Black Rock Desert
Tripping along the Death Trail, and other fun spots in Northern Nevada
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Stan White Photography
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A large part of this area, about 100 miles north of Reno, is administered by the BLM and now known as the Black Rock Desert High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. In 1849, an emigrant "shortcut" to the promised lands of California and Oregon crossed the desert. For those who tried, it turned into what became infamous as the Death Trail. Emigrant journals tell of treacherous terrain, not enough water, little grass for the livestock, and lots of dying. Whether man, mule, or oxen, you were plenty tough if you made it across alive.

The Black Rock playa (dry lake bed) is 100 miles long and one of the flattest places in the world, making for lots of fun blasting along and raising a rooster tail of fine dust. It's so flat that the world land speed record of 763 mph was set here in 1997. If someone has beat that, I haven't heard about it.

Web sites for more info:
Black Rock DesertBLM Winnemucca Field Office Black Rock DesertNational Landscape Conservation System
Black Rock DesertBurning Man organization Black Rock DesertBurning Man pictures
Black Rock DesertFriends of Black Rock / High Rock  

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Photography Tours
Welcome To Nowhere Camp at Cassidy Mine
If you're brave enough, you can get a rig like this motor home to the great campsite at Cassidy Mine, overlooking the Black Rock Playa.
Welcome To Nowhere Train passing Trego
Trains tend to slow down when passing Trego Hot Spring; never know what might be frolicking in the pool.
Welcome To Nowhere Fly Geyser 1
This is a hot artesian well, not a real geyser. It goes off continuously. The colors are from different types of heat-tolerant algae.
Welcome To Nowhere Fly Geyser 2
Fly Geyser resulted from an attempt to drill a water well for ranching use. The hot, mineral-laden water has built up the cones just since the 1980's. The site is on private property; please don't trespass.
Welcome To Nowhere Welcome To Nowhere
The little town of Empire is at the south end of the Black Rock playa, a couple of miles from Gerlach. You get gas and whatever else here or in Gerlach, or you don't get it.
Downtown Gerlach Downtown Gerlach
Main drag through Gerlach on a busy holiday weekend.
Union Pacific freight train Union Pacific freight train
The rail line runs along the southern edge of the playa. This west-bound train has slowed as it approaches Gerlach.
Train through downtown Gerlach Train through downtown Gerlach
West-bound freight train slowed but didn't stop while rolling through Gerlach. RR crossings are a serious hazard out here.
Stan and Jewel in the Calico Mountains Stan and Jewel in the Calico Mountains
This colorful range is on the west side of the playa, several miles north of Gerlach.
Calico Mountains 1 Calico Mountains 1
The hiking here is actually pretty good; not too much effort yields great views.
Calico Mountains 2 Calico Mountains 2
From this vantage point, you can see east across the playa.
Calico Mountains 3 Calico Mountains 3
This shot gives some perspective on just how big the playa is. Montana ain't got nothing on Big Sky compared to Northern Nevada.
Doobie Lane 1 Doobie Lane 1
Doobie Lane is a dirt road north of Gerlach. These modern-day pictographs were created over several years by a guy known as Doobie, who has since gone to his reward.
Doobie Lane 2 Doobie Lane 2
Doobie apparently needed to rest occasionally. I mean, there was a whole lot of rock moving and painting going on. To see the whole thing, ask for directions in Gerlach.
On the playa On the playa
A Kodak moment in mid-playa. This shot illustrates a basic rule of Black Rock travel - don't go out there with only one vehicle, even if you are feeling real lucky.
Driving the playa Driving the playa
In formation with several vehicles rolling across the playa, I stuck my camera out the window. This is major fun, but the dust is fine as powder and seeps into everything.
Camping out Camping out
You can camp pretty much wherever, but most people do as we did and find a spot along the edge. After watching people zoom around out there (including us), you'll understand that it's safer to be out of the traffic zone.
Playa sunset Playa sunset
The setting sun broke through the bottom of the clouds and cast a desert version of alpenglow on mountains across the playa. If it rains, you need to get off the playa as quickly as possible, or risk getting seriously stuck.
Soldier Meadows Road Soldier Meadows Road
Gravel road along west edge of the playa. Check a map; this route takes you to some cool places.
License plates License plates
This interesting monument along Soldier Meadows Road displays plates from far and wide, along with other artifacts.
Trashed trailer Trashed trailer
This thoroughly bullet-ventilated trailer graces the side of Pahute Peak, near an old mine.
Room with a view Room with a view
With no glass in the windows, the old trailer has a nice clear view out across Mud Meadow.
Canyon view Canyon view
The view is your reward for hiking up a canyon on the west side of Pahute Peak.
The Black Rock The Black Rock
Officially known as Black Rock Point, this volcanic formation was an emigrant landmark. A hot spring and several acres of grass provided relief for pioneers crossing the desert. One journal described bathing here as "exceedingly refreshing."
Trego Hot Spring Trego Hot Spring
This is a ditch on the edge of the playa, having been dug to channel water away from the railroad tracks. The tracks are only a few feet away, so you can wave at the train crews when freights roll by.
Sunset at Trego Sunset at Trego
We camped near Trego Hot Spring and caught this spectacular sunset. The radio tower is right by the tracks.
Double Hot Spring Double Hot Spring
Caution! It is Double Hot because there are two large pools and the water is scalding. Respect the danger - people and pets have died here.
Double Hot Spring Double Hot Spring
Springs like this are HOT! The colors are from algae that thrive in a heated environment.
Soldier Meadows Soldier Meadows
From one of the smaller hot springs, you get a good view across the large expanse of Soldier Meadows. There is a nice (and free) BLM campground here.
Soldier Meadows Hot Spring - small pool Soldier Meadows Hot Spring - small pool
At smaller springs dotting the hillside, numerous soaking pools have been built with rock dams. Beware! Stay out in spring; the grass is full of chiggers that will eat you alive. This knowledge comes from personal experience. Soak in fall or winter.
Soldier Meadows Hot Spring - big pool Soldier Meadows Hot Spring - big pool
This huge pool is just right for a soak and swim. Along with other nearby springs, this waters several acres of grass that were vital to helping the emigrants recover after crossing the Black Rock.
Purple sage Purple sage
This small shrub gives off a minty odor, and is also the inspiration for many a western tale of riding the purple sage.
Black Rock Hot Spring Black Rock Hot Spring
This spring is more user-friendly. At the base of the Black Rock, it provided water and grazing for emigrant survivors crossing the playa.
Desert evening primrose Desert evening primrose
A beautiful flower of the Black Rock Desert, stimulated to bloom by abundant winter and spring rains.
Hardin City Hardin City
Only a couple of old stone foundations remain of this mining camp. Turned out that no precious metals actually existed, and to this day no significant deposits have ever been located.
Wild rose Wild rose
Another lovely Black Rock wildflower that grows in dense thickets near water.
Pahute Peak Pahute Peak
This is another landmark along the emigrant trail as it leaves the Black Rock playa heading north for Soldier Meadows. It is pronounced "Paiute", like the Native Americans.
Canyon hiking Canyon hiking
Water and wildflowers fill an unnamed canyon slicing through the side of Pahute Peak. Ah, spring!
Sunrise at Bogg Hot Spring Sunrise at Bogg Hot Spring
Located up near the Oregon state line, this one is really hot. We visited in the fall when cold nights cooled the water sufficiently for a nice early-morning soak.
Soaking at Bogg Hot Spring Soaking at Bogg Hot Spring
Having your own soaking pool a few steps from camp is a great way to start the day. It don't get no better than this.

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