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.
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?
Great Basin National Park has a annual Astronomy Festival each September to celebrate its dark skies.