USGS Logo Geological Survey Professional Paper 197—D
The Basin and Range Province in Utah, Nevada, and California


2Prepared by D. F. Hewett.

The fact that there was a large area in the western part of the present United States from which no water flowed into the sea was first determined by Frémont in 1844, and the name "Great Basin" was given to it. Parts of this region had been entered as early as 1776 by Escalante, and it was crossed in 1826 by Jedediah Smith, and in 1833-34 by Bonneville and Walker. After the territory was acquired by the United States there were numerous explorations by United States Army engineers to determine the available railroad routes to the Pacific coast. The most thorough of these explorations were those made across the northern and central part of the Basin by Stansbury (1849), Beckwith (1854), Steptoe (1855), and Simpson (1858-9) and those made across the southern part by Whipple (1853) and Williamson (1854). These explorations yielded considerable geographic information but only meager data concerning the geologic features. The study of the geologic features practically began with the survey of the 40th parallel under the leadership of Clarence King from 1867 to 1873, the surveys of the Rocky Mountain region under J. W. Powell and the surveys west of the 100th meridian by the geologists under Lieutenant Wheeler (G. K. Gilbert, A. R. Marvine, and E. E. Howell) from 1869 to 1874. After these surveys were completed the principal geologic work in the Great Basin before about 1900 included detailed studies of two mining districts—Comstock by G. F. Becker (1882) and Eureka by Arnold Hague and J. S. Curtis (1880)—and the studies of the two great Pleistocene lakes of the basin—Lake Lahontan by I. C. Russell (1885) and Lake Bonneville by G. K. Gilbert (1890).

The explorations by J. E. Spurr in 1899 yielded a reconnaissance geologic map of Nevada south of the 40th parallel and, beginning with the discovery of Tonopah in 1900, numerous mining districts were studied, notably Tonopah (1903), Silver Peak (1899-1900), Goldfield (1905), Bingham (1900-1902) and Tintic (1896, 1916). Other than studies of local mining districts, however, the only large areal studies before 1919 were those of S. H. Ball (1905) and Adolph Knopf (1912). During the period 1900 to 1919 the geologic staff of the University of California made numerous local studies bearing on problems of Tertiary stratigraphy, structure, and physiography. Beginning in 1919, several extensive areal surveys have been undertaken in the province and numerous smaller areas around mining camps have been studied in detail.

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Last Updated: 28-Nov-2007