A special, out-of-the-way place, way over in White Pine County
June 30, 2005
For those seeking a special, out-of-the-way place to enjoy the grandeur of the Great Outdoors, you might want to consider a trip to White Pine County, way over in Eastern Nevada.
Why? Well, for those who don’t know, White Pine County contains one of the nation’s least visited National Parks – the 77,000 acre Great Basin National Park (Total recreation visits for Fiscal Year 2004 were only 79,944).
If you’ve never been there, here is some helpful information:
HOW TO GET THERE:
Take U.S. 50 east from Carson City to Ely, a distance of 318 miles.
When you reach Ely, take U.S. 6 and U.S. 50 east toward Delta, Utah. Near the Nevada-Utah stateline, take Nevada S.R. 487 south for about 10 miles to the tiny town of Baker. It is the gateway to the only National Park in the State of Nevada. That park is about 85 miles southeast of Ely.
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Great Basin National Park was created on Oct. 27, 1986.
It was first proposed for National Park status way back in 1922 but the effort failed, primarily due to strong opposition from mining and ranching interests.
Congress created the Lehman Caves National Monument on Jan. 24, 1922, which is now incorporated within the park’s boundaries.
The Park contains a wide variety of physical features that dominate the Great Basin area.
They range from hot desert areas to cold arctic zones, topped by Nevada’s second highest mountain, Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet).
The park contains desert areas, lush meadows, small ice-cold streams, crystal-clear lakes, majestic and rugged-looking mountain peaks, groves of pine trees, patches of quaking aspen trees, sagebrush, underground limestone caves, etc.
Within the park’s borders are a wide variety of mammal species including: Antelope, Bats, Bobcat, Chipmunk, Coyote, Mule Deer, Rocky Mt. Elk, Jack Rabbit, Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Mountain Lion and Rocky Mt. Bighorn Sheep.
Visitors can enjoy the 12-mile (8% grade) Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.
Vehicles longer than 24 feet are not recommended to travel beyond the Upper Lehman Creek Campground.
The Drive ends at a campground and trailhead, which are located at an elevation of about 10,000 feet on the northern flank of Wheeler Peak.
From there, you can hike on a number of different signed trails to such destinations as Teresa and Stella Lakes, the Bristlecone Pine Forest, the permanent glacier at the base of Wheeler Peak and even to the summit of the mountain.
Bristlecone Pine trees are the oldest living things on earth, with some of the trees in the park being as much as 3,000-4,000 years old.
Lehman Caves were first discovered in 1885 by a local rancher, Absalom S. Lehman.
Through the late 1800’s – early 1900’s, those caves were widely-known for hosting explorers, tours, parties, weddings, etc.
Today, ranger-guided tours are offered daily, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. You can choose between 90, 60 or 30 minute tours.
The 90 minute tour travels 0.54 miles through passages, tunnels and rooms and includes 10 stairways (Children under the age of 5 are not permitted on this tour).
The 60 minute tour turns around in the Inscription Room.
The 30 minute tour visits only the Gothic Palace.
Note: Light jackets or sweaters are highly recommended, even on the hottest days.
The caves temperatures are a constant 50 degrees with 90 percent humidity.
Lower Lehman Creek (7,300′) with 11 spaces. Baker Creek (7,700′) with 32 spaces. Upper Lehman Creek (7,800′) with 24 spaces. Wheeler Peak (9,950′) with 37 sites (RV’s and trailers are not recommended).
Primitive camping facilities are located along Snake Creek and Strawberry Creek Roads.
Limited accommodations are available in Baker, Nevada.
FOOD AND SUPPLIES:
A concessionaire operates a cafe and gift shop from April to October. There is a restaurant and small grocery store, as well as credit card (unmanned) gas pumps in Baker.
A gas station and restaurant are also located at the Nevada-Utah border.
Camping, hiking, backpacking, etc. are permitted in the park.
Nightly campfire programs, daily guided Bristlecone hikes, and weekend kid’s programs are offered to Labor Day.
Call the Park Visitors Center at (775) 234-7331 (ext. 242 for Cave Tickets).
• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon he can’t tell you the name of the first National Park created in the U.S.
If he says, “Yellowstone National Park in 1872,” you lose.