What is the Great Basin?

The Great Basin is a geographic landmark located between the Rocky Mountains on the East and the Sierra Nevadas on the West. In simple terms, it’s a giant inland bathtub…

Cool Fact #1:

The Bristlecone Pine are some of the oldest trees on earth. They live in the Great Basin, some are 4,000 years old.

Cool Fact #2:

The Great Basin is the largest desert in the USA. It is 200,000 square miles and includes most of NV and parts of UT, OR, ID, CA

Whats in a name?

We are frequently asked questions about our name. How did we come up with it? What is the Great Basin? Where is it? Well, it’s a “great” question!

Great Basin Map

Great Basin USA

The Great Basin is a geographic area between the Sierra Nevada mountains on the west, the Rocky Mountains on the East, the Snake River on the North and the Sonoran/Mojave Deserts to the south. About 95% of the state of Nevada is in the Great Basin. About half of Utah falls within the Great Basin, as do small parts of California, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming. These maps show the vast area of the American West that fall within the borders of the Great Basin.

Defined by Water

Depending upon the parameters used for the definition the boundaries of the Great Basin can be drawn with minor differences. But the primary defining factor of the Great Basin has always been water, or the watershed of the region. A watershed is an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins or seas. The defining attribute of the Great Basin is that precipitation falls within it’s watershed and never reaches an ocean. It drains to the salty basins and lakes of the interior Intermountain West where it eventually seeps into the ground or evaporates. All water drains internally. The Great Basin is a 210,000 square mile bathtub with no drain.

Several river systems and lakes are in the Great Basin. Lake Tahoe, a vibrant freshwater Sierra Nevada lake, flows down the Truckee River, quickly loses elevation and drains into the salty sink of Pyramid Lake. Other salty basin lakes that receive water from the Sierra Nevada range include Walker Lake, Mono Lake and the Carson sinks, all remnants of ancient Lake Lahontan. The Humboldt and Reese River systems drain west into the Carson Sinks and join waters from the Sierra Nevada. On the eastern side of the Great Basin the Great Salt Lake is all that remains of ancient Lake Bonneville. It is fed by the Bear, Weber, Provo and Spanish Fork Rivers. Sevier Lake in west-central Utah is fed predominantly by the Sevier river and gathers water from South-Central Utah.

Great Basin Rivers

Basins and Ranges

The Great Basin is also referred to as the Basin and Range Province or Great Basin Province. This definitions follow geographic features more than watershed. The term “basin and range” comes from the multitude of north-south mountain ranges, fault lines and valleys or “basins” in Utah and Nevada. Look at at map…you will see that they are longitudinally stacked one after another from central Utah to the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Right: the Nevada Basin & Range. This photo is taken looking south-west. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are the dark blue/black strip in the upper RH quadrant, the pacific ocean in the extreme RH corner. Mono Lake is the circular lake (with island) at the base of the Sierra Nevadas, Walker lake is just below it. The white hardpan at center right is the Carson Sinks. If you imagine the mountain ranges in the center of the photo form the letters “UIP”, The Reese River flows north (down in the photo) from the valley in the “P”. It joins the Humboldt River in the shallow basins at the bottom of the photo and then flows west to the Carson Sinks.

It's where we call home...

Great Basin Seed in Ephraim, UT lies on the eastern edge of the Great Basin Province at the foot of the Wasatch Plateau. It is fascinating to consider the wonder of this large scale watershed and geographic separation between lush, high mountains on our back doorstep juxtaposed by the dramatic inhospitable landscapes below. If you stand on the mountain ridge line above our headquarters and face south you can straddle the water line between the Great Basin and the rest of the country. To the left, a fallen snowflake or drop of rain travels eastward down the mountain, turns south at the confluence of the Green River, joins the might Colorado River and eventually makes it’s way to the Sea of Cortez. To the right, a different drop of water travels west, meanders between desert ranges and eventually drains into the ground or evaporates from the surface of a salty desert hardpan. A tiny gust of wind could land that snowflake or raindrop mere inches one way or the other and result is a very different fate. This process is not unique to the Great Basin – it happens everywhere on the planet. In the Great Basin the result of this micro-event, multiplied by every drop of water that falls, results in a fascinating dichotomy. Dramatic geography, wildlife and plant life, culture, industry, travel and ways of life are all shaped by the process and are uniquely different from adjacent landscapes. What i

Sunset over the abandoned Teacup Ranch and Big Smokey Mountains in Nevada

solar farm land restoration

The Great Basin is our home. Our ancestors were among the first European settlers to set roots here. The Great Basin is where the majority of our native seeds are grown, harvested and produced. We purvey seed outside the boundaries of the Great Basin, but this is home.

It’s the heart of it all, and it’s where our name was born. What is the Great Basin