Halfway between Las Vegas and Great Basin National Park you’ll find an overlooked treasure of sage and native grass-covered valleys bordered by rugged mountains that have escaped large scale human development. In 2015 the Basin and Range National Monument was established on 704,000 acres (285,000 ha). It protects expansive grasslands of the broader Great Basin habitat, where hundreds of species of native flora and fauna live, and where the visitor can find an impressive density of Native American historic sites within the Mount Irish Rock Art Archaeological District (see this map for orientation). Soon after visiting the national monument in early November we met with Jim Boone, a member of the Friends of Basin and Range National Monument organization, and had the pleasure to sit down with him for an interview. He describes best what the traveler to this remote part of Nevada will experience: “As a visitor to Basin and Range, you need to know that here it’s all about the basins (basin is a geology term for valley). Basins are normally the places where we put our highways, where we put our power lines, our cities, our industries, and our farms. They’re the places we drive through to get to the mountains where we want to recreate. For Basin and Range, you need to slow down and embrace the basins. You need to embrace the valleys. I encourage everyone that I send that way to drive the loop: in Seaman Wash Road and out Mail Summit Road. And I encourage them that when they get down into Coal Valley to stop and get out and just plan to spend 30 minutes. Maybe get out your lawn chairs, have lunch there. Spend a few minutes getting to know the valley, the basins." On his website, Jim includes a detailed description of this scenic drive along dirt roads inside the national monument, with access to an online detailed map. We spent one night camping in the monument at the boundary with the stunning Mount Irish Wilderness after visiting one of the archaeological sites. Since there are no marked hiking trails in Basin and Range, the next day we did an extended version of the loop drive starting on Mail Summit Rd, through Garden Valley and out via Timber Mtn Rd. The latter led us out of the monument to a northern section of ST 318 that returns south through a very scenic section of the White River Narrows. Nestled in the middle of the national monument in Garden Valley is a peculiar art project created by Michael Heizer, whose community of artists together with a coalition of national art museums played an important role in the designation of the national monument. The large scale sculpting project is called City, a reinterpretation of ancient sites like Chichen Itza, and should be open to the public in 2020. Outside the monument, the nearby settlements and communities like Hiko or Alamo have a pretty limited range of amenities, so we encourage you to come prepared with the necessary supplies (you will find gas stations). Diners and restaurants are available in Crystal Springs and in Alamo. We ate a pretty good lunch at the Windmill Ridge Restaurant & Lodging (vegetarian options) in Alamo and picked up some baked goods at their bakery. To gain a better understanding and appreciation of the Basin and Range National Monument, read the Presidential Proclamation through which it was established.
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