Water for the Great Basin

July 02, 2019



Photographer: Thomas McGuire 
Summary Author: Thomas McGuire 

The Great Basin is a region of the western United States where rivers and streams don’t drain toward any ocean. Because it’s mostly a desert, the primary escape for water is through evaporation. In fact, both Death Valley and the Salton Sea are hundreds of feet below sea level. The Great Basin includes nearly all of that state of Nevada and about half of the state of Utah, portions of 4 other states and also extends into a small area in northern Mexico.

Though most of the region has an arid climate, the highest elevations have a montane ecosystem. Great Basin National Park includes 13,063 ft (3,982 m) Wheeler Peak, Nevada, which is snow-capped much of the year. The eastern slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada receive abundant winter snows, as shown in the photo at top, taken in mid-April of 2019, when the snowpack was more than twice the annual average (nearly 4 feet or over 1 meter of snow) for this location. The bottom photo shows the Truckee River, near Reno, Nevada, during snowmelt -- also taken in mid-April of 2019.

Photo Details: Top - Camera: SONY DSC-HX80; Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements 16.0 (Macintosh); Exposure Time: 0.0010s (1/1000); Aperture: ƒ/4.5; ISO equivalent: 80; Focal Length (35mm): 60; Bottom - same except: Camera: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS; Aperture: ƒ/4.0; ISO equivalent: 160; Focal Length: 5.0mm