The sky narrows to a ribbon as we enter the canyon. We have walked up from the eastern edge of the canyon, out in the Mud Meadows southeast of Soldier Meadows, where we have spent the morning volunteering to restore habitat for the desert dace. The work finished for the day, we leave the group to explore into Fly Canyon. The canyon was created when a natural dam holding back High Rock Lake gave way and unleashed a torrent of water that carved the steep walls and drilled holes, known as "potholes," in the canyon bottom. Read more about this at the Friends of the Black Rock/High Rock geology page.
From the distance, the canyon is unassuming, but as we near it reveals itself, a massive slice through a high ridge. We scramble down and the narrow steep walls envelop us. Twisted rock forms abound while puffy high desert clouds cross the ribbon of sky. We enter farther and the canyon deepens. We start to have to work our way around potholes, smooth and deep pools of unmoving water. Finally we are turned back by a rickety ladder climbing from one level to another and the lateness of the day.
We'll be back Fly Canyon! It is easily accessed from roads heading east from the main Soldier Meadows road. We camped at the Soldier Meadows Hot Springs, which had led to a long soak and many encounters with red spider mites, which left this writer pocked for a couple of weeks after our excursion, so be careful.
This is a doubly basin and range post because it's the basin and range and it's nearly at the boundaries of the Basin and Range National Monument. We first arrived on our bicycles from Ely after a long day's ride into a stiff headwind through Lund (about the only other shade we found), but when we made it out to Hot Creek it all washed away. It is a fast-moving hot springs creek with crystalline water, An idyll. The Kirch in the name is Kirch Wildlife Management Area, of which Hot Creek is a part. There is a big campground about a mile or so away. We spent a full day there and there are also cool water bodies to explore and plenty of sun to hide from out in the big basin.
The Hot Creek Refugium area has been designated as critical habitat for the Moorman White River springfish, so enjoy your use but please treat the area with care and respect!
The West Humboldt Range? You mean East Humboldts right? You know, Angel Lake, beautiful granite, right? No? The West Humboldts? Never heard of them. Oh, you mean those hills behind the Lovelock Prison east of I-80?
Yes, indeed. Nearly every traveler along the western corridor of the Humboldt has beheld the West Humboldts. Now they are mostly ignored, but many cursed them as the rock piles of hell for they overlook the pass from the Humboldt Sink to the Carson Sink and the reaches of the dreaded Forty Mile Desert. But not so for the Saurian Expedition of 1905. They were a group from Berkeley. They searched the area's Triassic Limestone and found twenty-five ichthyosaur skeletons including some of the largest and the most complete taken from their resting places and preserved.
But not all have been travelers passing by the West Humboldts or seekers looking to extract from it. For thousands of years it was just home to generations upon generations of people, an important testimony of which can be visited at Lovelock Caves, on the western slopes of the range and an easy tour route from Lovelock, read an interesting account of the caves via Travel Nevada.
The south end of the range, the Mofung Hills, was the site of a recent excursion/break from the I-80 drive. It is easily accessed via the 95 Fallon exit and good gravel road going north from beyond the railroad tracks and just before the highway goes over the range's last flank. The hills were colorful and interesting. And there is an Earthscope out in the hills! What is an Earthscope, you ask? (As this writer certainly did!)
The Earthscope is a massive science program:
EarthScope is a program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) that has deployed thousands of seismic, GPS, and other geophysical instruments to study the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It involves collaboration between scientists, educators, policy makers, and the public to learn about and apply exciting scientific discoveries as they are made.
How cool is that!
This has been one crazy busy summer. We haven't had time to do much other than jump from one commitment to another. When things get crazy it's important to take some time to reconnect. Luckily we were able to sneak away one weekend and enjoy some of the good old backcountry roads that exist in the Basin and Range region.
Public lands in the Basin and Range region of the United States offer a multitude of opportunities to get away from it all. More often than not, it provides ample space, beauty, solitude and quietude. With wild plants, animals, lakes, streams, deserts and mountains to enjoy. With Labor Day approaching, we hope you are able to take some time and enjoy the wild beauty that our public lands provide!
Get out and get wild!
Seeing these old friends make it feel like Spring is truely here! Love these bright beauties adding their color to the high desert landscape.
Hope everyone is having a great one! Posts have been a little scarce lately, but we will be back to posting weekly now. Happy May Day everyone!
There’s a dance party happening across much of the basin and range as the sage grouse strut their stuff to try to attract females. This is more a Madrid type party than a stateside party as the fun only gets started at dawn. That’s when the males start to dance. There are many descriptions of their dance out there, but it is electric as any disco when you see one of these fantastic beings puffing and stretching in a predawn. It is only the males who puff and strut about, but the more camoflauged females are there too, looking for the best dance partner.
Sage grouse are well known. NDOW has a quick overview of them and I’m sure there are others. But what you might not know is that you can check out the party (from a very respectful distance of course) if you volunteer with NDOWs lek count program. While the program for 2018 is already underway, 2019 is will be here soon. Volunteering provides a great opportunity to explore the basin and range region, see some amazing sunrises, start your hike or play day doing citizen science all while getting to see these unique birds in action.
Get out there lekkin’!
Growing up near Pyramid and Mono Lakes I am pretty familiar with tufa and tufa towers. I am not so familiar with travertine however, I have heard of it, but never really thought about how it was formed and it's relation to tufa.
The other day I was reading a book and it was discussing travertine. It stated that "As water moves through faults it is enriched in calcium and bicarbonate from the enclosing limestone rocks...carbon dioxide escapes as gas and bicarbonate combines with calcium to precipitate as travertine, a calcium carbonate." It also discussed how travertine deposits form a variety of shapes such as mounds and towers. Hmmmm, sounds quite similar to tufa to me. That got me thinking, what is the difference between travertine and tufa?
What is Tufa?
Tufa is a rock composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), essentially limestone, that forms at the mouth of a spring, from lake water, or form a mixture of spring and lake water. Most of the tufa at Pyramid Lake formed between 26,000 and 13,000 years ago. when the area was much wetter and Pyramid was joined to lakes in nearby basins.
Tufa mounds form when springs discharged from the bottom of a lake, supplying calcium that combines with carbonate dissolved in lake water to form the mounds. The thickest tufa deposits form near lake-bottom sites of ground-water discharge, and at overflow elevations where the lake was held near-constant levels for long periods of time.
What is Travertine?
Travertine is a terrestrial sedimentary rock, formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from solution in ground and surface waters, and/or geothermally heated hot-springs.
Like tufa, travertine is a form calcium carbonate (CaCO3) limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. Travertine exists in white, tan, cream-colored, and even rusty varieties. It is formed by a process of rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate, often at the mouth of a hot spring or in a limestone cave. In the latter, it can form stalactites, stalagmites, and other speleothems.
Tufa and Travertine are similar, but tufa is softer and more porous than travertine. Tufa has a higher porosity, woody texture, and is generally a cool fresh water deposit. Conversely, travertine is commonly deposited in warm water and is more lithified, hard and smooth.
Way back on February 17 I spotted this lovely little biscuitroot (Lomatium nevadense-I believe). With all the weather we have had lately I haven’t spotted much more in the way of wildflowers this season. Hopefully I’ll remedy that soon, perhaps I’ll go out for a wildflower walk this weekend.
What wildfowers have have you seen this season?
Follow us on these social media sites:
The Basin and Range Project
We love the Basin and Range region and work to promote appreciation and respect for the area. We encourage all users to learn about, play in and protect this amazing resource.
We currently focus primarily on issues in the Nevada region of the Basin and Range, but are looking to expand soon.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.