Wasatch Mountains and the Great Basin

I realized that for all of the posts I have made over the past few years, I have not posted much about my backyard – our local Wasatch Mountains and the eastern edge of the Great Basin.

There is some debate as to whether the Wasatch range is part of the Rocky Mountains or the eastern beginning of the Great Basin. Looking at the water flows, the only rivers that flow out of the Intermountain West are considerably east of the Wasatch range. Therefore, it is my opinion that the Wasatch is the first major mountain range on the eastern edge of the Great Basin, and not the eastern most range in the Rocky Mountains. For those of you who may not recall from earlier posts, the Great Basin is an area of the Intermountain West in which all of the rivers do not flow out. They all stay in the Great Basin.

This is Mount Superior (left peak) which is one of the higher peaks in the Wasatch range. It sits between Little Cottonwood Canyon (this is where I am here) and Big Cottonwood Cayon to the north.

The landscape in our part of the world is quite varied – from high mountain alpine forests to high deserts. The water in the Great Basin mainly comes from snowpack and some rain in the lower elevations. Snow falls in the higher mountains and either flows down into the rivers and lakes in the spring, or it goes into the ground over many millennia. So, as you might imagine, the climate change situation is a great concern for those of us who live in this region.

This peak lies west of Mount Superior with the cliff facing Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Much of the western United States has been in a drought for the last 20 plus years. In fact, this current drought is the worst in about the last one thousand years! Many archeologists theorize that one main reason why the Anasazi people abandoned the ancient pueblos and cliff swellings was due to a prolonged drought. The wooden beams in some of their remaining buildings have been examined thoroughly by studying the growth rings, and there is overwhelming evidence of a very serious and prolonged drought nearly a thousand years ago.

I took this shot this fall looking southwest from the western edge of the Salt Lake valley. The mountains ahead are the Oquirrh range.

Interestingly enough even given the water history in the Great Basin, Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the US. If I am traveling north from my home, say toward Idaho, Oregon or Washington, I am experiencing very heavy urban traffic on the interstate highways for about 100 miles (160.9 km)! The urban sprawl along the greater Wasatch Front is incredible, or horrible, depending upon your point of view.

This is looking westward in East Canyon this fall.

This season we are finally getting some good snowpack and rain for the first time in several years. That has made the winter car cruising season (one of my hobbies) a bit more difficult, but we really need the water here! As I am writing this, I just returned from a trip down to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Crossing Glenn Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona was quite the eye opener. Lake Powell, formed by the Glenn Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, was just incredibly low. While we don’t get our water here in the Great Basin from the Colorado River, the low lake levels at Powell and Lake Mead in Nevada are harbingers of a rapidly looming serious climate issue for our part of the world.

Here is another shot looking west at the top of East Canyon. Going north from here, the road drops down into Morgan valley.

Anyway, I thought I would post a few photos from around the area here while I continue to work on the materials from the Grand Canyopn trip.

This is UT 73 looking southeast across the basin west of Salt Lake Valley. Mount Nebo is the high peak on the left portion of the photo. It’s probably at least 40 miles away!
I took this shot the same day as the one above. This is looking a bit north, but mostly west toward Deseret Peak in the Stansbury Mountains, two ranges west of the Wasatch.

As you can see, the changing seasons really impact the mood and aura of the Great Basin. The seasons here are quite pronounced, and the climate is rather harsh with very hot summers and cold winters.

This is Mount Nebo, the southernmost peak in the Wasatch Range. It is also the highest peak in the Wasatch at 11,933 feet (3637.2 meters). It stands over 5489 feet (1673 meters) above the valley floor.
And here is Mount Timpanogos at 11,753 feet (3582.3 meters). It is the second highest peak in the Wasatch. This is looking eastward from the west side of Utah Lake along UT 68.

Well, that’s about all for today, and I hope you have enjoyed some of the scenery around my part of the world. Stay safe out there and have fun! And thanks for stopping by my blog. Watch for some new posts about the Grand Canyon. They are coming soon.

3 thoughts on “Wasatch Mountains and the Great Basin

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