Friday, 25 November 2016

Part 10 of our holiday in the USA -.Great Basin National Park including the Lehman Caves from our base in Mesquite.

About 100 miles (160 km) north of Cathedral Gorge (where we were in the last blog), Great Basin National Park, established in 1986, is also in eastern Nevada.  It is in the Great Basin desert and contains most of the South Snake mountain range. The park is notable for its groves of ancient bristlecone pines. Some have been aged (by tree rings) at around 5,000 years old and hence the oldest tree species on the planet! They are shallow rooted and grow best in hostile environments. 
Also in the park are the Lehman Caves, originally protected as a National Monument in 1922.  The caverns were discovered around 1885 by Absalom Lehman, a rancher and miner and they extend 400 metres (a quarter-mile) into the base of the mountains.
Proof that we were there :-) That's bare rock, not snow, above the tree line on the mountain behind.

Difficult to see at this scale but this is an informative map of the park, its features and trails!

The Lehman cave system began forming approximately 550 million years ago (during the Cambrian period) while the rock strata were still submerged in a relatively warm, shallow ocean. The caves have been formed by a marble and limestone solution exploiting and eroding cracks in the rock; the solution also continues to form the many and spectacular cave decorations.

The cave system was extended during the later Pleistocene geological period, when a prolonged and increased flow of water further eroded fractures in the cave's bedrock. Eventually, the water level dropped, exposing the Lehman cave system to anyone without scuba apparatus!

On arrival at the Park's visitor centre, while waiting for the tour to depart, we walked around the exhibits and were fascinated by this Winchester rifle in a glass case.

This very rare Winchester 1873 rifle was only discovered in November 2014, just leaning against a juniper tree in the Park! (see the photo at the back of the case). It had obviously been there through all types of weather, the cracked wooden stock well weathered, and the barrel rusty. How many years had it been there? Who was the owner? Why did they not return for it?


What do you think happened?  It is still a complete mystery!

This is a route of the cave tour.

Access to the caves is only via the daily, and popular, guided tours.

From the entrance, visitors are guided through the specially named areas shown on the map; unfortunately  I am now not sure which  of my photos is which, but there are exotically named caves like the Gothic Palace, the Cypress Swamp and the Grand Palace. There are also hosts of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, flowstone, soda straws, shields and popcorn.  A geologist's dream!
This was my first photo inside the caves, so it is probably the Gothic Palace but....

So many different formations...

and shapes...

in every corner you look.

The colours you see in the photos are all correctly reproduced...

because the lights are white (not coloured) and  switch on and off  manually as visitors pass through each area to protect the precious features, and stop unwanted  fungal growth which would be generated by continuous lighting.

In one section on the route, the fixed lighting system did not work, but thankfully a number of people had torches; nevertheless,  it was  quite a spooky 5 minute walk to the next lit section!

Now I know that this photo shows one of the rare shield formations (the more horizontal bit in the upper centre)...

and you can see a few more here, with stalactites growing from them.

One of my photos towards the end of the tour, maybe the Grand Palace!

Back in daylight, we drove up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive; there are amazing views along this winding road which takes you up high to a magnificent view across Snake Valley.  There are 11 types of conifers in the Park, including the ancient bristlecone pines!

Looking across Snake Valley towards the Snake Range.

Wheeler Peak is the tallest mountain in the Snake Range; its summit elevation of 3,958 metres (13,065 feet) makes it the second-tallest peak in Nevada. Despite the  extreme heat in the Great Basin during our June visit, there is still some snow to be seen on the mountains!




Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016)  

26 comments:

  1. Happy thanksgiving to you & family, Diane. I'm sure you're going to have a great time. Happy holiday !
    Blessings, Kristy

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    1. Thanks Kirsty our celebrations will be at Christmas as we are now back home and thanksgiving is not recognised here in France. We will though I am sure have a great weekend and we hope you do as well. Take care Diane

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  2. Those caves were fantastic...but I think I preferred the scenic drive...

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    1. Fly the caves were amazing, I don't like enclosed spaces but I was fine walking through these, even in the dark! The scenic drive though was stunning. I hope all is well with you both, take care Diane

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  3. That is one very elaborately decorated cave. I really need to make that visit, maybe in the spring/early summer. Your photos are superb!

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    1. Gaelyn I have not really been to that many caves, a couple in RSA and one here but these to me were outstanding and quite beautiful. You would really enjoy them I am sure and I am surprised yet another place we have beaten you to :-) Have a great thanksgiving Diane

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  4. Wow how fascinating. Love the photos of the caves. Reminds me of my trip to Austria. We went on a tour of caves there. Glad some of the people had torches ..would of been pretty scary to move. We had a part when the lights were put out and the music started ..and then random lights came on ..highlighting specific areas. It was amazing take care xox Anne

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    1. Thanks Anne, the caves were amazing and it was good to have such a knowledgeable guide with us. It is strange ow I do not like being in enclosed spaces, but I do not have a problem with caves so long as there is standing room. Hope your weekend is a good one. Take care Diane xox

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  5. Hi Diane ... the only caves I've seen are the Cango Caves ones ... and they are stunning aren't they, as too these here ... incredible formations - a geologists delight. It must an amazing area to see - the caves and the ride up into the mountains ... then you do wonder who left their rifle ... and are their bones out there to this day?

    Cheers for now - Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary, Cango are/were fantastic. I am under the impression that they have commercialised them to much these days though, which if so,it is a shame. I have also seen Sudwala and Sterkfontein caves in RSA. The latter was where they found Mrs Ples if you have heard about her. If not easy to look up.
      The Lehman caves are I think the most spectacular of all I have seen. Yes you are right, I wonder if the bones of the gun owner are still out there, but if an animal had got him the gun would not have been propped up on the tree - a mystery I guess that will never be solved.
      It was a great day out all in all. Take care Diane

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  6. You sure did see some wonderful sights, Diane.Those caves are wonderful. I have been through some beauties here too. Snow and heat all at the same time. It is an amazing country.

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    1. Thanks Diane those caves are probably the best I have seen. As you say it is amazing to be so hot you feel like you are melting but there is still snow on the mountains! Take care t'other Diane.

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  7. Merci Diane pour ce voyage dans les merveilles souterraines de notre planète!Vos photos sont superbes! La puissance de la nature crée des merveilles!
    Bon dimanche à vous!

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    1. Lucie, comme vous le dites, la puissance de la nature crée des merveilles. Nous vivons dans un monde étonnant. Merci pour votre commentaire. Bonne semaine

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  8. Your photos taken inside the cave system are absolutely stunning, Diane. I'd love to visit that place.

    I'd heard about the rifle before. How strange iss that, that it could sit there undiscovered for so many years.

    I hope you have a great week - - - Richard

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    1. Thanks Richard, certainly one of the best caves we have visited, some stunning areas.

      The rifle seems very odd, if it was on the ground maybe an animal got him, but propped up on the tree!!!!

      I hope also that you have a good week, Diane

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  9. Great caves, but the drive is much better. Love this area of our country, gorgeous views. I've heard about the rifle, talk of maybe a bear or Indians dragged the hunter away. So much in this country to see! Take care

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    1. Oh I just loved those caves Pam, they were particularly stunning. I loved the drive though as well, it i an amazing area to view. Have a good week Diane

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  10. What great caves. The rifle made the news down here as well.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. It was the first we had heard of the rifle Stewart, but it certainly has made a great story with no ending!!! Cheers Diane

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  11. Such an interesting story about the rifle... it sure makes me curious about what happened to the person who left it there. The caves look AMAZING!

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    1. Pam we really loved the caves, a very special place that the wonders of nature have have produced. As for the rifle I guess it is going to remain a mystery!! Have a good week Diane

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  12. WOW! those caves are amazing, it must have been such a thrill to discover their beauty!
    Gorgeous photos, Diane!
    Thanks for showing the maps, it always gives a better idea of the place!
    Keep well and warm, cheers!

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    1. Thanks Noushka, nature is amazing, man could never make anything quite this beautiful no matter how they tried. Glad the maps helped. Icy here today, keep warm cheers Diane

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  13. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is gorgeous. It must have been relaxing to drive by and see the beautiful view!

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  14. Incroyable landscapes Diane, and the caves oh la! What astounding formations!
    P.s. made me smile when you said your dad got seasick on the paddle steamer after being at sea for so long.. must be a different motion I guess 😊

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