Across the Great Basin Album

The Great Basin includes a large chunk of the western United States, and lies between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. All rivers that drain into the Great Basin never leave – they just disappear into the sand or settle into salty playas. It’s characterized by many north-south oriented mountain ranges, with elevations of 13,000 feet or more. It’s a relatively unpopulated area, with the few settlements of any size (Reno, Salt Lake City) on the outskirts. I’ve been exploring some of these remote mountain ranges and river valleys, and the following recordings present a sound journey from west to east.

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Sierra Autumn Afternoon (9:18)

I recorded this in the mountains above Lake Tahoe, on a warm fall afternoon, when the golden aspens quivered in the breeze and squirrels, Clark’s Nutcrackers, chickadees and nuthatches were busy getting ready for winter.  Listen for the different sound of the breeze through the pines and firs compared to the aspens.

Recorded near Genoa Peak, Nevada, on October 10, 2014.

Summer morning on the Carson River (13:36)

The Carson River flows from the east side of the Sierras, through the Carson Valley and near the town of Carson City (my hometown), before heading east to Lahonton Reservoir and Stillwater Wildlife Refuge. The area along the river near Carson City has been preserved in a lovely set of parks and open space, and the riparian zone there, full of tall cottonwoods and willows, is a wonderful oasis for wildlife. It’s one of my favorite places to record, although it can be tricky getting a recording free of the sounds of small aircraft from the nearby airport. This recording was made on a hot morning in July, but the flowing water and shade from the trees created a wonderful, tranquil setting.

Recorded near Carson City, Nevada, on July 19, 2013.

Dawn near Kingston Creek (13:18)

In the center of Nevada are four parallel mountain ranges that are high enough to usually have snow late into the summer. The most accessible of these is the Toiyabe Range, south of Austin. A dirt road enters the mountain range on the northeastern portion of the range near the tiny town of Kingston, with some nice camping spots along the creek. I stayed there in the summer of 2012, in a pretty little willow patch near a small meadow. No big cottonwood trees here, just willows, alders, and wild rose lining the banks of the tiny creek. But like any place with water in the middle of the desert, it was alive with birds in the summer, with American Robins, Yellow Warblers, Green-tailed Towhees, and lots of others providing a nice dawn chorus.

Recorded along Kingston Creek, Nevada, on July 5, 2012.

High Mountain Meadow (13:11)

Just to the east of the Toiyabe Range is the Toquima Range. Access to the range is limited to some dirt roads that branch off of dirt roads that are a long ways from any highways. But there is a nice little campground way back in the mountains, along Pine Creek. I stayed there in the summer of 2013, and hiked up a beautiful aspen-lined trail leading to some high meadows below the 11,000 foot crest of the range. It was one of those beautiful summer days, where I just couldn’t resist laying down in the green grass, listening to the birds singing, the bees buzzing, and the creek in the distance, while watching thunder clouds building overhead.

Recorded in the Toquima Range, Nevada, on July 4, 2013.

Cleve Creek Dawn Chorus (11:57).

In eastern Nevada, the Schell Range rises just northeast of Great Basin National Park. It includes Cave Lake State Park at the southern end, the Duck Creek Recreational area on the west side, and the Cleve Creek Recreational Area on the east side. I’ve stopped by Cleve Creek several times – it’s a quiet little campground near the riparian gallery that lines the rushing creek. The cottonwoods, willows, and alders attract a nice diversity of birds, and the campground provides wonderful views of the Spring Valley and the high peaks of the Snake Range.

Recorded along Cleve Creek, Nevada, on July 4, 2012.

Dawn at Yankee Meadow (11:32).

Yankee Meadow is a beautiful aspen- and fir-lined meadow just north of Cedar Breaks National Monument. When I visited in late July, the avian breeding season was already winding down, but the Western Wood-Pewees, Western Tanagers, hummingbirds, and other birds added a nice dawn chorus to the background roar of Bowery Creek.

Recorded at Yankee Meadow, Utah, on July 26, 2013.

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