Wheeler Peak Summit Trail Closed
A small smoldering fire near the trail has caused the closure of the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail. park staff is observing the fire. Check back here to get an update whne the trail will open. Alpine Lakes Loop and Bristlecone Trail are open. More »
Road Work at Great Basin National Park
Road work will begin in Upper Lehman and Wheeler Peak Campgrounds. Campgrounds will be open but may be noisy and have large vehicles on the roads. The Scenic Drive is open with up to 15 min delays due to road work. Click more for details. Updated 9/9/14 More »
Travel Not Recommended - Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive Above 8,000 Feet
Snow and ice may make travel on Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive unsafe, travel is not recommended at this time. Warmer weather later in the week is expected and conditions may improve. Please check back. 9/29/2014
Snake Creek Road and Campsites Closed
The Snake Creek Road will be closed from the park boundary into the park to begin work on campsites, trails and restroom improvements. Work will continue until snow closes the project. Work will resume in Spring 2015.
Basque Sheepherder Aspen Carvings
Aspen trees throughout Great Basin National Park bear the marks of those who came before. Known as arborglyphs, dendroglyphs, or aspen art, the carvings provide an important record of the area's history.
The practice was started by Basque sheepherders in the late 1800s. Basque sheepherders were replaced by Peruvian sheepherders in the late 1900s adding yet another style and mix of arborglyphs. Recreational campers and cattlemen also left their marks, some of which date from the early 1900s.
The Basque culture is one where the oldest son inherited the family property. This left the younger brothers having to leave and find a place to live. During the California gold rush in the mid- 1800s, Basques came to try their hand at gold mining. They soon left the gold fields for a more profitable venture in sheepherding and supplying mining camps with mutton and shipping the wool back East. By the late 1800s Basque sheepherders were in Nevada.
Herding Sheep in the Great Basin
There is little information on the history of sheepherding in the area that now comprises Great Basin National Park. We do know, though, that Basques were in the area in the early 1900s by a few of the aspen carvings with dates of 1908 associated with Spanish and Basque words. By the 1960s there had been a decrease in sheep grazing in the West and a shift from using Basque herders to herders from Peru. A lot of carvings within the park show Peruvian herders here in the 1980s and 1990s.
Some carvings are not related to sheepherders. These carvings are from early settlers and early recreationists. It seems that cattlemen did not carve trees all that much since they very rarely stayed in the field with the cattle. Cattle were normally put out on the range for the summer and herded up in the fall so the cattlemen were never away from their ranches for extended periods of time.
Because of the important land use history, and since aspen trees are short lived, aspen carvings are a non- renewable resource, and it is important that archeologists document these carvings before they are lost forever. Great Basin National Park began documenting aspen carvings in the summer of 2006.
Note: Carving aspen trees is not permitted in Great Basin National Park. Please enjoy the historical carvings but help us protect the aspen trees in their natural state.
by JoAnn Blalack, GBNP Archeologist
Did You Know?
Skinks and many other lizards have the ability to rejuvenate their tails. The bright coloration of the tail in some species attracts predators to the break-away appendage, aiding in escape.