Tufa Towers, Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark, California


ID 1019

The largest concentration of tufa towers, domes, and pinnacles in California, some up to 43 meters high and more than 160 meters in diameter, were deposited along the southwestern edge of Pleistocene Searles Lake. Searles was the third lake, after Owens and China, in a string of five major water bodies nourished by the glacial Owens River, which formerly carried water from the melting snow and ice of the Sierra Nevada to Death Valley. Pleistocene Searles Lake was once about 195 meters deep. The calcite tufa deposits are aligned in a northeasterly direction and developed along a fracture zone where calcium-enriched groundwater springs discharged and mixed with carbonate lake waters. Although several chemical and biochemical processes can lead to the development of tufa deposits, at Searles Lake they were formed primarily by lime-secreting cyanobacteria or blue-green algae. From an economic perspective, the nearby evaporite deposits are mined for potassium salts, borax, boric acid, soda ash, bromine, and lithium carbonate. Photographed at Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark.


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