weighing about 250 tons. The miners were aware of the artifacts they were disturbing but, unfortunately, only the most interesting specimens were saved. Archaeologists were quickly alerted to the existence of the cave where they found 11 pre-historic duck decoys stored inside two woven baskets.
The cave was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 24, 1984. It was the first major cave in the Great Basin to be excavated.
Ely, Nevada owes its existence to the nearby porphyry copper deposits discovered early in the 20th century. At one time, the open-pit mines were the largest human-made hole on the planet.
The Nevada Northern Railroad was created to haul copper ore from Ely to the Southern Pacific Railroad to the north. At a time when the United States was heavily adopting residential electrical power, the mines at Ely, Nevada were the dominant source of copper used in transmission lines.
Although the railroad isn't used to move copper these days, it still exists as a fully-functioning museum offering short-line excursions through the mining district. And Ely's copper mine is still one of the largest employers in the county.