The 704,000 acres of Basin and Range National Monument, created in 2015, preserve a large area having the eponymous geologic structure: long, north-south trending, fault-bounded mountain ranges separated by broad valleys, so characteristic of Nevada and environs. (Note that “Basin and Range” is not synonymous with “Great Basin.” The Great Basin has Basin and Range geologic structure but the basins have no exterior drainage to the sea. Las Vegas Valley, for example, is in the Basin and Range but not in the Great Basin, because the valley drains to the Colorado River system.)
The sweeping expanses of the national monument include a wide variety of habitats, from the tall limestone cliffs and thick pinyon-juniper forest found in Mt. Irish and the Worthington Mountains to the sere playas (dry lake beds) out in Coal Valley.
Scattered cultural and historical sites, from Native American petroglyphs to mining and ranching ruins, also dot the area. There’s even a ghost town, Logan City, originally founded on silver strikes in the 1860s. Little remains from that era, however. The prominent building that still exists is a house from the 1950s, when there was an attempt to mine aluminum silicates, presumably for ceramic manufacture.
Murphy Gap, a natural thoroughfare that was traversed by explorer John C. Frémont as a possible route for the transcontinental railroad, is worth a visit, particularly because it has spectacular outcrops of the Alamo Breccia. This rock unit, only recognized in the 1990s, is now thought to result from an enormous bolide impact in the Devonian Period, about 360 million years ago, and consists of jumbled and shattered limestone beds.
Know Before You Go
Basin and Range National Monument is deserted even by Nevada standards. There are no paved roads and no developed facilities, including no water sources. Primitive camp sites abound, but you must bring everything in, including plenty of water. (And please pack your garbage out, too.) High clearance is required on the roads and 4wd strongly advised. Be sure your vehicle is fully fueled, and that you have a spare tire. Also note that livestock grazing is still permitted; please beware of cattle on the roadway. Hunting in season under Nevada game laws is also still allowed, so you might encounter hunting parties in the fall.