What's Out There?

Honoring Native Land

Archaeological evidence shows direct carbon-14 evidence for ancestral Numu people in the region around Bluewing for over 9,000 years.  Dates based on artifacts in association with depositional layers and dates from petroglyphs along the shore of ancient Lake Winnemucca suggest these people may reach back to at least 14,000 years ago.  The earliest peoples in the area initially focused on the relic Pleistocene fauna in the region for the bases of their food economy. At this time the region was dominated by the massive ancient Lake Lahontan.  Although not directly connected to Lahontan, Bluewing was surrounded by it own ancient lake, as evidenced by the Kumiva and Blue Wing (aka Adobe) playas. As this shallow lake filled and evaporated, the marshes and shallow water supplied access to migrating waterfowl and sedges and cattails for food. The traditional societies also would have foraged into the surrounding mountains for seeds and root resources when they became seasonally available.  Twentieth century interviews with Numu consultants documented the Blue Wing Mountain Trail as a culturally significant area for the Nuumu people.  See the Additional Resources tab at the left for more information of the importance of the Bluewing area to the Nuumu people.    




Lt. E.G. Beckwith, working for the Department of the Army to survey possible routes for the Transcontinental Railroad in 1854, was the first Euro American to describe the Bluewing Mountains area. His party left the known Nobles Immigrant trail at Lassen Meadows on the Humboldt River, searching for a lower gradient for a railroad to reach the portion of the Nobles Trail in the vicinity of what would become Gerlach. This region held few resources and interest for EuroAmericans until the area became a focus for grazing livestock to supply food for the booming mines in the greater Lovelock area.  Several small mines were developed in the early 20th century around the Bluewing Mountains.  The anticipated booms and wealth never actually developed.  For the greater part of its historical existence, the Bluewing Mountains were mostly ignored and bypassed by EuroAmerican interests.  (See the Additional Resources Tab for more information on the history of the Bluewing Mountains.) 


Natural History

The bulk of the Bluewing Mountains consists of metamorphosed mudstone/shale with interbedded sandstone lenses and rare marble layers dating from the Jurassic period. These metamorphic blocks or pendants demonstrate contact metamorphism with the Cretaeous Period granitic intrusion, which comprise the North Sahwave Mountains and represent the southeastern-most extent of the Bluewing Mountains. These metamorphic rocks contain phyllite or siliceous hornfels and are organized in beds dipping 20 degrees to the northwest. These hornfels often produce interesting chiastolite crystals that have weathered free of their matrix. Small outcrops of Tertiary Period basaltic to rhyolitic lavas, tuffs, and volcanoclastic sediments appear in the middle of the mountains between the two main ridges. Overall, the metamorphic minerals of the Blue Wing Mountains are graphite rich and along with the basalt material give the mountains a very dark appearance.

The most prevalent mammals seen with in the Blueing Mountains are pronghorn and jackrabbits.   Horned Larks and Black- throated Sparrows are often heard singing in the early morning light. Reptiles and rodents are the most plentiful fauna found within this desert wilderness. Raptors and carrion-eaters frequent the area searching for food opportunities within the open landscape. And, of course, where there are rabbits and rodents, there are also the ubiquitous coyotes, although their uncanny ability to hide will allow them to literally vanish with what appears to be the featureless landscape. Although devoid of taller vegetation, this area provides summer and transitional range for the yearly mule deer migrations. Feral horses and burros often cross through the Bluewing Mountains in the continual search for water and food.

A heavy armor of spectacular, stony desert pavement covers the broad alluvial fans on the south and southeast side of the area. This arid landscape is mostly devoid of water. Several springs exist, mostly clustered on the north and north east side of Black Mountain. Of these springs, only Black Mountain Spring may provide dependable water. The other two springs have become undependable as the climate becomes warmer and dryer. The rest of the precipitation falling here is either quickly ushered to the surrounding valleys via the numerous drainages and channels or is absorbed by the thirsty ground. Juniper Pass on the south-side of the Bluewing Mountains is a misnomer, there are no juniper trees to be seen.