CENTRAL BASIN & RANGE: Toquerville – Idaho Border
Location: The Central Great Basin region occupies a large portion western Utah.
Climate: The ecoregion has a dry, mid-latitude desert climate, marked by hot summers and mild winters. It has a hotter and drier climate than the Snake River Plain and Northern Basin and Range ecoregions to the north. The region is not as hot as the Mojave Basin and Range and Sonoran Desert ecoregions to the south. Most of the rainfall occurs during convective thunderstorms in the warm season. The light precipitation in winter is mostly in the form of snow.
Vegetation: Basins are covered by Great Basin sagebrush or saltbush-greasewood vegetation. Shadscale, winterfat, black sagebrush, Wyoming big sagebrush, ephedra, rabbitbrush, Indian ricegrass, and squirreltail are typical. Greasewood, Nuttall saltbush, seepweed, and alkali sacaton occur in more saline areas. Lower mountains have singleleaf pinyon, Utah juniper, sagebrush, bitterbrush, serviceberry, snowberry, and bluebunch wheatgrass. High mountains may contain some Douglas fir, white fir, limber pine, whitebark pine, or aspen.
Hydrology: The Central Basin and Range ecoregion is internally drained. Sinks and playa lakes occur in the basins. Streams are mostly intermittent and ephemeral. A few perennial streams flow from mountainous areas within or adjacent to the region. Some large lakes occur near the margins and adjacent mountainous ecoregions, including Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Mono Lake, Pyramid Lake, and Walker Lake. Springs are important in some areas.
Terrain: Using Ecoregion Level IV descriptions is useful in understanding the landscape while traveling north on I-15. The view from the freeway weaves in and out of Sagebrush Basins and Slopes (13c) and Woodland and Shrub-Covered Low Mountains (13-d) in southern Utah. At Santaquin, the Central Basin and Range Ecoregion transitions to level IV, Moist Wasatch Front Foot-slopes, as I-15 continues north past Great Salt Lake to the Idaho border.
Sagebrush Basins & Slopes- This area is semiarid, sagebrush dominated. It includes valleys, alluvial fans, and mountain flanks. Less rocky, rugged, and wooded than 13-d.
Woodland and Shrub-Covered Low Mountains (13-d)- This area is covered by woodland or mountain brush. Mountain slopes, hills, and alluvial fans are higher, wetter, rockier, and more rugged than Sagebrush Basins & Slopes (13-d). Because stock-grazing is common here, trees have been extensively cleared to increase livestock forage.
Moist Wasatch Front Foot-slopes (13f)- The bulk of Utah’s population and commercial activity is found here. Perennial streams and aqueducts that originate in the Wasatch Range bring water to the area to irrigate croplands and orchards outside the urban areas.
Wildlife: Mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, coyote, bobcat, black-tail jackrabbit, bald eagle, and sage sparrow florish here, along with endemic desert fish species such as Lahontan cutthroat trout, White River springfish, Pahranagat roundtail chub, Monitor Valley speckled dace, and Independence Valley tui chub.
Land Use/Human Activities: Ranching and livestock grazing, mining for gold, silver, and mercury, and land set aside for wildlife habitat or recreation are common land uses. Public rangelands and national forests, military lands, and some tribal lands are also present. Populations are concentrated along the margins. Larger cities include Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo.
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Commission for Environmental Cooperation; North American Terrestrial Ecoregions—Level III; April 2011.
Photos taken in October 2013 along highways-
Just Another Nature Enthusiast Photography by Jane Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.