Although Great Basin National Park is located in the desert, the mountainous terrain rises and intersects passing storms to receive additional precipitation. This precipitation infiltrates the ground and then often emerges as springs and seeps. Those that flow only part of the year are called ephemeral, while those that flow year round are perennial.
The park conducted an inventory of perennial springs and seeps in 2003-04 and documented over 425. Baker Creek watershed alone contained almost 150 springs. Several areas of the park were completely dry due to the underlying karst geology which allows the surface water to percolate into the rock and flow to the aquifer. Nearly 90% of the springs had visible animal sign near them, showing how important water is to animals in the desert.
Some of the springs that are marked on topographical maps were not flowing during the inventory. One of the reasons may be that pinyon pine and juniper have encroached upon sagebrush areas and white fir has invaded aspen stands. These newcomers use more water than the original vegetation, so they may be taking all the available water. The park is planning to remove some of these trees to see if some of the water can be restored.
Gretchen M. Baker, April 2007
Last updated: February 28, 2015