Conservation History of the Granite Range
The May 1979 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Draft Initial Inventory outlined the Granite Range unit as "115,840 acres of which 13,440 acres are private" (NV-020-011) and suitable for intensive wilderness study. By the April 1980 Proposed Wilderness Study Areas Inventory Report, however, the Granite Range had simply vanished from the inventory list, with no explanation. Other documentation, not directly associated with the BLM, suggests the area was dropped for Wilderness Study Area consideration because of the high number of private acres. Despite this oversight by the BLM, Nevada conservationists and members of Friends of Nevada Wilderness have continued the work to protect the wilderness character of the Granite Range since the 1970s. This spectacular range and the challenge of climbing the 4,000+ feet from the edge of the Smoke Creek Desert to the summit, Granite Peak, has attracted adventurers to this region for more than 1/2 century. SummitPost has a broken-link to Pete Yamagata's (from Sacramento, CA) Trip Report about climbing to Granite Peak dated May 09, 1981.
In October 1998, the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA) authorized the BLM to sell certain public lands in the Las Vegas Valley and to use the proceeds to acquire environmentally sensitive lands throughout Nevada. In the Granite Range, the Jaksick purchases were acquired in 2008 with SNPLMA funds to purchase sensitive private wildlands and consolidate these areas in to the public land holdings. The BLM reevaluated the Granite Range in 2009 and identified 42,700 acres as now meeting meeting the criteria for Wilderness Character. This inventory was approved by the BLM in 2010 and was carried forward into the Winnemucca Resource Management Plan. Recent (2023) interest in a Washoe Lands Bill has brought renewed attention and a possible pathway to designating 30,004 acres of the Granite Range as Wilderness and an additional 10,983 acres as withdrawn from mineral and leasing development (see Map of this Proposal). Friends of Nevada Wilderness will continue to work for Congressional protection of the Granite Range and continue its commitment to stewardship for this incredible area through resource and dark sky monitoring along with stewardship and various mapping projects in the region.1936 Sketch Map from the US Bureau of Mines Reconnaissance of Mining Districts in Pershing County Nev.
The Cape of the Granite Range
The Cape of the Granite Range, where it rises up from the southwest corner of the Black Rock Desert, is one of the most culturally and visually important landscapes in Nevada. Anchored by Great Boiling Hot Springs, this area has been an important cultural area for Native Americans for at least 14,000 years, was documented as being the nexus of an important Nuumu (Northern Paiute) trail complex and lifeway landscape by EuroAmerican Explorers as early as 1844. This area also was an important crossroads for EuroAmerican culture and history beginning with the exploration of the Nobels Trail in 1851, the development and use of the Nobles Trail, the Honey Lake to Humboldt Wagon Road, the Reno to Idaho Road, the Gerlach, Sand Pass to Gerlach, Deep Hole, and Granite Creek roads, through the ranching period beginning in the 1880s, throughout the construction and operation of the last transcontinental railroad in 1910 thru the present and with the development of natural- and visual-based recreation with the establishment of the BRHR NCA on December 21, 2000. Today the area is an integral part of the recreational experiences of more than 100,000 people per year.1980 7.5-minute Topographical Map titled "The Banjo"
The Western Pacific Railroad
In 1895 E. T. Jeffery, president of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Company “commenced studying the extension of the system west, eitherby purchase of the Rio Grande Western Railway extending from Grand Junction to Salt Lake City and Ogden, or by building an independent line to the points named, with the ultimate object, circumstances permitting, of extending to the Pacific Coast.” He “negotiated for the purchase of the Rio Grande Western, having in the meantime had private reconnaissances made for a Pacific Coast extension. In 1903 he began taking necessary steps, confidentially, in California for securing control of Beckwourth Pass (5,000 feet above sea level) and Feather River canyon, between the pass and Oroville, Cal.” Beckwourth Pass was “one of the lowest of the Sierra Nevada. With a tunnel about 6,000 feet long, this pass was crossed at an elevation of a little over 5,000 feet… The engineers were under imperative orders that they must not lay out grades over one per cent. At no point through the one hundred and fifty miles of canyon before them must the track drop over fifty-two feet to the mile.” This low-grade route was the only railroad pass into Northern California that did not require extra engines to haul trains over the mountains. “The first passenger train was sent over the new transcontinental road, the Western Pacific, August 20, 1910. Passing through an undeveloped region most of the way from Salt Lake City to San Francisco.” [ Davis, Sam P., editor; The History of Nevada Volume 1 (1913), pgs 604-607; The Elms Publishing Company Inc. Reno, Nev.-Los Angeles, Cal]. The railroad watering and service stop adjacent to the Cape of the Granite Range would evolve into the community of Gerlach.
The Appearance and Disappearance of the Granite Creek Desert
The Granite Range is one of the most stable EuroAmerican names bestowed upon this region. The name, of course, originates from the obvious granitic rocks, boulders, and formations that form the range. In his 1933-1940 ethnological report, Willard Z. Park records the Nuumu name for the Granite Range as "Wedekatede." The Granite Range first appears in the 1886 1-degree USGS topographical map along with the location Granite Peak for the highest point on the range. Granite Peak in the Granite Range was used as a geodetic control survey station for the first USGS cadastral survey of this region. The name Granite Creek, however, is a bit more elusive. In early January of 1844, it is believed that Fremont used the mouth of what is today named Bowen Canyon, located about 3 miles northeast of his main camp at Great Boiling Springs, as an area to provide several days of good water and feed to strengthen his horses before leading his expedition south toward Pyramid Lake. The first name for this creek was call "Granite Creek," perhaps because the emigrant station along the Nobel Trail established in the early 1850s at this site was named the "Granite Station." As early as 1873, the detailed map created for this area was called the USGS Granite Creek Plat and labeled the arm of the Black Rock Desert reaching down toward Great Boiling Springs as the "Granite Creek Desert." The 1895 version of the USGS Granite Creek Plat clearly shows "Granite Creek" conveying water down from Granite Basin located southeast of Granite Peak and exiting to the "Granite Creek Desert" (today's southwestern most Black Rock Playa) through the site of the "Old Granite Station." Interestingly, the 1911 USGS Gerlach Plat identifies the route heading up the east side of the Granite Range as "to Granite Creek." The name for the section of the Black Rock Desert from Sulphur to Gerlach would continue to be referred to as the Granite Creek Desert as late as 1936, as indicated in the US Bureau of Mines Reconnaissance of Mining Districts in Pershing County Nev. By the time the 1955 USGS 1:250,000 Scale Lovelock Quad map was published, the name "Granite Creek Desert" had been shoved down into what would eventually be known as the San Emidio Desert, and the name "Granite Creek" in the Granite Mountains had been stripped from its association with the old Granite Station and moved around to a drainage immediately south of Rock Creek that drained into the Hualapai Flat, not the Black Rock Playa.
The origin of the feature name "The Banjo" in the Granite Range is lost in history. One of the problems is that place names do not become codified until they are recored on a map. Portions of Nevada, including the Granite Range, were very late in the process of being mapped at a scale capable of indicating local topographical features. The first US Geological Survey (USGS) map of the region was the 1886, 1-degree Granite Range Topographical Quad that only had sufficient detail to show the location of the Granite Range and marked the position of Granite Peak. The 1926 Index to to Topographical Maps for Nevada published by the USGS showed clearly that less than half the state of Nevada had been mapped, and most of those maps were created in the 1-degree scale of detail. The exception was in the Reno, Carson City, and Wellington areas where the 1-degree maps had been divided into four sections, producing 30-minute topographical maps to illustrated more highly detailed maps. The Granite Range was of such little importance to the development of Nevada, that it would not be for nearly another century before more detailed USGS maps would be produced. Despite an index map used on the 1979 BLM Wilderness Inventory Report, showing the state of Nevada completely covered by 30-minute USGS Topographical Maps, many places in Nevada never had these more highly detailed maps produced. This BLM index maps shows a 30-minute map called "Deephole," which should have included greater detail of the Granite Range. Perhaps this map was planned, but there is no surviving evidence such a map was produced. In many other parts of Nevada, series of topographical maps would be produce of greater detail in the 30-minute series topographical quads and even in greater detail, later 15-minute series of topographical quads. In 1955 a revised and enlarged version of the 1-degree by 2-degree maps listed several additional features of the Granite Range on the Lovelock version of this map, including Cottonwood and and Rock Creeks. The Banjo feature, however, was not mentioned on this map. Finally, between 1967 and 1983 the detailed topographical mapping of Nevada was completed leading to the printing of the 7.5-minute series of USGS topographical maps. This series produced the 1980 7.5-minute Topographical Map titled "The Banjo," which contains the bulk of the Granite Range. On The Banjo map, a feature identified as "The Banjo" is first shown lying across the two highest tributaries of Little Cottonwood Creek, and from the placement on the words on the map, this feature is not a single point, but a feature that sprawls about 1 mile across the two forks of the creek and includes meadows, springs, and the low ridge separating the two forks. What this feature is and why it has such an unusual name is unknown. It is also unfortunate that in recent history, individuals interested in the conquest of geographical features and memorializing these events, have unilaterally decided to provisional bestow name "The Banjo" to the 7,975 foot peak immediately south The Banjo feature, creating even more confusion about the original meaning and context of The Banjo feature in the Granite Range. Peakbagger.com and Mapcarta.com both identify "The Banjo" as a minor peak in the Granite Range, worthy of conquest and make no mention of The Banjo feature and its historical context their thoughtless acts of hubris have exterminated.