Splashing around in a lake to cool off from the extreme heat of summer sure does sound like a dream come true, especially out in the Great Basin Desert of Nevada. Expressing the thought of going for a swim in this vast desert region is enough to cause concern about heat exhaustion, because visualizing a lake in this barren wasteland would be like believing in a mirage. Proving one’s own sanity by pointing to a lake on a Great Basin Desert map may not be enough to convince a skeptic, because there are so many dry lake beds in this arid desolate region. Even though it may seem impossible, there really are lakes, ponds and rivers in the Great Basin Desert that are like a cool oasis on a hot summer day!
In reality, climate change trends do give good reason to doubt whether a lake in a desert will actually be there when planning to go for a swim. The Lahontan State Recreation Area in Nevada is a good example of a reservoir lake that is best researched before planning a boating or fishing venture. The reason why is because the water levels can be extremely depleted in this lake after a few seasons of severe drought. On the other hand, a boater can sail as far as the eyes can see when this lake is full after a heavy snow melt season. Since the water levels of this Great Basin Desert lake can vary greatly, it is best to check the conditions prior to packing the bags.
The Lahontan State Recreation Area is located where U.S. Highway 50 and U.S. Highway 95A meet near Silver Springs in northern Nevada. The Lahontan Reservoir is the sole body of water in this recreation area, but for how much longer, nobody really knows. The Lahontan Reservoir Lake is advertised as having 69 miles of shoreline, but any boater will attest to this figure as being incorrect during times of drought.
During the time of year that I visited the Lahontan State Recreation Area, it really looked like somebody pulled the stopper out of the big bath tub. I have seen photos of the Lahontan Reservoir since then and some pictures showed the lake as being almost full. How the Lahontan Reservoir Lake will look today or tomorrow is anybody's guess, but because many local farms and ranches depend on this water supply, it is practically guaranteed that water will be diverted to this reservoir someway, somehow during the worst of times.
The Lahontan Reservoir was named after the ancient Lake Lahontan, which covered most of the Great Basin Desert eons ago. Dry lake beds, salt flats and a water eroded landscape is all that is left of the gigantic ancient lake. The Lahontan Reservoir is about the size of a pin hole on a map, when compared with the size of the ancient Lake Lahontan, so this goes to show just how powerful the forces of environmental change can be.
In modern times, the lack of environmental protection has accelerated the rate of climate change to the point of causing many cities out west to face a dilemma of whether to conduct business as usual or protect what is left of the water resources they have. Everything from desert farms to mountain ski resorts now face sustainability issues, because of climate change trends.
In the mean time, the bodies of water in the Great Basin Desert are still there and the Lahontan State Recreation Area is a great place to visit, especially after a heavy mountain snow melt season. The Lahontan Reservoir does provide a glimpse into the ancient past when the Great Basin Desert was a gigantic ocean full of water. When the water level is high, this place is a boater’s paradise. When the water level is low, the Lahontan Reservoir is a wildlife photographer’s dream come true, because wild animals from miles around need the life giving water. Migrating birds frequent the marshlands around this lake too. No matter whether the lake is wet or dry, visitors of the Lahontan State Recreation Area will have a good time and learn a little something about environmental science from the experience!
The Lahontan State Recreation Area offers picnic areas, campsites, boating and fishing. Plenty of wild horses frequent the Silver Springs area, so it pays to keep a camera handy when visiting this region of Nevada. The views of this desert lake are serene on a hot summer day and for those who are sun parched, the sight of cool water is more precious than gold! The Lahontan State Recreation Area is a gem in this vast desert expanse that is definitely well worth checking out when touring this neck of the woods!
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