The large Basin and Range Province spreads over much of the southwest United States and northwest Mexico. In this province wide valleys separate parallel mountain ranges. The Great Basin is part of this larger Basin and Range Province.
Looking toward the tiny town of Gold Hill, on the flanks of the Deep Creek Range. Photo by Utah-Dave AA71Z on Flickr.
The Great Basin encompasses most of Nevada, the western part of Utah (except for the southwest corner), and parts of California, Oregon, and Idaho. The explorer John C. Fremont realized that rivers in this region never make it to the ocean—instead they flow into lakes or dry up. So he called the place the Great Basin.
The water in a lot of Utah rivers ends up in the Great Salt Lake and then evaporates, leaving behind minerals--which is why the lake is salty. Likewise, the Sevier and Beaver rivers flow into the Sevier “Lake,” which rarely contains water. Mostly it’s just dry sand.
The Hastings Cutoff Trail toward California came across Skull Valley and over Hastings Pass. The Donner-Reed party, John C. Fremont, and Kit Carson all traveled on this route. This is a view from the pass on Cedar Mountains looking east toward Skull Valley. Photo by Utah-Dave AA71Z on Flickr.
With all this talk about water, it’s good to remember that the Great Basin is a pretty dry place. Below the mountains it’s not exactly lush. But it has its own special beauty of sagebrush, pinyon and juniper, salt flats, mountains, and valleys.
What strategies have helped people survive in the Great Basin?
Read more about the Great Basin.