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Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Outside Guide: Embracing the Autumn Symphony: Fall in Central and Northern Nevada's Great Basin with a Celestial Bonus

As summer gracefully hands over the reins to autumn, central and northern Nevada's Great Basin undergoes a breathtaking transformation. This unique region, known for its rugged beauty, experiences an enchanting display of seasonal change. And this year, nature is offering an extraordinary celestial bonus—a "Ring of Fire" total solar eclipse. In the midst of this transition, the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, NV, is hosting a celestial watch party for this rare event, adding a touch of magic to an already mesmerizing season.

The Great Basin, sprawling across parts of Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, and California, is characterized by its high deserts, rugged mountain ranges, and distinct topography. This vast region is about to embrace autumn with open arms, turning its typically arid landscape into a mesmerizing tapestry of colors.

One of the most noticeable changes as autumn approaches in the Great Basin is the gradual cooling of temperatures. The relentless summer heat, with its triple-digit highs, slowly gives way to cooler, crisper air—a refreshing invitation for outdoor exploration.

The elevation in central and northern Nevada plays a pivotal role in this temperature shift. As you ascend in elevation, the temperature drop becomes more pronounced. Lower elevations see daytime highs in the 70s and 80s (°F), while the higher reaches experience daytime temperatures in the 60s and even 50s (°F). These cooler temperatures provide an ideal environment for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and stargazing.

As the temperatures dip, the Great Basin transforms into a stunning canvas. The once-dominant sagebrush-covered landscape is replaced by vibrant hues of fall foliage. Among the star performers in this autumnal spectacle are the aspen trees, their leaves turning a brilliant shade of gold, gleaming like nuggets of sunlight against the azure sky.

The quaking aspen, recognized by its white bark and heart-shaped leaves, becomes emblematic of fall in the Great Basin. These trees form extensive groves that seem to come alive as their leaves flutter in the breeze, creating a captivating visual display. Prime locations to witness this breathtaking phenomenon include Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

In addition to the aspens, other deciduous trees, like cottonwoods and willows, contribute their own shades to the autumn landscape. Their vibrant yellows and oranges blend harmoniously with the golden aspen leaves, weaving a rich tapestry of colors that is nothing short of enchanting.

Autumn in the Great Basin ushers in a flurry of wildlife activity. As temperatures drop and daylight hours wane, many animals gear up for winter by stocking up on food. This is an excellent time for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers to observe the region's diverse fauna.

Mule deer, icons of the Great Basin, engage in the rutting season during the fall. Here, bucks vie for the attention of females, their haunting calls echoing through the valleys, creating a unique and unforgettable experience for observers.

Birdwatchers, too, are in for a treat during the fall migration season. The Great Basin serves as a crucial stopover for numerous migratory birds traveling along the Pacific Flyway. From sandhill cranes to tundra swans, these avian visitors grace the region with their presence as they head south for the winter.

Autumn is a time of celebration in the Great Basin, with communities coming together to embrace the changing season. Amid the traditional festivities, a celestial marvel is set to occur this year—the "Ring of Fire" total solar eclipse.

On October 14, between 9:20 AM and 9:25 AM, a celestial spectacle will unfold in the skies above. During this brief window, the moon will obscure the majority of the sun, leaving only a mesmerizing outer ring of fire—a sight to behold. The partial eclipse will commence around 8 AM and conclude at approximately 10:45 AM.

To make the most of this rare event, the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, NV, is hosting a celestial watch party. It's a unique opportunity to witness this cosmic dance while surrounded by the natural beauty of the Great Basin. For more information on the eclipse and the event, you can visit the NASA website at

Beyond the eclipse, the Great Basin is renowned for its dark skies, making it an ideal destination for stargazers and astronomers. As fall progresses, the longer nights offer ample opportunities to witness celestial wonders.

The Great Basin's remote location and minimal light pollution create the perfect conditions for stargazing. Whether you're an amateur astronomer with a telescope or simply a lover of the night sky, you'll be treated to a breathtaking view of the Milky Way, planets, and constellations.

Some of the best places for stargazing in the Great Basin include Great Basin National Park, where the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive offers unparalleled views, and the Ruby Mountains, where you can camp under the stars and enjoy the serenity of the night.

Fall in central and northern Nevada's Great Basin is a time of remarkable change and beauty. The transition in temperature, the vibrant display of fall foliage, the bustling wildlife, and the celestial spectacle of the "Ring of Fire" total solar eclipse all come together to create an enchanting and invigorating season. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey to witness the breathtaking transition from summer to fall in the heart of the Great Basin, culminating in the celestial watch party event at the California Trail Interpretive Center—an experience you won't soon forget.  And as always, Get Outside! It’s great for everyone.

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