NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

Fun Facts From Around Nevada


You won't find much traffic as you drive over the mountain passes and across the sagebrush-covered valleys of Nevada's Pony Express Territory. In fact, U.S. 50 from Fernley to Ely is known as 'The Loneliest Road in America,' so designated by Life Magazine more than 20 years ago. U.S. 50 roughly follows the old Pony Express route, and, although the highway is pretty empty, there's plenty to do.

Click here for an audio tour
of Highway 50.


Click on the following links to learn more.

Hydrographic Great Basin

The Hydrographic Great Basin is a 200,000 square mile area of the American West that extends from the Sierra Nevada Range in California to the Wasatch Range in Utah, and from southern Oregon to southern Nevada. The entire basin contains what's called an endorheic watershed. All precipitation in this region evaporates, sinks underground, or flows into lakes. No water reaches the ocean.

Image by Dave Bunnell, NSS

Ruby Crest, Nevada
Precipitation Patterns

Precipitation patterns are highly variable in Great Basin National Park. The wettest year on record at Lehman Caves was 21.2 inches of precipitation in 1982 and the driest year was 7.4 inches in 1953.

Image by Nevada Commission on Tourism

Snow on Wheeler Peak
Ghost Towns of White Pine County

White Pine County, home to Great Basin National Park, lays claim to some of the most famous ghost towns in Nevada: Hamilton (the former county seat), Osceola (where the largest gold nugget in the state was found) and Cherry Creek.

Image by Dave Bunnell, NSS

Monarch Mine on Spruce Mountain
Hot Springs

Gandy Warm Springs is a refreshing oasis of tiny waterfalls, pools, caves, and crystal clear streams with water temperatures up to 81°F. Located on the western edge of Snake Valley, near the Nevada border, the springs are at the base of the southern tip of Spring Mountain.

Image by Daniel Veelik, Southern California Grotto

Stream
Sagebrush

The Sagebrush, a very common resident of Great Basin National Park, is well adapted to the area. The Big Sagebrush root system can extend as much as 90 feet in circumference. This adaptation allows the plant to collect as much water as possible during infrequent rains.

Image by National Park Service

Sagebrush
Bonneville Cutthroat Trout

The Bonneville cutthroat trout is the only trout native to Great Basin National Park and East Central Nevada. Ancestors of the current Bonneville cutthroat trout were abundant in ancient Lake Bonneville 16,000 to 18,000 years ago, the remnant of what is now the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Image by Timothy Knepp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
Wildlife in Great Basin NP

The diversity of habitats in Great Basin National Park gives rise to a wide variety of animal life. From sagebrush steppe to alpine areas, from caves to creeks, many species thrive. The South Snake Range is still home to 10-15 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.

Image by National Park Service

Bighorn Sheep
An Amazing Night Sky

According to the National Park Night Sky Team, Great Basin National Park is one of the best parks for viewing star-filled night skies!

Image by National Park Service

Great Basin Night Sky
Mountain Lions

Great Basin National Park's mountain lions feed primarily on mule deer but also include porcupines, rabbits, bighorn sheep, beaver, elk, marmots, and small rodents in their diets.

Image by National Park Service

Mountain Lion
Notch Peak at Sunset

Notch Peak, located in West Millard County, Utah, and visible from Great Basin National Park, towers above the desert valleys at 9,725 ft. elevation. This 3,000 ft sheer cliff is one of the tallest limestone cliffs in America.

Image by Wikipedia Archives, User Qfl247

Notch Peak
Great Basin Flora

There are 11 species of conifer trees, 71 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles, 241 species of birds, 8 species of fish, and over 800 species of plants in Great Basin National Park and the neighboring valleys.

Image by National Park Service

Columbine
GRBA Apricot Trees

The apricot trees in front of the Lehman Caves Visitor Center in Great Basin National Park are over 100 years old! The trees are thought to have been planted by Absalom Lehman, discoverer of Lehman Caves. These historic fruit trees continue to produce today.

Image by Alana Dimmick, National Park Service

Apricot Grove
Lexington Arch

Great Basin National Park is home to Lexington Arch, one of the largest limestone arches in the western United States. This six-story arch was created by the forces of weather working slowly over the span of centuries. This type of above ground limestone arch is rare.

Image by Dave Bunnell, NSS

Lexington Arch
5,000 Year-old Bristlecone Pines

Many of Great Basin National Park's bristlecone pines were growing at the time the Egyptians were building the pyramids. Not only are the trees themselves old, but the needles alone can be 25-40 yrs old!

Image by Great Basin National Heritage Area

Bristlecone Pine
Invasive Plant Species

One of the major ecological threats to the sagebrush-dominated Great Basin ecosystem is the introduction and spread of dozens of species of non-native plants. The most important of these, cheatgrass (or downy brome) covers the largest area: 25 million acres, one-third of the area of the Great Basin.

Image by Wikipedia Archives, User Famartin

Cheatgrass
The Most Mountainous State

Nevada is the most mountainous state in the country, with over 300 individual mountain ranges and 42 named summits over 11,000 feet!

Image by Nevada Commission on Tourism

Nevada Mountains
White Pine County's Stone House

Nevada's White Pine County has some of the most historical ghost towns in the western United States. The 2016 convention will be offering sunrise and sunset photo tours out to many of these amazing places.

Image by Nevada Commission on Tourism

Ghost Towns
Ward Charcoal Ovens

Located just south of Ely, Nevada, the Ward Charcoal Ovens are associated with the silver mining ghost town of Ward. They were built in 1876 by itinerant Italian masons known as carbonari. Charcoal prepared in the ovens was used in the nearby silver smelters.

Image by Marla Pelowski, Cascade Grotto NSS

Ward Charcoal Ovens
Hercules Gap

Hercules Gap is a limestone slot canyon just north of Ely that is split by a low traffic paved road. It has become a very popular site for climbers and explorers.

Image by White Pine County

Hercules Gap
Cathedral Gorge State Park

Located between Ely and Las Vegas, Cathedral Gorge State Park features dramatic cave-like slot canyons and cathedral spires that have eroded over millions of years.

Image by TravelNevada.com

Cathedral Gorge State Park
Rhodes Cabin - Great Basin NP

Next to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center sits the historic Rhodes Cabin. The cabin was built in the 1920s by Clarence and Bea Rhodes, who were US Forest Service custodians of Lehman Caves at the time. It is one of several cabins built to provide accommodations for visitors to Lehman Caves. Today it contains interpretive exhibits.

Image by Alana Dimmick, National Park Service

Rhodes Cabin, Greeat Basin National Park
Toquima Cave Pictographs

Burrowed in the Toquima Range in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Toquima Cave holds massive cultural importance to Native Americans. This sacred site was utilized by the Western Shoshone tribes as a temporary dwelling between 3,000 and 1,500 years ago.

A large number of pictographs adorn the north and south walls of the cave. As one of many pictograph sites in Nevada, Toquima Cave and the surrounding 40 acres were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Image by Dave Bunnell, NSS

Toquima Cave pictographs
Cave Lake State Park

Located just south of Ely, Nevada, Cave Lake State Park offers outstanding recreational opportunities. It features a 32-acre reservoir and provides excellent trout fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, camping and picnicking.

The 4,500-acre park is at an elevation of 7,300 feet in the Schell Creek Range adjacent to the Humboldt National Forest. Its name is derived from the several caves in the surrounding limestone.

Image by Nevada Commission on Tourism

Cave Lake State Park
Valley of Fire State Park

Located only 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs. These features, which are the centerpiece of the park's attractions, often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun's rays.

Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape. The rough floor and jagged walls of the park contain brilliant formations of eroded sandstone and sand dunes more than 150 million years old.

Image by Dave Bunnell, NSS

Valley of Fire State Park
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

The ghost town of Berlin, Nevada was established in 1897 as part of the Union Mining District after the opening of the Berlin Mine. At its peak, the town had about 75 buildings and 300 residents. It never prospered to the same extent as other boom towns like Tonopah and Goldfield, and declined following the Panic of 1907. The site was largely abandoned by 1911.

The site was acquired by the state of Nevada as part of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in 1970.

Image by Dave Bunnell, NSS

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
Nevada Northern Railway

Track for the Nevada Northern Railway was laid over a century ago, connecting one of the largest copper mines in North America to the Transcontinental routes to the north. Today, several of the original steam locomotives that were used over a century ago are still in operation. The Nevada Northern Railway is the best-preserved example of a standard-gauge short-line left in North America.

The 2016 convention will be offering several trips aboard this historic railway.

Image by Lori Drew, White Pine County

Nevada Northern Railway
Sky Island Geography

Endemic plants are special because they are found in only one location on the planet, and nowhere else. Great Basin National Park is home to several endemic plant and animal species. The sky island geography of the Great Basin region lends itself to large numbers of highly specialized species.

Mountain ranges are separated from other mountains by seas of desert, across which plant and animal migration is difficult due to the dramatic differences in environment between the high elevations and the basins below. These trapped species adapt and change within the very specific parameters of that one location.

Image by National Park Service

Holgrem's buckwheat is endemic to Great Basin National Park
Lehman Caves

Lehman Caves attracts tens of thousands of visitors to eastern Nevada yearly, a trend that began not long after their discovery in the late 1880s. For over 60 years, Lehman Caves National Monument protected these underground wonders, with their unique geology and ecology. And today, they remain protected as part of Great Basin National Park.

The 2016 NSS 75th anniversary convention in Ely, Nevada will include tours of this beautiful cave.

Image by Gretchen Baker, Great Basin NP

Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park
California Trail Interpretive Center

Between 1841 and 1869, up to 250,000 people sold their belongings, packed wagons, and set out for California.

The Bureau of Land Management's new California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, Nevada tells the stories of these pioneers who endured the 2,000 mile trek - some seeking land, some gold, others seeking adventure.

If you're traveling to Ely from the north, this world-class museum is worth a visit!

Image by Bureau of Land Management, Nevada

California Trail Interpretive Center
Sacramento Pass Recreation Area

The Bureau of Land Management's Sacramento Pass Recreation Area is located in the Blackhorse Mining District near Osceola Mining Town and Weaver Creek. This area was booming in 1906 with hard rock mining for gold. There are ghost town remains north of the recreation site across the highway.

The Osceola Town site is still an active mining community that has unique mining equipment present. A network of signed two-track roads allows hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and OHV enthusiasts a chance to explore some beautiful country and see some historic mining ruins.

Image by Bureau of Land Management, Nevada

Sacramento Pass Recreation Area
Lilly the Cave Bear

Ely, Nevada's White Pine Public Museum features the skeletal model of a cave bear (Arctodus simus) that was discovered in a nearby cave in 1982. This extinct species inhabited North America during the Pleistocene epoch from about 1.8 Mya until 11,000 years ago. It was the most common early North American bear and is considered one of the largest known terrestrial mammalian carnivores.

The museum's collections also include an extensive mineral display of copper ore samples, petrified woods, and fossils of ancient marine life.

Image by Matt Bowers, Third Media / NSS

Cave Bear - Arctodus simus
Ely's Renaissance Village

In its early days, Ely, Nevada was a bustling town with numerous small businesses catering to the needs of ranching and mining interests in the area. People came from everywhere and, like many western towns, Ely developed an ethnically diverse population. The stories, characters, and influences of these ethnic groups are now preserved by the Ely Renaissance Society.

Ely's Renaissance Village lies alongside the historic railroad tracks near the town center. The village features a number of small cottages, each themed and decorated to a distinct ethnic heritage. During the summer, visitors may join the wine walk at the village where docents in each house serve food and wine specific to their ethnic region.

Image by Matt Bowers, Third Media / NSS

Ely's Renaissance Village
Belmont Ghost Town

The ghost town of Belmont was established following a silver strike in 1865. Other minerals, such as copper lead and antimony were also mined here. The boom brought in settlers and Belmont grew. The town boasted four stores, two saloons, five restaurants, livery stable, post office, assay office, bank, school, telegraph office, two newspapers, and a blacksmith shop.

As the price of metals fluctuated, so did the fortunes of the town. By 1887, several of the mines closed. Like many towns which are now ghost towns, this one lasted for only a short time.

Some of the buildings are still standing, including the courthouse, the Cosmopolitan Saloon, the Monitor-Belmont Mill, and the combination mill.

Image by Wikipedia Archives, User Viva-Verdi

Belmont Ghost Town
Lovelock Cave Duck Decoys

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.

Image by National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institute

Lovelock Cave Duck Decoys
Spirit Cave mummy

The Spirit Cave mummy is the oldest human mummy found in North America. It was discovered in 1940 in Spirit Cave, 13 miles east of Fallon, Nevada by the husband-and-wife archaeological team of Sydney and Georgia Wheeler.

The Wheelers, working for the Nevada State Parks Commission, were surveying possible archaeological sites to prevent their loss due to guano mining. Upon entering Spirit Cave they discovered the remains of two people wrapped in tule matting. One set of remains, buried deeper than the other, had been partially mummified (the head and right shoulder). The Wheelers, with the assistance of local residents, recovered a total of sixty-seven artifacts from the cave.

Image by Photographs by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institute

Spirit Cave mummy
Migrating Raptors

Migrating raptors, traveling south from breeding grounds north of the Great Basin Desert, concentrate along the Goshute Range in Nevada. Favorable migration conditions attract one of the largest known concentrations of migrant raptors in western North America.

Image by Rocky - Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons by 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Golden Eagle
Great Basin Rattlesnake

Great Basin rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus lutosus) are the only venomous snake species in Great Basin National Park. These rattlesnakes rarely exceed 40 inches in total length, reproduce every two to three years, and feed primarily on rodents and lizards.

Image by National Park Service

Great Basin Rattlesnake
Sedan Crater

The Sedan Crater is the result of a nuclear detonation test conducted within the Nevada Test Site on July 6, 1962. Located just 12 miles southwest of Groom Lake (Area 51), the crater is a man-made object that can be seen from earth orbit with the unaided eye. The 1,280 by 320 ft crater was created by a 104-kiloton-of-TNT nuclear explosion buried 635 feet below the desert floor.

The 2016 NSS Convention will include a pre-convention field trip to this historic site.

Image by National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

Sedan Crater
McCarran Airport

McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada is the 24th busiest airport by passenger traffic in the world, with 41,856,787 passengers passing through the airport in 2013. In terms of aircraft movements, the airport ranks 8th in the world with 527,739 takeoffs and landings.

While Ely, Nevada may be off the grid, Las Vegas certainly is not.

Image by Tarded on Flickr

McCarran Airport
Native American Influences

Sitting at the intersection of the Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute homelands, Ely, Nevada encompasses only a fraction of the Native American regions that have been active in the overall region.

Today, four distinct reservations are active in the surrounding area: the Ely Shoshone, the Duckwater Shoshone, the Goshute, and the Utah Paiute-Kanosh Band.

Image by Nevada Commission on Tourism

Shoshone Headdress