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The Extinct Lakes Of The Great Basin

Nature volume 30, pages 197198 | Download Citation



THE Great Basin of North America presents the most singular contrasts of scenery to the regions that surround it. East of it rise the dark pine-covered heights of the Rocky Mountain system, with the high, bare, grassy prairies beyond them. To the west tower the more serrated scarps of the Sierra Nevada, with the steep Pacific slope on the other side. The traveller who enters the Basin, and passes beyond the marginal tracts where, with the aid of water from the neighbouring mountains, human industry has made the desert to blossom as the rose, soon finds himself in an arid climate and an almost lifeless desert. The rains that fall on the encircling mountains feed some streams that pour their waters into the Basin, but out of it no stream emerges. All the water is evaporated; and it would seem that at present even more is evaporated than is received, and that consequently the various lakes are diminishing. The Great Salt Lake is conspicuously less than it was a few years ago. Even within the short time that this remarkable region has been known, distinct oscillations in the level of the lake have been recorded. There are evidently cycles of greater and less precipitation, and consequently of higher and lower levels in the lakes of the Basin, though we are not yet in possession of sufficient data to estimate the extent and recurrence of these fluctuations.

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