Environment: Stalagmites And Stunning Vistas

Great Basin is Nevada's majestic new national park

Rising abruptly from the eastern Nevada desert, snow-capped Wheeler Peak has long been a regional attraction. Visitors began arriving in 1885, after Rancher Absalom Lehman discovered vast limestone caves in the neighboring foothills. Swinging a sledgehammer to cut paths through forests of stalactites and stalagmites, Lehman then led candlelight tours through the caves for a dollar a head. After President Warren G. Harding declared the caves a national monument in 1922, Manager Clarence Rhodes rented them out for weddings, dances and initiation ceremonies for the Knights of Pythias, who frolicked in clouds of sulfurous smoke wearing costumes.

Last week, beneath the...