Sunday, May 29, 2016

Exploring the New Basin and Range National Monument, Nevada

About a month ago I joined some friends and acquaintances to do some exploring in the new Basin and Range National Monument, located in south-central Nevada. This national monument was designated in July 2015. It is managed by the BLM and is huge--about 704,000 acres. There is no visitor center, no amenities, few signs, and few paved roads (Nevada Highway 318 goes through part of it.) Here's a link to the BLM website with a map and more info.

We had topo maps, 4WD vehicles, and a sense of exploration.

The fossils in the Joana limestone are terrific, with lots of crinoids.

This crinoid stem had a nice star shape in the middle.

The northern end of the national monument is in the Great Basin desert, but at the southern end it is a transition zone to the Mojave desert, and cholla appear.

There are a few homesteads on the monument, including this abandoned sheep ranch.

This is a corral in a different part of the monument, when I approached from Highway 318 north of White River Narrows. I liked the series of mountain ranges framed by the corral entrance.

Most of Coal Valley is encompassed by the monument. I thought the sagebrush looked really healthy in much of the valley, and there wasn't much cheatgrass, which was nice.

There is cattle grazing in the monument, and I spotted this water tank by one of the hills.

We put up tents in a leave-no-trace makeshift campsite and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

The next morning it was time for some hiking.

We loaded up our packs and started heading up into the mountains. Note the lack of trails.

The number of fossils was amazing. This entire rock is covered.

We were also lucky to see some claret cup cacti blooming. They are so gorgeous!

Numerous holes dotted the cliffs. This one went in about ten feet, enough to get a fun view.

We kept hiking up and up and eventually made it to the top of the Golden Gate Range, the mountain range in the center of the monument. We found a survey marker and some assorted equipment that made us wonder what had been there previously.

To the west we saw Garden Valley and the Grant Quinn Range. It looked even more impressive the next morning with a fresh dusting of snow.

Here I am on the windy summit! It got so windy that day. My tent didn't do so well with all the wind.

We did some more hiking along steep slopes. Again, no trails. This place is wild!

Then we rappelled off the side of a mountain and into a cave.

It looked like we made the first footprints into the cave.

It didn't go far, but it had some nice speleothems.

The entrance was nice and wide and tall. It was fun being in a cave that didn't require crawling the entire time.

Some birds make their home there too.

I also saw some of the most amazing midden ooze that day, very orange. It looks soft, but it was actually very hard.

Later we were walking around some other cliffs and found this climbing rope dangling. It looks like climbers are putting up new routes (but I sure wouldn't leave my rope there, it wasn't that far back to the vehicles!).

It will be interesting to see how the monument is managed. They are currently working on a management plan.

A marker glued to the wall. Maybe this is the Scorpion King wall?

It is a gorgeous area. I really liked the cliffy mountains, abundant fossils, small caves, healthy sagebrush, numerous wildflowers, and isolation. We saw about eight vehicles all weekend. If you go, take supplies to stay overnight even if you're not planning to be there over night, as it's really remote and you may or may not run into someone else. Good tires, plenty of water, maps, and a good sense of direction are also helpful. I'll be back to explore!

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