The Black Rock Desert is a dry lake bed left over from the last ice age. This is the bottom of ancient Lake Lahontan, which was at its peak about 12,700 years ago and had this land about 500' below the surface of the lake. Today, this is a huge flat expanse of dry lake, or playa. In the mid-1800's, branches of the Oregon and California Trails made their ways across this enormous barren expanse. Since then there has been scattered mining activity in the area but these days, most of the area is owned by the federal government and administered by the BLM. Large sections of the area have been designated as wilderness by various acts of Congress.