16 Facts About the Great Basin Desert


The Great Basin Desert is part of the Great Basin between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Range.

The Wasatch Range is a mountain range that stretches approximately 160 miles from the Utah-Idaho border, south through central Utah in the western United States.

Nevada is a state in the Western, Mountain West, and Southwestern regions of the United States of America.

The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America.

Great Basin National Park by 58NationalParks


The desert is a geographical region that largely overlaps the Great Basin shrub steppe defined by the World Wildlife Fund, and the Central Basin and Range ecoregion defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and United States Geological Survey.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the Federal government of the United States which was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.

The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961, working in the field of the wilderness preservation, and the reduction of humanity's footprint on the environment.

An ecoregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is smaller than an ecozone.

Great Basin Rattlesnake Eating Pack Rat by Cameron Rognan


It is a temperate desert with hot, dry summers and snowy winters.


The desert spans a large part of the state of Nevada, and extends into western Utah, eastern California, and Idaho.

Eastern California is a region defined as either the strip to the east of the crest of the Sierra Nevada or as the easternmost counties of California in the United States.


The desert is one of the four biologically defined deserts in North America, in addition to the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts.


Basin and Range topography characterizes the desert: wide valleys bordered by parallel mountain ranges generally oriented north-south.


There are more than 33 peaks within the desert with summits higher than 9,800 feet, but valleys in the region are also high, most with elevations above 3,900 feet.


The biological communities of the Great Basin Desert vary according to altitude: from low salty dry lakes, up through rolling sagebrush valleys, to pinyon-juniper forests.

Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae.


The significant variation between valleys and peaks has created a variety of habitat niches, which has in turn led to many small, isolated populations of genetically unique plant and animal species throughout the region.


According to Grayson, more than 600 species of vertebrates live in the floristic Great Basin, which has a similar areal footprint to the ecoregion.


Sixty-three of these species have been identified as species of conservation concern due to contracting natural habitats.


The ecology of the desert varies across geography, also.


The desert’s high elevation and location between mountain ranges influences regional climate: the desert formed by the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada that blocks moisture from the Pacific Ocean, while the Rocky Mountains create a barrier effect that restricts moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Rocky Mountains, commonly known as the Rockies, are a major mountain range in western North America.

The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent.

A rain shadow is a dry area on the leeward side of a mountainous area.


Different locations in the desert have different amounts of precipitation, depending on the strength of these rain shadows.

In meteorology, precipitation is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity.


The environment is influenced by Pleistocene lakes that dried after the last ice age: Lake Lahontan and Lake Bonneville.

The Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations.

Lake Lahontan was a large endorheic Pleistocene lake of modern northwestern Nevada that extended into northeastern California and southern Oregon.

Lake Bonneville was a prehistoric pluvial lake that covered much of the eastern part of North America's Great Basin region.


Each of these lakes left different amounts of salinity and alkalinity.

In chemistry, an alkali is a basic, ionic salt of an alkali metal or alkaline earth metal chemical element.

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