Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park


Lehman Caves Ecology

Life in Lehman Caves survives in such an unusual environment by seizing every opportunity possible.

Bacteria lives in moist areas of the cave. This bacteria may be feeding on organic material that has seeped with the water through the "solid" rock. Some limestone caves have bacterial colonies that are chemoautotrophic, or "rock eating". These bacteria can derive all their necessary food and energy from rocks, minerals, or dissolved chemicals. They can form an ecosystem that is totally independent of the life-giving light from the sun. Research would be needed to determine if Lehman Caves is home to bacteria of this type.

Many animals that use the cave must leave to forage for food. These animals include chipmunks, mice, pack rats and bats. Chipmunks, mice and pack rats feed on vegetation. Plants do not grow in the dark cave environment. The bats in the Great Basin feed on flying insects, such as mosquitos. They also must leave the cave to find adequate food. The nesting material brought into the cave and droppings left behind by these temporary residents is a major source of nourishment for animals that may live their entire lives in the cave.

Crickets, spiders, psuedoscorpions and the smaller mites and springtails can live their full life cycle in the cave. However, they are dependent on organic material packed in by other animals or washed in from the surface. They optimize meals that are often few and far between.

Animals in the cave use a variety of senses to find needed shelter and food. Bats navigate through the pitch dark cave using echolocation. Pack rats follow the scent of their urine trail to return to their midden (nest). They will decorate these nests with pine cones, aluminum can tops, or anything else interesting, even though they can not see the decorations in the darkness. Touch is also very important. Pseudoscorpions use their elongated pinchers to feel the route in front of them.

Humans have unintentionally changed the ecology of Lehman Caves by introducing more food sources (wooden steps, lint, etc.), opening two new entrances, and installing electric lights. The lights, entrances, and tour groups slightly affect the temperature of the cave. Light in the previously dark cave allows plants to grow. These plants (mostly algae) are a source of food for animals. This can change what species live in the cave and how they interact.

Park rangers are trying to reduce our effect on the cave ecology. Lights are only turned on when a tour is in that area of the cave and visitors are not allowed to carry food or drink in the cave.

Life in the cave has dealt in the past with very slow changing conditions (constant temperature and near constant humidity), constant darkness, and uncertain food supply. Life in most caves has been poorly studied by scientists. Recently, they have found bacteria in caves that might have medical benefits or be a clue to the types of life NASA hopes to find during a future probe beneath the surface of Mars. It may benefit us to learn from the life styles of cave animals. The first step is to protect the conditions they live in, including the temperature, humidity, and limited sources of food available in Lehman Caves.

Fire Regime

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 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.

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.

Our Partners

Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership

In 1998 citizens of Millard County, Utah; White Pine County, Nevada; the Duckwater Shoshone Reservation; and the Ely Shoshone Reservation came together to form the Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership. This grass roots, non-profit organization works to preserve the heritage of the central Great Basin, an area with stories of national significance. Designation of the central Great Basin as a National Heritage Area has been the goal of the group since its inception.

One of the missions of Great Basin National Park is to interpret the resources of both the park and the entire Great Basin region. The Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership will work with the park to coordinate efforts to preserve the heritage and tell the stories of the Great Basin.

To learn more, visit the Partnership's website:

Southern Nevada Grotto
The Southern Nevada Grotto (SNG) was established in 1968 and has been an active member of the National Speleological Society. The grotto is a non-profit caving organization, based in Las Vegas, dedicated to the preservation and conservation of caves in Southern Nevada and the Southwest. Since May 2003, the group has been conducting a survey of Lehman Caves, using the information to produce an updated cave map. The new map will contain detailed measurements of the cave, and feature all structures such as trails, handrails, and lighting.

To learn more, visit the Grotto's website:

Air Quality

What we call air quality depends on the exact composition of that 1% of atmospheric gases other than nitrogen and oxygen, and on the chemical nature of the particles suspended in the gas. Very small differences in the overall composition of the atmosphere can cause enormous effects on the environment and human health.

It is important to monitor these small variations in the atmosphere. Some aspects of air quality that should be monitored are visibility, gaseous pollutants, aerosol pollutants, and acid deposition. Great Basin National Park monitors all of these facets of air quality.

Weather and other natural conditions affect visibility, of course; but so does air pollution, to a surprising degree. Since the 1950's increasing air pollution has caused a marked deterioration in average visibility across the U.S., in both urban and rural areas (Malm 1989).

Nationwide studies indicate that the intermountain West enjoys the best visibility in the coterminous U.S., from the southern Cascades, eastward across the Great Basin and Snake River Plain, to the northern Colorado Plateau and central Rocky Mountains.

Great Basin NP, which is located in middle of this region and has been monitoring visibility since 1982, typically records some of the highest average visibility readings in the nation. The latest and most accurate data, from March 1993 through February 1994, indicates that the median annual non-weather-related standard visual range in the park is approximately 15O km (93 miles), and that values rarely fell below 106 km (66 miles) and rarely exceeded 241 km (149 miles). This places Great Basin National Park well within the top few sites in the nation, along with Denali NP, Alaska; Jarbridge Wilderness Area, Nevada; and Bridger National Forest, Wyoming (Copeland and others 1995).

Combined transmissometer and aerosol monitoring data shows that visibility at Great Basin NP was affected principally by organic carbon, soot, sulfates, and coarse soil aerosols. Nitrates, which have a great affect on visibility at urban sites, were very minor at Great Basin (Copeland and others 1995). Major sources of these aerosol types are discussed under aerosols below.

Like a clean white page, the relatively clear air of the Great Basin can be marred easily. Studies of the effect of visibility on park visitors show that slight increases in air pollution are much more distinct and objectionable when and where the air is cleanest (O'Leary 1988). At Great Basin NP, visibility declines after periods of sustained northeasterly winds, when a brown-yellow haze appears in Snake Valley, obscuring the mountains east of the park. Presumably the pollution comes from the Salt Lake City area and the Intermountain Power Plant near Delta, Utah. Fortunately, winds are seldom northeasterly for long periods. If similar pollution sources were built to the west, the park's visibility would be affected more frequently.

Ozone molecules consist of three oxygen atoms (O3), in contrast with the more stable, biatomic form of oxygen (O2) which makes up most of the oxygen in the lower atmosphere. Ozone is a much more effective oxidizing agent than O2 because it tends to release oxygen atoms in chemical reactions. Consequently, ozone chemically damages plants and animals when it occurs in unnaturally high concentrations in the lower atmosphere. (Paradoxically, ozone in the upper atmosphere protects life forms by blocking much of the ultraviolet radiation striking the earth.)

Ozone forms when sunlight strikes certain pollutants, especially nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), causing them to release oxygen atoms, which combine with naturally occuring O2. The largest sources of VOC and NOX are automobile exhaust, refineries, and manufacturing processes using industrial solvents (Mangis and others 1991).

Average ozone concentration at Great Basin NP was 0.041 ppm from September 1993 through December 1995. The average monthly maximum reading during that period was 0.061 ppm. Over more than two years of continuous monitoring, hourly ozone levels reached or exceeded 0.070 ppm only 16 times. The highest recorded hourly concentration was 0.079 ppm.

No significant upward or downward trend is apparent in the Great Basin NP data; but this is due to the short period of monitoring at the site, not necessarily to long-term stability in ozone levels. Seasonal cyclicity is apparent--from winter lows to summer highs. This seasonal pattern is typical throughout the network and might reflects greater solar radiation during the summer, rather than increased emissions of ozone precursers.

Ozone concentrations at Great Basin NP are well within the current EPA health standard (0.120 ppm per hour), in contrast to ozone levels near many urban areas. However, knowledge of the biological effects of ozone pollution is incomplete at best, and environmental damage might be occurring at lower ozone concentrations. Several studies indicate that some plant species are harmed at ozone levels well below 0.120 ppm, including ponderosa pine, aspen, squawbush (Rhus trilobita), and other species found in Great Basin NP (Mangis and others 1991).

The EPA currently is revising its primary NAAQS for ozone and developing a secondary NAAQS, relating to vegetation (Musselman 1996). Proposals for the new primary standard range from 0.07 to 0.09 ppm ozone over an eight hour period. Proposals for the secondary NAAQS recognize the damaging accumulative effects of moderate ozone levels during the growing season, and agree that damage to plants occurs when ozone levels exceed 0.06 ppm for sustained periods.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide also problem gases because they can be absorbed into dew and precipitation to make sulfuric and nitric acids. They also join with ammonium to form visibility impairing sulfates and nitrates. Great Basin NP started monitoring SO2 and NO2 in 1995.

Particulates generally measured in microns (one- millionth of a meter). An average human hair is 70 microns in diameter. Average pollen grains are 30 microns across. Particulates small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs are smaller than 10 microns. The particulates that reduce visibility the most are smaller than 2.5 microns.

Smaller particulates remain suspended in the atmosphere longer than coarser ones, and they disperse farther. This is unfortunate because, in general, smaller particulates are more harmful to human health and the environment, and have a greater affect on visibility. Natural particulates, such as windblown dust, volcanic ash, and soot from wildfires, tend to be coarser. Man-made particulates, such as sulfate, nitrate, many organic compounds, and trace metals, tend to be smaller.

Sulfate makes up about 25 to 50 percent of fine particulate mass at most sites in the U.S. Sulfur typically enters the atmosphere as sulfur dioxide gas, chiefly from fossil-fuel combustion. The gas converts to sulfuric and sulfurous acids, and then to ammonium sulfate ([NH4]2SO4). Other sulfates can form under certain conditions but ammonium sulfate accounts for nearly all elemental sulfur collected in aerosol samples (Cahill and others 1987). Ammonium sulfate is a chief cause of reduced visibility because it is so common and because it scatters light more effectively than nearly all other particulate types (Mangis and others 1994).

Organic carbon is another large component of aerosol. The category includes a variety of carbon-based organic molecules, which derive from smoke (from wildfires, planned burns, wood stoves, etc.) and from industrial hydrocarbon gas emissions and biological sources. In remote areas with comparatively low sulfate concentrations, such as Great Basin NP, organic carbons often comprise the majority of the total aerosol (Copeland 1995).

Nitrates typically form a minor portion of the aerosol, except near California urban areas, where nitrates sometimes exceed sulfates. Nitrate aerosol, which derives from automobile and oil refinery emissions, is a chief cause of ozone pollution and a major contributor to acid rain (Mangis and others 1991).

Soil particles also occur in the aerosol, often accounting for 20% of the total at Western sites. Concentrations vary widely with the season and with short-term weather conditions. Soil has less effect on visibility and health than other particulate types because the particles tend to be coarser and less reactive chemically.

Finally, various trace elements can occur in the aerosol, such as sodium and chlorine ions derived from ocean salts, and lead and zinc particles from smelters. Although they never comprise a large percentage of the total aerosol budget, heavy metals such as lead and selenium can cause significant environmental damage.

The largest sources of organic carbon and soot aerosols are diesel exhaust, smoke, and industrial solvents. Most sulfate emissions come from coal- and oil-fired power plants, refineries, and smelters. Most coarse soil aerosols come from wind-blown dust from eroding soil. Coarse soil aerosols are a minor factor in visibility impairment at most sites, in contrast to Great Basin NP, simply because they are overwhelmed by greater concentrations of human-made pollutants.

From 1959 through 1978, Lehman Caves NM participated in the National Air Surveillance Network. During the 20-year monitoring period, mean annual aerosol concentrations at Lehman Caves ranged from 6 to 17 μg/m3, and averaged 11 μg/m3. Maximum readings exceeded 100 μg/m3 only four times. Lehman Caves typically had the lowest aerosol levels of Nevada's 51 sites participating in the study(NDEP, 1978).

From September 1982 through March 1986 Lehman Caves NM participated in the NPS Particulate Monitoring Network. Compared with other network sites surrounding the Great Basin (Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Yosemite, Crater Lake, and Craters of the Moon) from September 1982 through February 1985, Lehman Caves recorded the lowest average fine particulate concentration and the second lowest fine sulfur concentration of these eight sites (Cahill and others 1987).

The IMPROVE system measures concentrations of sulfates, nitrates, organic and elemental carbon, and a large suite of elements (H, S, Si, K, Ca, Ti, Mn, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Br, Pb, Na, and Cl), plus light absorption and the concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 (that is, particulates smaller than 2.5 microns).

For the two-year period from March 1993 through February 1995, the median annual PM10 concentration at Great Basin NP was 6.5 μg/m3, and the median annual PM2.5 concentration was 2.9 μg/m3. During that same period, the average composition of the fine particulate mass (PM2.5) was: 36% organic carbon, 22% ammonium sulfate, 18% soil, 6% elemental carbon, and 5% ammonium nitrate. The remaining 13% includes various trace elements, unmeasured nitrates, and residual water.

Aerosol monitoring over the last few decades indicates that the cleanest air in the continguos U.S. extends from the southern Cascades, across the Great Basin and the Snake River Plain to the central Rockies and the northern Colorado Plateau. Great Basin NP, located near the middle of this region, typically records aerosol concentrations that are among the lowest in the nation. For example, from March 1994 through February 1995 (the most recent period for which published data is available), only Lassen Volcanic NP, Crater Lake NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and Jarbridge Wilderness Area recorded lower readings for major aerosol types. In contrast, sites at Death Valley NP, Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP, Lone Pine Wilderness Area (near Salt Lake City, UT), and South Lake Tahoe show strong evidence of aerosol pollution (Air Quality Group 1995).

Acid deposition occurs when sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) gases chemically change to sulfuric and nitric acid in the atmosphere and fall to the earth with rain and snow (wet deposition), or with dust and microscopic particles (dry deposition). Coal-fired power plants and smelters are the chief sources of SO2 emissions; automobiles and electric utilities are the chief source of NOx emissions (Mangis and others 1991).

Great Basin National Park has been monitoring acid deposition through the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) network since 1985. The data collected indicates that the acidity of Great Basin National Park rain and snow is at natural levels. Information from precipitation in this area provides a baseline to monitor the changes that have already taken place in other parts of the country.

From 1985 through 1994, the precipitation-weighted mean pH of rain and snow at Great Basin NP was 5.4--well within the "natural" pH range of 4.8 to 6.0, as suggested by Charlson and Rodhe (1982). During that 10-year period the lowest valid weekly sample value was 4.34 and the highest was 8.00. The average pH of rain and snow in Great Basin NP is generally similar to that at other sites in the intermountain West.

From 1985 through 1994, the average concentration of sulfate in precipitation was 0.8 mg/l, and the average annual deposition of sulfate was 2.5 kg per hectare. Nitrate concentrations averaged 1.1 mg/l, and the annual wet deposition of nitrate was 3.3 kg/ha during that period. In the arid West, dry deposition accounts for a significant portion of the total deposition of sulfates, nitrates, and other acidic pollutants (Mangis and others 1991).

The highest levels of sulfate, nitrate, and ammonium in the region in 1993 were recorded at Red Rock Canyon, a site which is strongly affected by emissions from nearby Las Vegas.

Although acid deposition does not appear to be a threat at the present time in Great Basin NP, it should be noted that all of the lakes in the park probably would be highly susceptible to acidification, should acid deposition occur. The granitic and quartzitic basins occupied by these lakes, combined with their high elevations, leave them with very little capacity to neutralize acidic pollutants.

Rural parks are not immune to pollution from urban areas. Visibility at the Grand Canyon has been reduced. Visibility at Big Bend National Park has dropped to less than 10 miles some days due to sulfate pollution from two coal-burning power plants near Piedras Negras, Mexico, 136 miles away (Huber 1996).

The greater Los Angeles urban area is the single largest source of regional air pollution in the southern half of the intermountain West (Malm 1989). It produces a broad plume of aerosol pollution that spreads across southern Nevada and the Grand Canyon to central Colorado. Great Basin NP lies along the northern edge of this plume and is affected by it, especially during the summer when winds are often southerly. Jarbridge Wilderness Area, located more than 200 miles north of Great Basin NP and farther from the plume, typically records sulfate concentrations that are 75% of those measured at Great Basin NP, despite the fact that average PM2.5 levels at the two sites are roughly equal (Air Quality Group 1994, 1995).

Great Basin National Park enjoys very good air quality most days due to its distance from major pollution sources and location in regards to prevailing winds from urban areas. However, just a small increase in pollution can greatly affect the park's visibility and natural resources. Air quality is a global concern. Therefore it is important to reduce pollution emissions in every way possible.


Adamson, L.F., and R.M. Bruce. 1979. Suspended particulate matter: A report to Congress (EPA-600/9-79-006). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Washington, DC.

Air Quality Group. 1995. Annual report of aerosol collection and compositional analysis for IMPROVE: July 1993-June 1994. Air Quality Group, Crocker Nuclear Laboratory; Davis, CA.

Air Quality Group. 1996. Annual report of aerosol collection and compositional analysis for IMPROVE: July 1994-June 1995. Air Quality Group, Crocker Nuclear Laboratory; Davis, CA.

Cahill, T.A. and others. 1987. Particulate monitoring and data analysis for the National Park Service, 1982-1985. Air Quality Group, Crocker Nuclear Laboratory; Davis, CA.

Copeland and others. 1995. Integrated report of optical and aerosol monitoring: Great Basin National Park--March 1993 through February 1994. Interagency Monitoring Protected Visual Environments Program.

Eldred, R.A. 1988. IMPROVE sampler manual, Version 2. Air Quality Group, Crocker Nuclear Laboratory; Davis, CA.

Ewell, D.M. 1996. Particulate matter standard. ARM: Forest Service/National Park Service Air Resource Management Quarterly Newsletter 25th Ed.

Huber 1996.

Malm, W.C. 1989. Atmospheric haze: Its sources and effects on visibility in rural areas of the continental United States. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 12:203-225.

Mangis, D., and others. 1991. Acid rain and air pollution in desert park areas. Technical Report NPS/NRAQD/NRTR-91/02. National Park Service, Air Quality Division; Denver, CO.

NPS ... Great Basin National Park: Final General Management Plan / Development Concept Plans / Environmental Impact Statement. ...

NDEP. 1978. Air Quality Report. Nevada Division of Environmental Protection; Carson City, NV.

O'Leary, Donna (ed.). 1988. Air quality in the National Parks. Natural Resources Report 88-1. NPS Air Quality Division; Denver, Co.


Centennial Initiative 2016

On August 25, 2006- the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service - Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne launched the National Park Centennial Initiative to prepare national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment. Since then the National Park Service asked citizens, park partners, experts and other stakeholders what they envisioned for a second century of national parks.

A nationwide series of more than 40 listening sessions produced more than 6,000 comments that helped to shape five centennial goals. The goals and vision were presented to President Bush and to the American people on May 31st in a report called The Future of America's National Parks.

Every national park staff took their lead from this report and created local centennial strategies to describe their vision and desired accomplishments by 2016. This is just the first year, and there are many great things to come as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate 100 years!


Reintroducing Bonneville Cutthroat Trout

Bonneville cutthroat trout is the only trout species native to Eastern Nevada and Great Basin National Park. This fish represents a remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville, whose western shores reached SnakeValley during the Pleistocene epoch. With the shrinking of Lake Bonneville due to a warming climate, these cutthroats became stranded in high mountain streams where they survived for many years. With the advent of European settlers in the area, non-native trout species such as rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout were stocked extensively into the streams holding populations of Bonneville cutthroat trout. Over time, the native cutthroats were eliminated due to competition and hybridization with these non-native trout species.


A Bonneville cutthroat trout recovery program was initiated by the Nevada Division of Wildlife and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in the early 1990’s, and joined by the National Park Service in 1999. The goal of this program is to restore Bonneville cutthroat trout to the streams they once inhabited within their historic range. This multi-step process includes first chemically eradicating a stream of all species, monitoring the stream to ensure the success of the eradication, and later re-introducing genetically pure Bonneville cutthroat trout and monitoring those populations.


As of February 2007, a total of five streams within Great Basin National Park (Strawberry, Mill, South Fork Baker, Upper Snake, and South Fork Big Wash) contained Bonneville cutthroat. In addition, Big Wash Creek outside the park and five streams in the North Snake Range (Deadman, Deep Canyon, Hampton, Hendrys, and Smith Creeks) also contained Bonneville cutthroat trout.

A multi-partner team including the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Great Basin National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, and private landowners was established in 1999 to aid in the recovery of Bonneville cutthroat trout. As a result of this group’s dedication and commitment to the species, Bonneville cutthroat trout currently reside in approximately 29 miles of habitat in 11 different streams in the Snake Range. Many people have contributed countless hours and dollars to restore this special fish to its native habitat.

Catch and release fishing is strongly encouraged in waters undergoing Bonneville cutthroat trout recovery. Many of these streams contain small populations of BCT that are susceptible to harvest. Please do your part to ensure the conservation of this species. Love ‘em and leave ‘em!


Join Our Friends

Great Basin National Park Foundation
The Foundation was formed and incorporated in 1998 to promote and financially support projects that further the mission of Great Basin National Park.

The Foundation played a major role in the development of the new Great Basin Visitor and Resource Center in Baker, Nevada. Currently, the Foundation is working to raise funds for the construction of exhibits for the new visitor center. The exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, will utilize visual, audio, and tactile techniques to give rich interpretation of the entire Great Basin region.

To learn more, please visit the Foundation's website:

Invasive Species

Many native fish populations across the West face increasing threats from non-native and invasive species.

Often inadvertently introduced, some invasives have a direct effect on fish populations. Whirling disease is spread by a tiny parasitic organism (Myxobolus cerebralis) that attacks the nervous system and cartilage, causing higher mortality rates in native fish populations. New Zealand mud snails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) have an indirect effect on fish by outcompeting native aquatic insects and, in turn, providing less food for fish.

Quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis), a close relative to Zebra mussels, were found in Lake Mead National Recreation Area in January 2007. These mussels are over 1,000 miles from the nearest other population, so they most likely hitchhiked via boats. They eat large amounts of phytoplankton, affecting the aquatic food chain. They may also clog water intakes on boat engines and even municipal water systems.

Invasive plant species can also prove detrimental to native fish populations. Tall whitetop (Lepidium latifolium) crowds out native bankside vegetation that is vital for providing shade and cover for native fish and preventing erosion. Cheat grass (Bromus tectorum) outcompetes native plants, creating monocultures along streams and adjacent uplands that make them more susceptible to wildland fires.

You can help control the spread of non-native and invasive species. Please do not transport live fish or fish parts from one drainage to another. Also, when you change fishing locations, rinse all mud and debris from fishing equipment and wading gear and drain water from boats before leaving the area. Thoroughly wash boats, trailers, and vehicles before heading out on your next trip. If you have been fishing in an area that is known to have whirling disease (such as in Utah or Montana), disinfect your gear by spraying a 10% bleach solution on it, then rinsing it after 15 minutes and letting it dry in the sun.



Bookstores, operated by the Western National Parks Association, are located at both the Great Basin Visitor Center and the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. Open 8:00am to 4:30pm Pacific Time, with extended hours in the summer.

To contact the Bookstore Area Manager please e-mail or call (775) 234-7331 x 268.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace refers to a code of conduct that minimizes the impact of outdoor recreationists on the land and wildlife. Using these techniques also leaves an area undisturbed for the next hikers or campers. These principles are encouraged, and in some cases required, in the backcountry of Great Basin National Park.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Always carry a map, compass, food, water, rain protection, sunscreen, sunglasses, and warm clothing when hiking. Know and obey the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit. Be physically and mentally ready for your trip. Know the ability of every member of your group. Be informed of current weather conditions and other area information. Know and accept risks associated with backcountry experiences. Take responsibility for yourself and your group. Always leave an itinerary with someone at home.

Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
When hiking, stick to the trail. Do not widen it or cut switchbacks. When hiking cross-country, pick a route that avoids fragile areas, such as alpine slopes or wetland habitats.

Pack it In , Pack it Out
Pack out everything you brought in, including cigarette butts, toilet paper, trash, and food scraps.

Properly Dispose of Human Waste
Bury waste in a hole 4-8 inches deep. Pick a site at least 200 ft from water, campsites, or trails. Do not leave toilet paper or feminine products behind - they must be packed out.

Leave What You Find
Park regulations prohibit collection of anything, including flowers, rocks, bones, historical or archeological artifacts. Ask a ranger about the exceptions, such as berries and pinyon pine nuts.

Minimize the Use and Impact of Fires
Build small fires in preexisting fire rings or use a camp stove. The park only permits the use of dead and down wood for fires. Bristlecone Pine wood may not be burned. Fires are not permitted above 10,000 feet elevation (3,060 m).

Respect Wildlife
Enjoy wildlife at a distance. Never feed wildlife. Secure food in containers. Please avoid sensitive wildlife habitats.



You can support Great Basin National Park in a variety of ways:

  • Purchase items from the park's bookstore, run by the Western National Parks Association. A percentage of proceeds is returned to the park through education and preservation projects.
  • Volunteer your own time as a campground host, tour guide, researcher, or artist in residence.
  • Contribute to the Great Basin Foundation, whose mission is to to promote and support projects that enhance the values of Great Basin National Park.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles while in the park and help preserve the landscape for future generations.

Water Quality

In order to evaluate how clean a stream, lake, or spring is, water quality parameters are measured. Within the National Park Service, five core parameters are assessed at each site visit: water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, pH, and water flow.

  • Water temperature is important because all living creatures are restricted to certain areas depending on their ability to survive within specific temperature ranges. For example, one finds brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout in upper, mid, and lower elevation portions of a creek respectively, due to their individual tolerances to temperature. In addition, in aquatic systems, egg laying, growth, and development of fish and aquatic invertebrates are controlled by temperature. For instance, Bonneville cutthroat trout spawn between 41° and 50° F and some mayfly species require summertime temperature increases to cause hatching and maturation of nymphs.
  • Dissolved oxygen is a measurement of the amount of oxygen in the water. Since most living creatures require oxygen to survive, the amount of oxygen in an aquatic system is crucial. In small, turbulent streams such as those in Great Basin National Park, the stream water is typically at or near 100% oxygen saturation. However, increases in temperature and decomposition can dramatically lower the oxygen concentration of an aquatic system and severely stress fish and aquatic invertebrates.
  • Specific conductance is a measure of the conductivity temperature compensated to 25° C. Since salts conduct electricity, a measure of conductivity provides an estimate of the total concentration of dissolved salts in an aquatic system. The most common salts in the aquatic environment are calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulfate, and carbonate. Most of these salts are from the weathering of rock but some salts, such as sodium and sulfate, are from human activities. Type of rocks drained, stream discharge, and human disturbance affect the concentration of salts in a stream. Several studies have demonstrated an increase in abundance and diversity of aquatic species associated with waters of moderate dissolved salt concentrations.
  • pH is an abbreviation for the “potential of hydrogen.” It is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in water utilizing an inverse logarithmic calculation. Consequently, the greater the concentration of hydrogen ions, the lower the pH value, and the more acidic the solution. pH values range from 0 to 14. Low pH values in an aquatic system are almost always due to human activities such as air pollution and the resultant acid rain. All living creatures are very sensitive to pH. If the pH of an aquatic system does not reside within values of 5 to 9, the biological consequences are severe.
  • Flow/discharge and level measurements are important since the amount of water can greatly affect many water quality parameters. Flow or discharge is measured by getting the average width, depth, and velocity, and multiplying all of these together. Level measurements are most frequently done in a lake, where the level of the water may be changing over the year. As flow and levels drop, water temperature fluctuations may be much larger.

Additional parameters are measured on a regular basis at some locations, such as turbidity in the drinking water and E. coli below campgrounds to ensure that the outhouses are not leaking. Occasionally dissolved organics, trace metals, and nutrients are also measured.

Results in Great Basin
Water quality in the park varies greatly between quartzite and limestone bedrock areas. The northern part of the park, including Baker and Lehman Creeks, is largely composed of Prospect Mountain Quartzite. Water quality in these areas have low specific conductance and more temperature fluctuations since the water stays on the surface. The subalpine lakes are particularly susceptible to changes in water quality since they have low buffering capacity. Air pollution is the main source of concern for the lakes’ water quality.

From the Snake Creek watershed south, the predominant bedrock is limestone. Streams will go below ground and then reemerge, so the specific conductance is higher and the temperature steadier throughout the year.



Interested in volunteering? We may need your talent, skill, and enthusiasm to fill important roles at Great Basin National Park!

Campground Hosts
Great Basin National Park currently has openings for volunteer Campground Hosts! Hosts spend the summer season assisting visitors in the campground, making rounds throughout the day, working on projects, and being available for after hours problems and emergencies. For more information on Campground Hosting, contact the park Volunteer Coordinator at 775-234-7331 ext. 213.

Interpretation & Education

Volunteers assist in staffing the visitor center desk, providing information and direction to visitors, and selling bookstore merchandise.

Natural & Cultural Resource Management
Volunteers assist in tracking, restoration, telemetry, fish and various wildlife projects.

More Information
Opportunities are available year round. Housing may be available, depending on the length and season of service.

Contact the park Volunteer Coordinator by calling 775-234-7331 ext. 213 for more more information.

Cooperating Association

Established in 1938, WNPA has since expanded to operate bookstores at sixty-five National Park Service sites throughout the western United States. Their mission is to promote the preservation of the national park system and its resources by creating greater public appreciation through eduction, interpretation, and research. WNPA has contributed more than $37 million to the National Park Service, generated through store sales and member suppport. They have produced more than a half million free interpretive items for national parks every year, including trail guides, newspapers, schedules, and brochures.

Currently the association has more than 200 publications in print, with many new publications being introduced every year. A catalog of these publications and hundreds of additional educational products is available in Great Basin National Park visitor center bookstores. Titles not immediately available in the bookstore can be found online at

Your Dollars At Work

One hundred percent of the fees collected at Great Basin National Park are used in the park. Campground, dump station, and Lehman Caves tour fees are mandated by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (2004) to be used on projects with a direct visitor connection. With the funds, the park has hired fee and interpretive staff, tackled the maintenance backlog, and improved trails and campsites.

Visitor fee dollars have enabled to park to complete projects, such as:

  • Rehabilitating campground sites at Snake Creek
  • Trail maintenance in the Wheeler Cirque
  • Replacing wayside exhibits
  • Developing a park sign plan
  • Constructing the Pole Canyon Picnic Area


Fire Management

The Fire Management Program at Great Basin National Park encompasses many areas.

Wildland Fire: Wildland fire has great potential to change park landscapes more often than volcanoes, earthquakes or even floods. Such forces of change are completely natural. Many plants and animals cannot survive without the cycles of fire or flooding to which they are adapted. If all fire is suppressed, fuel builds up and makes bigger fires inevitable. Under certain conditions, large, hot fires can threaten public safety, devastate property, damage natural and cultural resources, and be expensive and dangerous to fight.

Prescribed Fire: Prescribed fire is one of the most important tools used to manage fire today. In most parks, prescribed fires are used to manage vegetation instead of lightning-caused fires. A scientific prescription for the fire, prepared in advance, describes its objectives, fuels, size and the ideal environmental conditions for it to burn. If it moves outside the predetermined area, the fire may be suppressed. The fire may be designed to create a mosaic of diverse habitats for plants and animals, to help an endangered species recover, or to reduce fuels and thereby prevent a destructive fire. Burning key areas in advance, thereby removing fuels from the path of a future unwanted fire, can protect specific buildings, cultural resources, critical natural resources, and habitats. Fuel buildups sometimes must be cut and removed by hand. By burning away accumulated fuels and protecting specific sites, planned fires make landscapes safer for future natural fires.

Structural Fire: Part of the NPS mission is to protect the resources entrusted to its management, including buildings and structures, irreplaceable cultural resources, valuable property and infrastructure.

Environmental Factors

The National Park Service's mission is to "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein [within the national parks] and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." (Organic Act of 1916)

As parks strive to maintain, and in many cases, restore natural processes and ecosystems inside their boundaries, accomplishment of these mandated goals can be comprised by outside activities and actions. Parks do not exist in vacuums, but remain part of, and connected to, the larger landscape that surrounds them. All parks today face threats from invasions of nonnative species, pollution from near and far, and incompatible uses of resources in and around parks.

Great Basin National Park is not immune to these issues. Some of the specific threats facing the park today are groundwater pumping from neighboring valleys that may dry up park springs and springs, proposed coal-fired power plants nearby that may degrade air and water quality, the invasion of cheatgrass to the detriment of many native plant species, and global climate change that could completely alter the plant and animal communities of the Great Basin.