(Editor's note: This digital artwork was inspired by the Great Basin in Northern Nevada.)
by Glenn Franco Simmons
Around the close of the Pleistocene epoch many millennia ago, the area now known as the Great Basin was a chain of flourishing lakes and rivers, which is a contrast to the largely arid desert that typifies some, but not all the Great Basin.
“In today’s terms, the Great Basin encompasses much of Nevada and half of Utah, plus sections of California, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming,” according to AI-Pro. “This sprawling area is defined not by political boundaries but by the unique geography of this vast area.”
“The Great Basin’s topography is a pattern of consecutive north-south running mountain ranges alternating with valley floors to mountain peaks. Interestingly, it is called a ‘basin’ only because any precipitation falling into this area doesn't flow out to sea. Instead, water evaporates or leeches into the ground, sometimes forming saline lakes or playas in the basin floors.
“These ancient lakes were fed by glacial meltwaters and heavy rainfalls,” according to AI-Pro. “One of the most magnificent of these bodies of water was Lake Bonneville, which stretched across much of current-day Utah, into neighboring Nevada and Idaho as well.”
While much of the Great Basin is arid desert covered in sagebrush, there is also a rich assortment of life in numerous and diverse ecosystems.
“A mortal could look across the Great Basin, and see a barren wilderness, a sagebrush ocean, but in this arid ecosystem thrives a diverse assortment of life, adapted to the harsh and mutable conditions,” AI-Pro noted. “From the diminutive pika to the majestic mule deer, from the aromatic sagebrush to the bristlecone pine, the oldest living organisms on Earth, life here represents a fierce steadiness against remarkable odds.
“Yet the Great Basin is more than an intriguing natural wonder ~ it is also brimming with rich human history. Its prehistory is etched into the landscape in the form of petroglyphs and other artifacts left by the region’s early inhabitants, including the Northern Paiute, Southern Paiute, Washoe and the Western Shoshone tribes. Later, European pioneers would cross these unforgiving terrains in their westward journey, leaving behind elements of their passage reflected in historic trails and ruins of old settlements.”
When gold and silver were discovered in what became known as The Comstock Lode ~ a region with one of the most fascinating histories in the United States, the area was changed forever.
“Ghost towns almost immediately began to dot the region, but they were abandoned when the veins of riches ran dry ~ solemn reminders of a fevered chase for prosperity,” according to AI-Pro.
That is certainly true. You can see the remains of mining operations, old towns, ghost towns, former railroad lines, etc. from The Comstock Lode’s heyday.
“In more recent history, the establishment of the Great Basin National Park in 1986 led to a resurgence of interest in the area,” AI-Pro noted. “Now, stargazers travel from all around to enjoy one of the last sanctuaries of natural darkness. When night falls in the Great Basin, the sky is alight with countless stars, including the Milky Way that forms a radiant river crossing the inky canvas.
“Thus, the Great Basin, stark and resilient, continues to stand as a testament to both natural wonder and human endurance. Through every geological transformation and human epoch, it remains a ceaseless beacon of life’s tenacity and adaptability, a true jewel of the American landscape.”