The valleys between Nevada’s mountain ranges are not drained to the sea by streams, but are instead so-called closed basins. These basins are slowly filling up with the sand, gravel, and soil washed down from the mountains, most often by rain. The mountain canyons are seasonally dry, although a few have permanent streams and others have flows when the snow melts in the spring.
The more permanent streams flow into lakes in the closed basins. These lakes are often shallow and salty, and in dry years become completely waterless. The low parts of the basins, where the lakes collect, are known as playas, and the lakes themselves are called playa lakes. In Nevada the playas are often called sinks, or dry lakes. At those times when the sinks have water in them they are known as salt lakes. Their water evaporates to leave barren, level expanses of baked mud and salts.
The largest sinks, found in the northwestern part of the state, are the Black Rock Desert and Smoke Creek Desert. Black Rock Desert, between the Black Rock Range and the Jackson Mountains, is about 110 km (70 mi) long and about 8 to 30 km (5 to 20 mi) wide. Smoke Creek Desert is somewhat smaller. Other playas and playa lakes include Humboldt Sink and Carson Sink. Yucca Flat and Frenchman Flat, with playa lakes of the same names, are well known as the locations of nuclear weapons tests. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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