Some things you should know about the Wyoming Red Desert

This week, Burning Torch Productions is taking you to the heart of Wyoming’s Red Desert to talk about some of the challenges Mark will face when travelling through this segment of his journey.

The Red Desert is a vast 9,320 square miles of high altitude buttes, dunes, sagebrush steppe, and mountain landscapes. One of this region’s most prominent features is the Great Divide Basin, a drainage basin of the Continental Divide dominated by sand dunes, bluffs and alkali flats. As with many deserts of the American West and Southwest, water has played powerful role in shaping the Red Desert, though you wouldn’t guess it based amount of rain the area currently receives. Some would call it barren, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In terms of energy resources, the Red Desert is one of the richest areas in the United States with deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, as well as uranium. Approximately 84% of the Red Desert has been industrialized by oil and gas drilling, mining operations, and the associated roads. Though the geology on the surface of this landscape is both fascinating and beautiful, the geology hundreds of feet below is what truly draws Mark to this place.

A large amount of the land in the Red Desert is public land managed by the cities of Rock Springs and Rawlins, as well as field offices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This means that Mark will have access to multiple routes through the region, though none of them will be particularly easy going. But it’s not a steep dirt path or a rocky traverse that has Mark the most worried. In contrast to the dirt roads that wind their way through the landscape, Interstate 80 – one of the longest and busiest interstates in the nation – cuts through the southern part of the Red Desert. Ironically this well-paved, smooth, flat throughway actually poses a huge threat to Mark on his journey. He is going to steer clear of the interstate for the majority of route but some sections will be unavoidable.

At least Mark won’t be completely alone during his ride through the Red Desert. Regardless of the hostile weather, lack of water, and scarce vegetation, this area is a habitat for great number of wild animals: birds such as ducks, trumpeter swans, snowbirds, and white pelicans; large migratory herds of pronghorns, wild horses, and bison; and also threats like rattle snakes, scorpions and mountain lions.

After researching the Red Deserts we have determined the possible risks of Mark’s journey through this region:

Dehydration: due to the hot and dry environment of the desert and scarcity of available water sources.

Wild animals: encounters with rattlesnakes, scorpions, and mountain lions.

Exhaustion: brought on by the length of the journey paired with the unrelenting heat and strong winds.

Crashing: caused by the landscape or a careless I-80 motorist.

All of these risks and challenges have the potential to result in severe injury or even death. However, Mark is continuing with his training, preparing himself mentally and physically to handle all the possible difficulties as best he can. So, even this harsh and desolate expanse will not stop a young man’s motivation to come up with the answer to the question: “What’s the best energy source for our future?” Could there be another part of the journey Mark is not ready for? Follow our blog to find out.

For more information on the Red Desert, check out these resources:

www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wild-Places/Red-Desert.aspx

www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/prored.html

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