Location And Physical Features

The Desert Peak geothermal field is located approximately 50 miles east-northeast of Reno, Nevada, in the northern portion of the Hot Springs Mountains of northwestern Churchill County, Nevada (figs. 1 and 2). The geothermal field is approximately centered in S22,T22N,R27E. Brady's Hot Springs, the site of the world's first large-scale geothermal food processing operation, is located adjacent to Interstate 80 about 4 miles northwest of the Desert Peak geothermal field.

The Hot Springs Mountains are accessible via Interstate 80 on the west and Nevada State Highway 95 on the east. Numerous unpaved roads and jeep trails provide excellent access in the northern portion of the Hot Springs Mountains. Most areas can be reached with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. However, large portions of the Hot Springs Mountains are mantled by windblown sand which effectively limits two-wheel-drive vehicles to existing roads.

The Hot Springs Mountains are a desolate range of hills with generally subdued topography. Elevations vary from 4000 feet in the surrounding playas to 5365 feet at the summit of Desert Peak. The climate in the region is arid, and precipitation is estimated at 4 to 6 inches per year. Most of the precipitation occurs as rain and snow in the winter months, although occasional summer thunderstorms furnish small amounts of rain. Summers are warm; the mean July daily maximum temperature is 92 °F. Winters are mild, and the mean January daily minimum temperature is about 15 °F. Afternoon temperatures in the winter are generally between 40 and 60°F. However, temperatures can be extreme and may vary between winter lows of -20 °F and summer highs of 110°F (Houghton and others, 1975).

Vegetation is sparse but variable depending upon soil conditions, water availability and quality, and altitude. A Basin Sage community dominates the higher eleva-

FIGURE 1. Location of Desert Peak geothermal field, Churchill County, Nevada.

tions, giving way to shadscale populations in the lower areas. Saltgrass and samphire characterize surface geothermal manifestations. A more complete inventory of species can be found in Axelrod (1956).

There are no springs within the Hot Springs Mountains, and waters occurring around the margins of the hills are moderately to highly saline. Consequently, the animal population is restricted to a small herd of wild burros as well as coyotes, rabbits, rodents, lizards, snakes, and a variety of birds.

Land use is currently limited to geothermal activities, a buried transcontinental telephone line, cattle grazing, and sporadic mineral prospecting. Recreational use of the Hot Springs Mountains is minimal.

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