Management of Subterranean Ecosystems in Extreme Environments
Pony Express Mural, Ely, Nevada

Following the symposium, we invite you to stick around town for a couple days to enjoy the many attractions unique to this region of the Great Basin. Please feel free to ask our registration staff about local resources and trail guides.

Lily the Cave Bear

Be sure to stop by the White Pine Public Museum to visit Lily - our very own cave bear - discovered in a cave about 30 miles from Ely, Nevada. Image by Matt Bowers, Third Media.

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Sitting on the eastern edge of "Nevada's Loneliest Highway," Ely is a remote mountain town of 4,000 where history, art, and outdoor adventure run deep. In the nearby Great Basin National Park, travelers have the chance to descend into the depths of the Lehman Cave system to explore a series of limestone and marble caverns full of huge stalagmites and other wild rock formations. The park is also home to the snow-capped Wheeler Peak which, at 13,000 feet, is the second-tallest mountain in Nevada. Here you can hike dozens of trails or take a scenic drive up to 10,000 feet for sweeping views of the Great Basin.

If gemstone and fossil collecting is of interest, Garnet Hill is just a couple minutes from the convention center. A trilobite collection site is just over the border in Utah.

Back in Ely, take a slow stroll through downtown on the 11-block art walk. Scattered down the main drag are over 20 murals and sculptures depicting the town's history and cultural diversity - highlights along the way include Ely Renaissance Village and the '50s-style soda fountain that serves up old-fashioned chocolate malts and cherry-lime rickeys.

Ely's importance as a rail town during the 1900s is showcased on the Nevada Northern Railway, which offers a twisty ride in an open-air car through the mountains of the Egan Range. Originally built to transport copper from nearby mines, today this National Historic Landmark is one of the last operating steam locomotives of its kind.

Things to see & explore

The only organized cave trip during the symposium will be included in one of our field trips on Wednesday. That trip will include a visit to the Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park.

Additional trips to caves during the week may occur, but are not planned as part of our official list of activities. If you would like to visit some of the area's caves, please speak to our registration staff at the convention center. They may be able to connect you with other cavers.

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The Nevada Northern Railway was built primarily to reach a major copper producing area in White Pine County. The railway, constructed in 1905-06, extended northward about 140 miles from Ely to connections with the Western Pacific Railroad. In a series of donations beginning in 1986, Kennecott Mining transferred the entire railroad's yard and shop facilities to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation. Today, they operate the property as the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.

One of the social highlights of our symposium will be a geology-themed ride aboard this historic railroad!

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From the 13,063-foot summit of Wheeler Peak to the sagebrush-covered foothills, Great Basin National Park hosts a sample of the incredible diversity of the larger Great Basin region. Come and partake of the solitude of the wilderness, walk among ancient bristlecone pines, bask in the darkest of night skies, and explore mysterious subterranean passages. There's a lot more than just desert here.

One of our field trips on Wednesday will include a visit to the Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park.

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Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park is an interpretive site located about 18 miles south of the town of Ely near Cave Lake State Park. The park features six beehive shaped charcoal ovens that were used from 1876 through 1879 to help process rich silver ore that was discovered in the area. Once mining ended, the ovens were used to shelter travelers and even had a reputation as a hideout for stagecoach bandits.

Six large ovens remain in excellent repair, 30 feet high, 27 feet in diameter, with walls 2 feet thick at the base. They were built of quartz latite welded tuff by itinerant Swiss Italian masons who specialized in the ovens, who were known as carbonari.

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Located just west of downtown Ely, Garnet Hill is nationally known for its very dark colored garnets found in a flow banded rhyolitic volcanic rock. Two square miles of land was designated as a recreation area in 1970 to ensure continued public access to the site because of its recreational, rock hounding, and scientific study values.

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Nevada's Great Basin region contains one of the most active geothermal fields in North America. The same geomorphology that created the basin and range landscape has caused Earth's crust to be very thin in this area. Some springs can be scalding and physically dangerous - if you explore these features, be careful!

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Nevada's ghost towns are settlements that grew quickly in response to discoveries of gold, silver, or other minerals. In many cases, these towns became county seats, only to lose that designation once the town's resources became exhausted and its population dwindled.

A self-guided road log to nearby Belmont Mill ghost town is available on this website.

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Cave Lake State Park is a public recreation area occupying more than 4,000 acres in the Schell Creek Range, adjacent to Humboldt National Forest, in White Pine County, Nevada. The state park is located at an elevation of 7,300 feet five miles southeast of Ely and is accessed via U.S. Route 50 and Success Summit Road. It features a 32-acre reservoir for fishing and flat-wake boating.

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White Pine County offers several indoor and outdoor museums - most within a few minutes of the downtown area. A popular must-see is the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. The railroad museum features the Ghost Train of Old Ely, a working steam-engine passenger train that travels the historic tracks from Ely to the Robinson mining district.

The White Pine Public Museum features the life-size replica of a giant short-faced "cave bear" (Arctodus simus) which was discovered in a White Pine County cave in 1982.

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Baker Archeological site, also known as Baker Village, is the site of an ancient Fremont settlement that is about 800 years old. Inhabited for about 75 years, this site gives archeologists valuable insight into the life and customs of the Fremont people. The Fremont were a semi-nomadic people, often moving their homes from place to place.

The interpretive site features a self-guided trail through the archaeological area.

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Success Loop Drive

Located directly off the Loneliest Road in America, about 10 minutes from downtown Ely, this scenic byway brings you through the spectacularly scenic Schell Creek Range. The Success Loop Scenic Drive lies adjacent to Cave Lake State Park, and depending on how you access this loop, you can begin or end your journey at the park - though we'd recommend starting at Cave Lake and ending near McGill. Over the course of this easy, 40 mile drive, visitors will wind their way up into the remarkable high desert landscapes that this part of The Great Basin is so well known for. Here, expect to find incredible mountain views, aspens exploding with color, direct access to trailheads and singletrack, and maybe even an arborglyph or two. Image courtesy of the Nevada Commission on Tourism.

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Nevada Northern Railway

Nevada Northern Railway

Track for the Nevada Northern Railway was laid over a century ago, connecting one of the largest copper mines in North America to the Transcontinental routes to the north. Today, several of the original steam locomotives that were used over a century ago are still in operation. The Nevada Northern Railway is the best-preserved example of a standard-gauge short-line left in North America.

The 2025 NCKMS conference will include a geology-themed trip aboard this historic railway.


Advance registration for the 2025 symposium is expected to open in mid-2024. We will send an email to past attendees when that system comes online.

Feel free to join our mailing list if you would like to receive occasional updates on our plans.

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