Ground-water potentialities in the Crescent Valley, Eureka and Lander Counties, Nevada

Water Supply Paper 1581




The Crescent Valley is an intermontane basin in Eureka and Lander Counties, just south of the Humboldt River in north-central Nevada. The valley floor, with an area of about 150 square miles, has a shape that more nearly resembles a Y than a crescent, although the valley apparently was named after the arc described by its southern part and northeastern arm. The northwestern arm of the Y extends northward to the small railroad town of Beowawe on the Humboldt River; the northeastern arm lies east of the low Dry Hills. The leg of the Y extends southwestward toward a narrow gap which separates the Crescent Valley from the Carico Lake Valley. The total drainage area of the Crescent Valley-about 700 square miles--includes also the slopes of the bordering mountain ranges: the Shoshone Range to the west, the Cortez Mountains to the east, and the Toiyabe Range to the south. The early history of the Crescent Valley was dominated by mining of silver and gold, centered at Lander in the Shoshone Range and at Cortez and Mill Canyon in the Cortez Mountains, but in recent years the only major mining activity has been at Gold Acres; there open-pit mining of low-grade gold ore has supported a community of about 200. For many years the only agricultural enterprises in the valley were two cattle ranches, but recently addition lands have been developed for the raising of crops in the west-central part of the valley. The average annual precipitation upon the floor of the Crescent Valley is probably less than 7 inches, of which only a little more than 1 inch formally falls during the growing season (from June through September). This is far less than the requirement of any plants of economic value, and irrigation is essential to agricultural development. Small perennial streams rising in the mountains have long been utilized for domestic supply, mining and milling activities of the past, and irrigation, and recently some large wells have been developed for irrigation. In 1956 the total pumpage from wells in the valley was 2,300 acre-feet. The Crescent Valley is a basin in which has accumulated a large volume of sediments that had been eroded and transported by streams from the surrounding mountains. The deepest wells have penetrated only the upper 350 feet of these sediments, which on the basis of the known thickness of sediments in other intermontane basins in central Nevada may be as much as several thousand feet thick. Because this valley fill is saturated practically to the level of the valley floor, the total volume of ground water in storage amounts to millions of acre-feet. In practically all wells drilled to date, the water has been of a quality satisfactory for irrigation and domestic use. The amount of water that can be developed and used perennially is far smaller than the total in storage and is dependent upon the average annual recharge to the ground-water reservoir. This recharge comes principally from streams, fed largely by snowmelt, that drain the higher mountains. The average annum recharge to the valley fill is estimated to be about 13,000 acre-feet. This natural supply, which is largely consumed by native vegetation on the valley floor, constitutes a perennial supply for beneficial use only to the extent that the natural discharge can be reduced. In time, much of the natural discharge, can probably be salvaged, if it is economically feasible to pump ground water after water levels have been lowered as much as 100 feet in the areas that now appear to be favorable for the development of irrigation supplies. In 5 wells in the phreatophyte area, where the water table is within 3-8 feet of the land surface, the trends in water level have paralleled those, in precipitation-downward during the dry years 1952-55, upward in wetter 1956 and 1957, and as high in 1957 as at any time since 1948. In most wells there is also a seasonal fluctuation of 1-3 feet, from a high in the spring to a low in the fall. There is no evi

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USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water potentialities in the Crescent Valley, Eureka and Lander Counties, Nevada
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Water Supply Paper
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U. S. Govt. Print. Off.,
iv, 50 p. :maps (1 fold. in pocket) diagrs., tables. ;24 cm.