Winchester rifle

Park archaeologist Eva Jensen prepares to recover a 132-year-old Winchester rifle from beneath a tree in a remote part of Great Basin National Park in November 2014.

BAKER – A formal celebration will be held Dec. 5 at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center to welcome the noted 132-year-old Winchester Model 1873 rifle back home.

The public will be able to view the rifle and chat with Cultural Resource Program Manager and Park Archaeologist Eva Jensen and the discovery team during a question and answer session at 1 p.m.

A free showing of the 1950 film “Winchester 73” starring Jimmy Stewart will begin at 2 p.m. Tickets for the film viewing are limited; please make a reservation for your free film ticket at 775-234-7510.

On Nov. 6, 2014, Jensen, working with the park archaeology team, noticed an object beneath a juniper tree. Getting a closer look she discovered that it was a rifle. That discovery created a worldwide buzz in social media and the press, with questions about, “Who left the rifle” and “Why was it was left behind?”

The 132 year-old rifle was exposed to sun, wind, snow and rain. The elements had cracked and weathered the wood stock gray. The brown rusted barrel blended into the colors of the old juniper tree in a remote rocky outcrop, keeping the rifle hidden for many years.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming generously offered to stabilize the rifle for the park. The stabilization does not return the rifle to shiny new looking condition but helps to preserve the gun in the present state.

The Center for the West also x-rayed the rifle and found a bullet stored in the stock. While we do not have any new answers the rifle still sparks the imagination.

After spending the summer of 2015 at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Winchester is returning to the park. The public is invited to join in this NPS Centennial Year Celebration to welcome a piece of history back home.

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