14 May 2011

Final Shots of the Great Basin

I expect that this will be the last of my posts on my trip this April to the Great Basin Desert. Of the four deserts in North America, the Great Basin Desert is the largest and the coldest.

As I drove from Salt Lake City, Utah to Ely, Nevada, my first views of the Great Basin were of the Great Salt Lake Desert, pictured above. Deserts are defined as receiving less than 10 inches of precipitation per year or having evapotranspiration rates that exceed precipitation rates. These conditions, at least on an annual basis, are too dry to support vegetation.

As I continued west, I started seeing salt deposits in places. Eventually, the amount of salt deposits was greater than the amount of sand. At Bonneville Salt Flats (pictured above), the salt hardpan was all that could be seen for miles and miles, causing the desert to appear snow covered. This area is what remains of the 20,000 square mile and 1000 foot deep Lake Bonneville, which existed during the Pleistocene epoch.

Since the early 1900s, Bonneville Salt Flats has been home to the Bonneville Speedway, a test track where numerous land speed records have been set. In 1997, Andy Green set the current speed record of a staggering 763 mph.

After driving out of the salt flats, the scene became more like that above, with scattered big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.), saltbush (Atriplex spp.), and other drought-tolerant shrubs.

This is more representative of the portion of the Great Basin where I spent my two weeks.

As I hope you've been able to see through this series of posts, the Great Basin is home to many stunning views even before the plants begin to flower. As I've said in previous posts, I can't wait to get back here at some point when the vegetation is further along.

No comments: