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.
Astronomy Programs to Resume August 23rd
After a safety review Astronmy Programs will begin again on a trial basis on August 23rd. More »
Road Work at Great Basin National Park
Beginning July 8, 2014 and continuing through the end of August there will be road work at Great Basin National Park on paved roads throughout the park. Delays of 10 minutes or less may occur. Updated 8/12/2014 More »
Change is a constant process in the Great Basin. Flash floods scour stream channels, avalanches roar through spruce forests, and rock glaciers melt from mountain peaks. Change is an ever present natural process, however change in the Great Basin is accelerating at an unprecedented scale.
Pinyon and juniper woodlands are expanding into areas once dominated by sagebrush grasslands. Non-native species like cheatgrass are spreading rapidly (4,000 acres per day) and currently cover one third of the Great Basin (25 million acres). Wildfire size and frequency is increasing, while species like sage grouse are decreasing. These are all recent changes, occuring over the last 100 years. And human's suppression of fire is partially responsible.
The Role of Fire
The ecological implications of this change are profound. Woodlands are less productive and support fewer plants and animals than sagebrush steppe habitats. Although an absence of fire is responsible for shifting sagebrush steppe grasslands to woodlands, once the shift has occurred fire becomes a threat instead of an ally to the system. Excessive fuel loads and ladder fuels in woodlands allow fire to easily move into tree canopies where it burns with extreme intensity, killing all plants and compromising the soil's ability to support life. Extreme fires set the stage for invasion by non-native plants, like cheatgrass.
Great Basin National Park recognizes the role of fire in maintaining ecosystems. It also recognizes the inherent ecological risks now present because of past fire suppression and non-native plants like cheatgrass. In an effort to restore fire as a tool of change in maintaining healthy ecosystems, the park has undertaken several fuels reduction and sagebrush steppe restoration projects. The goal of these projects is to reduce excessive fuel loads and to restore healthy, resilient plant communities. If these goals can be met, fire may be reintroduced back into the system, reducing the potential for a catastrophic fire and the potential for cheatgrass invasion.
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Grey Cliffs Ecological Restoration Project
Before and during cutting operations, a mix of native shrubs, grasses, and forbs was seeded. This mix was chosen to duplicate as closely as possible the vegetation present under a natural fire regime. Trees, primarily pinyon pines, were selectively cut, with a goal of mimicking the landscape's patchiness under a natural fire regime. Aspen, ponderosa pine, mountain mahogany, white fir, and old growth pinyon were left. All slash was chipped and left on site. Spreading of chipped biomass favors germination of native perennials, and retards cheatgrass germination.
NPS National Interagency Fire Center has some great fire education materials. Just click on the links below:
>National Park Service Wildland Fire Timeline; A Sampling of Significant Events (3.03 MB PDF)
Did You Know?
The apricot trees in front of the Lehman Caves Visitor Center in Great Basin National Park are over 100 years old! The trees are thought to have been planted by Absalom Lehman, discoverer of Lehman Caves. These historic fruit trees continue to produce today.