Black Rock Desert

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  • -- Nevada Commission on Tourism - Black Rock Desert, situated in the High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area, is a silt playa 100 miles north of Reno that encompasses more than 300,000 acres of land and contains more than 120 miles of historic trails. Expect to see uniquely flat desert terrain and wildlife. Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, food and gasoline to this harsh landscape. Also, when it rains, the playa can become extremely sticky, bogging down four-wheel-drive vehicles. Some areas of the Black Rock are environmentally sensitive and closed to off-roaders.

QUESTION: What are some facts about the Black Rock Desert?
ANSWER: Running northeast from Gerlach, the Black Rock Desert is over 100 miles long. One of the flattest places on earth, its elevation (3,848') changes only 5' in a 25-mile stretch. 60-70,000 years ago, the desert was the bottom of Lake Lahontan which covered over 8,000 square miles, in some places 500 or more feet deep. The lake receded leaving behind Pyramid and Walker Lakes. Geologists call the dry lake bed a playa. Bones of the mammoths that roamed the area around 20,000 BC have been recovered. The first men probably arrived around 11,000 BC, and the Paiutes settled the area around 1300 BC. In 1843, John Fremont and his party were the first white men to cross the desert, and his trail was used by over half the 22,000 gold seekers headed to California after 1849. In 1867, Hardin City, a short-lived silver mill town was established (now a ghost town). The desert was named for a large black rock used by travelers as a reference. This marine limestone formation is thought to be over 300 million years old. The dried mud of the playa is over a mile deep in places. In the 40s, the desert was used as a bombing range; since the 80s, land speed records have been set in the Black Rock; more recently the Burning Man event has been held over Labor Day. SOURCE: Reno Gazette Journal 11/3/96, p 13A