The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area Act of 2000 protects about 120 miles of the emigrant trails, from Rye Patch Reservoir, north through the vast Black Rock Desert and then winding through the narrow gorge of High Rock Canyon.
The Act provides special designation to nearly 1.2 million acres of public land in northwestern Nevada, establishing an 800,000 acre National Conservation Area (NCA) and designating about 750,000 acres as wilderness. About 380,000 acres of the wilderness is within the NCA.
While the focal point of the NCA is the Applegate and Nobles emigrant trails, the Act also identifies other resources and uses of natiional significance including pre-history, paleontology, wildlife, wild horses and recreation. The most visible resource is the Black Rock Desert Playa. The playa is the enormous, flat, dry lakebed of ancient Lake Lahontan. The playa is the most visited feature within the NCA and 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 play to set world altitude records and the playa is the location of the Burning Man Festival. Nearly 50,000 people attended the festival in 2007.
Come immerse yourself in the areas that make Nevada wild! The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area 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.
Several user groups hold activities in the Black Rock Desert such as amateur rocket launches, land sailing, emigrant trail tours and much more throughout the year. Several volunteer events, Leave No Trace courses and Tread Lightly! courses are held throughout the year for people to attend and learn about this magnificent area and the principals and practices needed to protect it.
The primitive nature of these areas can make them dangerous. When traveling in these areas use common sense. Most access routes are unmaintained, dirt roads that require a high clearance 4x4 vehicle or ATV, cell phones do not work, water is scarce. Many hot springs are too hot for safe soaking, abandoned mine shafts are dangerous, and the nearest medical center can be hundreds of miles away. Be prepared and stay safe!
The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area and associated Wilderness Areas are jointly managed by the Winnemucca, NV and Surprise (Cedarville), CA Field Offices. Portions of the NCA staff are located in each office. The NCA Manager is located in Winnemucca.