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!
Clark Mountain, the highest peak toward the northern end of the Virginia Range east of Reno, appears a humped desert peak from downtown Reno. It is usually overshadowed by the Carson Range and Mount Rose to the west and Peavine Mountain to the northwest and even sometimes by Spanish Springs Peak in the Pah Rah's or the colorful hills of Hidden Valley, although there is a splendid view of Clark Mountain from UNR looking east. It might not attract much attention, but it is much more than meets the eye! Before the Sierra Nevada even rose, Clark Mountain would have dominated the landscape as a volcano in the style of the Cascades, and in fact was created by the same process of subduction. These volcanic processes took place from 35 million to 7 million years ago, when volcanism mostly stopped this far south and the Sierra processes started.*
Much of the Virginia Range, and this part of the Basin and Range in general, was created by these same volcanic processes, and its more well-known and larger southern neighbor, Mount Davidson, overlooking Virgnia City, was a stratovolcano during this period. Vegetation would have been much different at this time as well, their being evidence of the existence of redwood (or redwood ancestors) in the region.
Read an account of climbing Clark Mountain here. This climb is from McCarran Ranch rather than climbing via Lagomarsino Canyon as per the mountain's summitpost.com entry.
*Probably a massive simplification, any amplification in comments is welcome!
For as long as humans have crossed the Black Rock Desert they have aimed for the desert’s namesake, the dark rock point that marks the trail and an important water source.
A piece of the Oceanic Plate with a series of volcanic island chains eventually collided with and accreted to the western edge of the North American Plate. This newly attached land contained volcanic rocks inter-laced with oceanic sediments, such as the black limestone of the Black Rock. These rocks now make up or underlie much of northwestern Nevada, including the Black Rock, Pine Forest, and Jackson Ranges. The Black Rock itself, the namesake of the desert, is a piece of an ancient island chain.
From Friends of the Black Rock/High Rock geology page
by Daniel Montero
Gold Strike Canyon, outside of Henderson, Nevada and very near to Hoover Dam (downstream of it) is a great hike through a narrow, steep walled canyon down to a collection of hot pools right on the Colorado River. The canyon is stunning in and of itself, the pools are beautiful with the river nearly right alongside. The hike has some challenging sections, with ropes in place to help prevent falls, but it is a popular destination with solo hikers, bathers, families exploring, and more sharing the trail.
As always, follow guides, do your research, use common sense, and err on the side of caution before bathing anywhere, especially anywhere wild.
For today’s mountain spotlight, staying very close to home in Reno, Nevada. Rattlesnake Mountain is a small volcanic cone set directly south of the airport and is part of the Huffaker Hills. There is a park with walking trail up Alexander Lake Road (accessed near McCarran and Longley). It is a hidden treasure amidst the city bustle.
Tibbie Peak is a small rocky promontory in the Flowery Range, an offshoot of the Virginia Range east of Reno and northeast of Virginia City. The peak is not well known, although is easily recognizable due to its camel back-hump silhouette.
This is the Basin and Range Project blog’s 1000th post! In order to celebrate this occasion we’ve started putting together a (very long!) list of some of our favorite places around the region. While we’ve whittled it down to 10 for this post, this is not a top 10 list, nor is it ordered in any real way, it is just some places that we love among the many many places there are to love in the Basin and Range.
1. Thousand Creek Gorge, Nevada
At the northeastern edge of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge south of Highway 140, Thousand Creek Gorge had to be the first place to mention when celebrating our 1000th post!
2. Wet Beaver Creek, Arizona
This little oasis of a camping spot was such a wonderful relief on our Arizona bike tour that we stayed an extra rest day and enjoyed lounging along the creek shade, watching schools of fish in the crystal clear water, and just plain lazing about before hitting the bikes again to turn west toward Prescott.
3. Kirch State Wildlife Management Area, Nevada
The highlight of these wetlands and reservoirs for us, as bike tourers, was Hot Creek, a warm (not really hot), crystal clear flowing stream. The areas many lakes/reservoirs are also popular with anglers and birdwatchers. We spent a day here on our Eastern Nevada bike tour and then, before heading east into the South Egan Mountains, had one last dip before getting back on our bikes.
4. Cathedral Gorge, Nevada
We stumbled across this little gem of a state park when we were moving all the way across the country. Wandering in among its formations is an ethereal experience. The formations are caused by erosion of soft bentonite clay.
5. King Lear Peak, Nevada
This desert peak is a true landmark, visible from hundreds of square miles around and with a very distinctive pyramidal silhouette. With amazing rock gardens and spring wildflowers, it was an amazing climb from the eastern side. It is possible to climb from both sides, but this is a big desert peak, so do your research before climbing!
6. Soldier Creek, Nevada
In the northern Ruby Mountains, this creek and its headwater lakes are a spectacular and less well known visit in these popular mountains.
7. Warner Mountains, California
From the crest of the Warners looking west one is standing literally on the edge of the Great Basin and the Basin and Range.
8. Cave Lake, Nevada
This state park on a reservoir has great access to the Egan Mountains, the Schell Mountains, Great Basin National Park, and much more. Although a popular destination with locals, our campsite was private and beautiful. And the camp host boomed off a cannon on one of the nights we were there.
9. Dry Diamond Creek, New Mexico
Was not dry when we arrived during our Gila Loop bicycle tour. Some passers by said that it usually was, so we basked in the water and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon watching thunderstorms to the south.
10. Reno area petroglyphs, Nevada
The area around Reno boasts great petroglyphs sites: Lagomarsino, the largest petroglyph collection in Nevada, and to the north in the Pah Rah range. It is such a wonder to look at this ancient art, to appreciate its beauty and to wonder about its meaning.
What are some of your favorite spots in the Basin and Range? Thanks so much for reading and here’s to another thousand awesome places (and blog posts!).
Last week we focused on one of our favorite desert mountains, but it’s such a favorite it warrants another post. Being so remote, we were very surprised to find a “harri mutil” (literally “stone boy” at the top. These rock cairns were built by Basque sheepherders usually to mark range boundaries but also for a variety of other reasons, including just to pass the time. I’m not sure exactly if this rock cairn was a harri mutil, but it sure seemed like it.
While the peak hike was fairly short, about 3 hours total, we have also hiked quite a bit around the base of Elephant Mountain, and once tried for the summit from the much steeper eastern slope, but turned back due to the steepness and the lateness of the day. We had also hiked out to Crowbar Spring that day.
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