Camping on the playa?

A playa is the bottom of a dried up lake. In the Nevada Great Basin, these are often sinks or places between the mountains where water can flow in but not flow out. This means the runoff from surrounding mountains brings material and minerals that build up on the playa. The result can be a salty bed of rocks and sand many thousands of feet deep. It is very flat and can be a very large flat area with only the most hardy of plants and animals.

The playa does not extend an enticing invitation. What will get your attention on first arrival is the sand, the hazardous driving surface, the wind, the bugs, the dirt, the sun, the scratchy bushes, the stickers and thorns, the monotony.

It is after you have camp set and can sit back and relax that you can begin to see what the real invitation is all about. The quiet and solitude that creeps in is only buttressed by the noise of the wind. The vistas begin to be noticed causing you to reach for the binoculars because you realize the snow on the mountains are miles away and those ants on the horizon are cars and trucks on the main road. You can watch the shadows of the clouds chase across the mountain slopes in the distance.

If the sun and the wind and whatnot is getting to be a bit too much, you can retreat to your RV and look out the window and listen and feel the wind as you recover from a bit too much nature.

To see a photo gallery of a recent outing on the playa below the Lahonton Dam on the Carson River, go to An Airstream rally on the playa. To learn more about playa and desert geology and features, check out these links.

Digital Resources for Managing Wetlands – tries to figure out what we mean by “playa” and shows some nice pictures of various examples.

California Desert dot Gov – Your gateway to desert recreation describes a bit of the history and features found in desert areas.

steenssite geology describes the Alvord Desert, a 12 by 7 mile playa or dry lake bed created over 24 million years ago when Steens Mountain lifted. This playa is on the northern edge of Sierra Nevada Airstreams territory.

Pinyon Design-Lemmon Valley Marsh & Playa Master Plan Excerpts is about the plan for a bird watching area near Reno. See the photo gallery.

Theme Camp Ideas is a retrospective for future planning by Burning Man participants. This labor day event is a $5 million, 30,000 people event held on the playa north of Gerlach. The web page might provide some ideas about what people can do on a large, very large, flat area without even any plants to examine.

desertgeology has nice pictures and descriptions of land features you can find in and near the playa.

Playa Lakes, Links for Palaeobotanists is a place to start if you are into some serious research about what it was like for plants way back when the playa first formed.

Faulted Structures — The Slackpacker’s Geology Primer provides pictures and descriptions of some of the landscape features you can see near the playa.

A Look at the Playa is about why these dry lake beds occur. They also have a link to the rocket society which often does a launch party of very large amateur rockets on the Black Rock shortly after the Burning Man people have left.

Get out and see for yourself! Feel the playa intrude on your being. Get out and experience a part of the Nevada Great Basin that has its own, rather hidden, rewards.

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