The Black Rock-High Rock region of Northwestern Nevada includes the longest intact segments of the historic emigrant trails to California and Oregon in the western U.S. – including wagon ruts, historic inscriptions and a wilderness landscape largely unchanged since the days of the pioneers.
The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area Act of 2000 protected about 120 miles of the emigrant trails, from Rye Patch Reservoir north through the vast Black Rock Desert and then the narrow gorge of High Rock Canyon. The Act established the 800,000 acre national conservation area and the wilderness within the NCA.
Also within the NCA, the Black Rock Desert Playa covers the large dry lakebed of ancient Lake Lahontan. The playa has grown in popularity during the past decade as a place for recreation events that need a lot of room. The world land speed record was set here in 1997. Amateur rocketry clubs use the playa to set world altitude records. And the playa is the location of the annual Burning Man Festival, the largest Leave No Trace event in the country.
On this day in 2000, President Bill Clinton created Nevada’s Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area and added 10 wilderness areas to the National Wilderness System.
The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area – a part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands – is a protected set of lands surrounded by wilderness areas. These areas are protected for their historical significance, scenic beauty and fragile ecosystems. This area is what adventure seekers wish for. Known for its solitude and primitive lands, people come from all over the world to experience the Black Rock Desert. You can follow the wagon trails that emigrants used to cross over to California, camp-out and not see another person, soak in natural hot springs or enjoy the playa (an ancient dried lake bed) where the curvature of the earth is readily apparent.
#WILDERNESS50 - #YOURWILDERNESS IS THE SOUL OF AMERICA
I look at wilderness as the soul of America. Our recent ancestors crossed it in covered wagons, handcarts, and by horseback; trying to get to a better place where money could be made and families raised. Most of our present wilderness lands, although phenomenally breathtaking, were too harsh, steep, and remote for taming by these settlers. As our population levels rapidly grow, our generation and those to come are so fortunate that the idea was advanced and embraced to set these special places aside for us to be reborn; to forever keep the soul and heart of America alive!
I don’t have to be in a wilderness to experience its gifts. Just knowing that it is there in perpetuity gives me inspiration to know we are doing the right thing. So lets ‘pay it forward’! May future generations say thank you and carry on the inspiration of wilderness! – Lauren Mermejo, Sage Grouse Project Coordinator, Nevada State Office
BLM Nevada has stewardship for 45 wilderness areas covering over 2 million acres and another 2.5 million acres of wilderness study areas.
BLM Nevada employees, local residents and visitors enjoy diverse and rugged wilderness areas managed by the BLM, like the Wall Canyon Wilderness, Rainbow Mountain Wilderness and the High Rock Canyon Wilderness pictured here. Photos by Bob Wick, BLM