Created out of magma and ash from one of the greatest geological cataclysms in the history of our continent, this magical place is only revealed to those curious enough to find it.
This place was extremely difficult to find and even with all the research I did, we still ended up 3 miles away from the actual location.
Our search required a very long walk…
…where a decision was made to break off into two separate groups. Don’t ask.
I took off by myself and walked along the snowy shoreline while the other group followed the path above the shoreline back to the car and then 4WD’d it closer to the location.
My 3-mile detour was incredible.
Snowy Chalk Cliffs
The Long Valley eruption of 760,000 years ago, inundated the entire eastern Sierra with over 600 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash and incandescent ash flows. That’s enough to cover the entire state of Delaware with 12 meters of ash!
…all grown up Tuffs.
This gigantic volcanic eruption constitutes one of the largest volcanic events in the geologic record of our planet. When this volume of magma and ash was ejected from the volcano, the magma chamber roof collapsed 1.5 to 2 miles into the empty magma chamber. This left what we see today—an oval-shaped caldera 10 miles wide and 20 miles long.
The thick volcanic deposits of the Long Valley eruption are known as the Bishop Tuff, whose strata are among the best studied volcanic systems on Earth.
The eruption covered some 1500 square kilometers surrounding the volcano with Bishop Tuff whose thicknesses approached 200 m. These deposits entirely reshaped the landscape of the Eastern Sierra region, producing a broad ‘Volcanic Tableland,’ stretching from Long Valley some 40 km to the south, near Bishop.
This climactic eruption produced such voluminous outpourings of volcanic ash that deposits can be detected as far away as Nebraska, southern California, and the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Deposits of the Bishop Tuff range from light, unconsolidated airfall ash and pumice fragments (at the distal reaches of the deposit) to massive volumes of dense, well-consolidated ‘welded tuff,’ formed as overlying ash flows compressed and consolidated the lower portions of the deposit.
For the shot, man.
It’s is comprised of two separate units. The lower unit is a strongly welded, massive tuff with irregularly developed jointing. Column diameters typically range between 3 and 5 feet, while orientations range from horizontal to vertical. The prevalent theory on how these joints formed suggests that each column represents a center of fumarolic activity (or a steam vent). The ‘horizontal’ joints were formed from the heat flow around a gas vent and the ‘vertical’ joints developed perpendicular to the heat flow.
In certain sections along the tuff, the stone has turned into bulbous columns known as “degassing pipes” creating a veritable forest of oddly shaped stone.
This place is a real treasure. Hopefully it will remain that way.