Monday, March 10, 2008

Fairview Peak, Nevada

The winner of Where in The West - March is Geotripper, with the correct answer: Fairview Peak, Nevada, which is located on Highway 50, about 40 miles SSE of Fallon by road. Nevada, being in the Basin and Range, has a history of earthquakes, some more recent than others.

Fairview Peak was the site of the well-known Nevada earthquakes of 1954, which caused ground ruptures along the east side of Fairview Peak and northward into Dixie Valley. The images from Google Earth show a few good viewing places, although the scarps have deteriorated with time. I haven’t been to location #1 to the left in the upper image, which must be the easiest one to get to, but can recommend site #2 to the right in the upper image, although walking or very good 4WD is required. The #3 site in the middle image can be a little hard to identify in some lighting, and you can feel a bit like you are wandering around in the badlands, especially if it’s summer (because you are).

The location of Frenchman, formerly known as Frenchman’s Station, is shown on these images, and is especially visible in the lower image. There hasn’t been anything at Frenchman since the Navy took over the area, burned or dismantled Frenchman (a store – gas station – motel that was open in the 1980’s and earlier) and also took over Dixie Valley in general. The location of Frenchman, as shown, is from Google Earth and may not be precise.

A story about the area, related to the earthquakes and possibly apocryphal, goes as follows. A resident of Austin, Nevada had driven into Fallon, presumably to stock up on food, but maybe just to attend a different watering hole than the usual Austin offerings. The day was December 16, 1954. He’d stayed in the bar late, and it was dark as he drove Highway 50 from Fallon toward Austin. As he came over Drumm Summit, a small hill between Dixie Valley and Labou Flat, and was about to drop down into Stingaree Valley, he was shocked out of his semi-drunken state when he drove off the newly formed fault scarp, which had cut the pavement of Highway 50 and dropped it down to the east by several feet.

A few references:

Bunny Corkill, Water Holes, In Focus, Vol. 17, 2003-2004 (includes an old photo of Frenchman's Station).

William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways, 1982 (includes a photo of Frenchman's Station from 1978).


Garry Hayes said...

Well, maybe I won, but I am embarrassed that I couldn't remember the year of the earthquakes correctly....and I even talk about them in my classes; apparently the quakes caused some damage in Sacramento CA by causing some irrigation reservoirs to slosh over.

Silver Fox said...

Sorry I don't have any "Ski Fairview Peak" T-shirts or anything!

Kim said...

Cool! Thanks for the stories and images. I've got some slides showing the fault scarps (copied from my advisor when I headed off to my first teaching job), but I didn't know that much about the earthquake.