The benefits of touring Great Basin BLM destinations far outweigh the lengthy travel time involved with exploring this vast desolate expanse. While the mainstream tourists fight over parking spaces in the overcrowded National Parks, a Great Basin visitor can explore points of interest all day long without seeing another person. The hassle of making campsite reservations is practically unheard of in sagebrush country, so the vacation experience becomes timeless, since there is no need to stay on schedule. As long as the vehicle is loaded with fuel, food and water, there will be no need for heading back to civilization anytime soon. For those who seek the definitive great escape in modern times, the Great Basin certainly lives up to its reputation of offering endless public lands to explore and there are many convenient jumping off points on the map to choose from.
One of the most popular basecamp towns for Great Basin adventures is Winnemucca, Nevada, which is conveniently located on Interstate Highway 80 at the intersection of Highway 95 North. Both of these highways are major western tourism routes that go to all sorts of majestic places, so logistically this is a nice spot to be. For those who plan on touring the lesser known destinations in the desert expanses, Winnemucca will be the last vestige of civilization where goods and services can be found. This town is also the home of a unique BLM Recreation Area which acts as a good primer course for what lies in store deeper in this vast arid environment.
The Water Canyon Recreation Area is located just a few miles uphill from the Winnemucca city limits. Even though this destination is within cel phone range, Water Canyon offers the definitive wide open spaces that one would expect in the Great Basin region, so the experience will not disappoint! Water Canyon Road parallels a stream uphill into the high elevations, so a variety of desert ecosystems can be experienced along the way. Where there is water in this arid environment there will be wildlife, which makes this destination even more interesting, since bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer roam in the hills.
There are developed campsites with basic facilities along the stream in the lower elevations of Water Canyon and there are currently no fees, so this is a great spot for an overnighter. The cottonwoods provide some shade, while the aspens turn light into a mesmerizing visual spectacle when the slightest breeze rustles the leaves. I have camped here several times through the years and from experience, camping in the cool autumn season is best because the pesky creekside bugs can be intense during summer. The dirt road is fairly smooth in the developed creekside camping area, but it does get rougher the further one goes uphill. The higher elevations of Water Canyon certainly boast picturesque landscapes and the best way to enjoy the view is to just leave the vehicle behind in favor of a hike. The Water Canyon Recreation Area is well worth checking out, so be sure to keep this lesser known spot in mind when passing through Winnemucca!
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