Great Basin National Park Facts! In this article, More Than Just Parks provides you with 10 amazing facts about one of America’s most magnificent national parks.
More Than Just Parks is your one-stop-shop when it comes to learning everything you’ll need to know about America’s national parks. We’ve got expert guides, beautiful photos, helpful tips, breathtaking films and so much more.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind some of these natural wonders. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing some of the incredible stories about these beautiful places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
More Than Just Parks takes a deeper dive with its national park facts. We’ve done our homework so that you’ll get more than you bargained for.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Table Of Contents: Great Basin National Park Facts
Great Basin National Park Facts
- Basic Facts About Great Basin National Park
- Great Basin National Park Facts
- Top 5 Great Basin National Park Facts
- Top 10 Great Basin National Park Facts
- Map Of Great Basin National Park
Facts About Great Basin National Park
Basic Facts About Great Basin National Park
My favorite among the Nevada National Parks is Great Basin National Park.
A trip to Great Basin National Park is a wonderful way to sample the stunning diversity of the larger Great Basin region. Great Basin is a park which offers a variety of different outdoor (and indoor) activities.
Let’s start with the great indoors. The Lehman Caves were discovered by a miner and rancher from Ohio named Absalom Lehman. He settled in the area in the 1860s. Lehman discovered the caves in 1885 (ergo the name).
These caves are part of a cavern system containing many beautiful limestone formations. The caves are visited on guided tours, for which tickets need to be purchased, preferably in advance, but the park as a whole is free to enter.
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Here’s Some Of The Basic Facts
Some basic facts about Acadia National Park include the following:
- Location: Nevada
- Acreage: Great Basin National Park is a place of extremes. From rugged mountain peaks to vast underground caverns, this 77,100-acre park in Nevada appears barren and desolate at a glance, yet supports a vast array of plant and animal life.
- Visitation: The park receives approximately 90,000 visitors per year.
- Highest Elevation: The highest point in the park is the pinnacle of Wheeler Peak, which stands 13,060 feet above sea level.
- Lowest Elevation: The lowest trail is Mountain View Nature Trail, 6,825 feet above sea level.
- Average annual precipitation: The annual rainfall of 6 to 12 inches in the basin supports little more than sparse desert or semi-desert vegetation. The Great Basin is particularly noted for its internal drainage system, in which precipitation falling on the surface leads eventually to closed valleys and does not reach the sea.
- When Did It Become A National Park? Great Basin National Park is established and Lehman Caves National Monument is incorporated into the Park on October 27th, 1986.
Great Basin National Park Facts
Top 5 Great Basin National Park Facts
1. The Earliest Peoples To Inhabit The Park Were The Fremont Indians
Let’s begin our list of fascinating Great Basin National Park Facts with an origin story. According to the National Park Service, throughout central Utah, and into very eastern Nevada and western Colorado, archaeologists have uncovered the remnants of an archeological culture they call the Fremont, named for the Fremont River in Utah.
From around 1000 to 1300 AD, the historic Fremont People inhabited Great Basin National Park, where they left behind abundant evidence of their past residence.
The Fremont differed in several ways from their more famous contemporaries in the 11th to 14th centuries, the Ancestral Puebloan peoples who built Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.
Four distinct artifacts set them apart: (1) very unique “one rod and bundle” basketry construction, (2) moccasins constructed from the hock of a deer or sheep leg, (3) trapezoidal shaped figures found as clay figurines and in rock art, and (4) the unique materials used to make their gray, coiled pottery.
The Fremont People Were Primarily Sedentary
Unlike native tribes before and after them, the Fremont were primarily sedentary. They built villages of pit houses with adobe structures to store food.
They collected wild foods and hunted game, but also cultivated corn, beans, and squash using irrigation techniques. The presence of obsidian, turquoise, and shells show that the Fremont traded with distant villages.
The Fremont built several villages, including one near present-day Baker, Nevada, called Baker Village.
2. The Fremont Indians Were Artists
Another Great Basin National Park Fact relating to the Fremont Indians is that they were artists.
According to the National Park Service, the Fremont People produced pictographs (painted on rock surfaces) and petroglyphs (carved or pecked into the rock surface) depict human-like figures, animals, and other shapes and forms.
Anthropomorphic (human-like) figures usually have trapezoidal shaped bodies with arms, legs and fingers. The figures are often elaborately decorated with headdresses, ear bobs, necklaces, clothing items and facial expressions.
Evidence of the Fremont can be found in local rock art. Upper Pictograph Cave, in Great Basin National Park, contains pictographs believed to be painted by the Fremont.
Other creations are more abstract, consisting of lines or dots.
3. The Great Basin Includes Some Of The Oldest Trees Found On Earth
Another of the fascinating Great Basin National Park Facts is that some of the oldest trees on earth can be found at Great Basin.
As a matter of fact, the rare Great Basin bristlecone pine grows in isolated groves near the tree line, where it can survive for 4,000 years or more under extremely harsh conditions.
The park also features the remains of the famous Prometheus tree, a Great Basin Bristlecone pine once recorded as the oldest tree in the world, estimated between 4700-5000 years-old.
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4. Much Of The Great Basin Was Created By Glaciers
Another of my favorite Great Basin National Park Facts is that much of the landscape at Great Basin National Park was carved by glaciers. Some of them are actually still here.
In case you’re wondering, a glacier is a body of ice that lasts from year to year and that flows under its own weight. Glacial ice is made of crushed and recrystallized snowflakes. If the yearly snowfall is greater than yearly melting and evaporation, a glacier will grow.
If melting is greater than snowfall, a glacier will shrink. A crevice that appears each summer near the head of the glacier indicates that the ice is moving. (Source: NPS)
The Wheeler Peak Glacier sits at the base of Wheeler Peak, in a protected cirque around 11,500 feet in elevation. The alpine glacier is about 2 acres in area.
And while we’re on the subject of glaciers, if you’re planning to visit then you should also check out the Lehman Rock Glacier. It’s a large mass of boulders cemented together by ice and is visible from the Glacier Trail and the Summit Trail.
A single remnant of the true ice glaciers that formed the park 10,000 years ago resides in Lehman Cirque, just above the Lehman rock glacier.
5. The Park Includes The Second Tallest Peak In Nevada
One of the lesser known of the Great Basin National Park Facts is that included in the park is the second tallest peak in Nevada.
Wheeler Peak is the tallest mountain in both the Snake Range and White Pine County. Its summit elevation of 13,065 feet (3,982 m) makes it the second-tallest peak in Nevada, just behind Boundary Peak.
Wheeler Peak’s topographic prominence of 7,563 feet also makes it the second-most topographically prominent peak in the state, just behind Mount Charleston.
The Wheeler Survey
The mountain is located in Great Basin National Park and was named for George Wheeler, leader of the Wheeler Survey of the late 19th century. It’s an interesting story and one, as a retired history teacher, that I’m only too glad to share.
In spring 1871, a group of scientists, soldiers, and surveyors gathered on the dusty plains of northeast Nevada, near the town of Halleck on the transcontinental railroad, to participate in the first U.S. Army Engineer survey in the American West since the outbreak of the Civil War ten years earlier.
The group’s goal was to map the entirety of the western half of the United States, a monumental task. Over the next nine years, the members of the United States Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian would crisscross the West on foot, horseback, muleback, trains, and wagons.
Enter George Montague Wheeler
The leader and architect of this survey was Major George Montague Wheeler, Corps of Engineers, from whom the expedition gets its nickname: “the Wheeler Survey.”
In 1871, Wheeler was still a young first lieutenant, having graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1866 at the age of 24.
While stationed in San Francisco, he learned the art of military map-making. He led his first reconnaissance into Nevada in 1869 where he first envisioned what would be become the Wheeler Survey.
Wheeler’s mission was as much a scientific and economic expedition as it was a mapping survey, so he hired professionals in a range of scientific disciplines—astronomy, botany, chemistry, ethnology, geology, paleontology, and zoology.
Additionally, Wheeler employed topographers and surveyors to supplement his subordinate Army officers. During the nine years of the survey, the number of civilians it employed greatly outweighed the number of Army officers: 115 scientists, surveyors, and their assistants, compared to only 27 military officers. (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
The Tallest Peak In Nevada
Now, if you’re interested, located in Boundary Peak Wilderness is the 13,140 foot Boundary Peak. It’s the tallest peak in Nevada.
From the summit, the view takes in the Mono Lake basin to the north, the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west, the White Mountains Wilderness to the south, while Nevada’s Basin and Range extends to the eastern horizon.
Top 10 Great Basin National Park Facts
6. Great Basin National Park Has Some Of The Darkest Night Skies In The United States
Now here’s an intriguing Great Basin National Park Fact. The park has some of the darkest night skies in the U.S.
Why you might ask? Low humidity and minimal light pollution. It’s a truly amazing place for stargazing.
If you love stargazing then check out the annual Great Basin Astronomy Festival, which is held over several days and nights in September.
It includes stargazing presentations, night sky photography workshops, and telescope observing each night.
7. The Park Includes A World Famous Cave
Just when you thought we couldn’t come up with any more unbelievable Great Basin National Park Facts we’ve come up with another one. The park includes a world famous cave.
Lehman Caves (a single cavern despite the name) extends a quarter-mile into the limestone and marble that flanks the base of the Snake Range.
Discovered in 1885 by Absalom Lehman, a rancher and miner, this cavern is one of the most profusely decorated caves in the region.
Take A Cave Tour
Lehman Caves may only be entered with a ranger-led tour. Cave tours are offered daily, year-round, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Among the incredible cave tours are the following:
Grand Palace Tour
Grand Palace Tours are approximately 90 minutes long. The Grand Palace Tour travels 0.6 miles, and children must be at least 5 years old to join the Grand Palace Tour (except on tours November through February).
This tour visits the Gothic Palace, the Music Room, the Lodge Room, Inscription Room, and the Grand Palace sections of Lehman Caves, including a chance to view the famous “Parachute Shield” formation. Tour is limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory.
Lodge Room Tour
Lodge Room Tours last about 60 minutes and explore about .5 miles of the cave. When Gothic Palace tours are not available, children of any age may join.
This tour visits the Gothic Palace, Music Room, and Lodge Room as it winds its way through cave passages. Tours are limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory.
Gothic Palace Tour
Gothic Palace Tours are about 30 minutes long. This is perfect for families with young children. The tour travels less than .25 miles into the cave to the Gothic Palace.
This tour will show off the many cave formations and unique history in this heavily decorated room of the cave. Tour is limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory.
Parachute Shield Tour
Parachute Shield Tours are approximately 60 minutes long. The Parachute Shield Tour travels 0.5 miles through mostly large rooms with steep ramps and smaller passages that connect them.
This tour visits the Lodge Room, Inscription Room, and the Grand palace. Tour is limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory. (Source: NPS)
8. At Least 10 Species Of Bats Call Great Basin Home
One of my favorite Great Basin National Park Facts is that at least 10 species of bats call the place home.
Among the bat species are the following: Silver Haired Bat, Hoary Bat, Big Brown Bat and Townshend’s big-eared bat.
This species has a wingspan of about 11 inches and is easily identified by its extremely long, flexible ears.
Townsend’s Big-Eared bats emerge during summer evenings to eat several hundreds of moths and other insects. They form colonies of up to 200 bats.
During the winter they hibernate in caves. Bat guano is an important food source food for cave-adapted species
All of the bat species at Great Basin feed on insects.
9. Great Basin Includes Massive Changes In Altitude
Now here’s a Great Basin National Park Fact that you’re definitely going to want to know if you’re planning a trip there. Many of the park’s trails have huge differences in altitude.
In fact, the largest difference between its highest and lowest trails is over a mile; the very highest point is the tip of Wheeler Peak at over 13,000 feet above sea level, while the lowest is at the Mountain View Nature Trail at 6,825 feet above sea level.
Of course with such dramatic changes in altitude can come dramatic changes in weather so you definitely want to come prepared.
10. The Park Features Native Fish Species
Believe it or not, Great Basin National Park has its own fish species.
That’s right! It’s the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout. It’s the only trout species native to the park and is found living in cold streams at very high altitudes.
Although not native to the area, several other types of trout have also been introduced, including the brown, rainbow, and brook trout.
Map Of Great Basin National Park
List Of Great Basin National Park Facts
- The Earliest Peoples To Inhabit The Park Were The Fremont Indians
- The Fremont Indians Were Artists
- The Great Basin Includes Some Of The Oldest Trees Found On Earth
- Much Of The Great Basin Was Created By Glaciers
- Great Basin National Park Has Some Of The Darkest Night Skies In The United States
- The Park Includes The Second Tallest Peak In Nevada
- The Park Includes A World Famous Cave
- At Least 10 Species Of Bats Call Great Basin Home
- Great Basin Includes Massive Changes In Altitude
- The Park Features Native Fish Species
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and proud dad of these two guys hopelessly obsessed with the national parks.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
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