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Published: April 15th 2008
This island, for which the lake was named is actually a tufa, composed of deposits of calcium carbonate.
The colors of Nevada are a complete reversal of expectations created by six weeks in California. We crossed into Nevada east of Donner Pass and the miles of evergreen trees and snow gave way to chaparral and the subtle colors of sage and tumbleweed. Much to our surprise, we learned that tumbleweed is a foreign invasive species! It’s a part of our western legends…”_See them tumbling down…_..” However, always there have been snowcapped mountains in the background.
We stayed at a campground in Reno that was near the casinos and convenient shopping. It was also convenient to the Truckee River which delivers melt waters from the Sierras to that part of Nevada. Except for visiting our friends Peter and Trudy, we did not indulge in Reno-type activities. There was, however, some amazing terrain within an easy drive of the city that we really enjoyed.
On one day we went with Peter and Trudy to see Pyramid Lake. This lake is about thirty miles long and ten miles wide. It is somewhat saline although it supports salmon and other fish and we saw many anglers. The lake is in the Piute Reservation and you must get permission to
The Pyramid and Tufas
Making our may through the tufas toward the water's edge. Birds seen here included Saye's phoebe and Brewer's sparrow.
visit parts of the lake. One of the most striking things about Pyramid is the color of the water, a most-stunning turquoise that may change with the sky.
Pyramid Lake was part of a huge Lake Lahontan about 15,000 years ago when conditions were much wetter in that part of Nevada. Seven water bodies came together to form this lake that was about the size of Lake Ontario. Today only two of these are permanent including Pyramid which is about 30 miles long. The rest are dry or ephemeral. One of the striking features of these lakes was the formations of tufa, which are amazing calcium carbonate deposits in the lake. As the lake has diminished in size many of these deposits are on the shore. When we saw them, we thought that they must have been formed by corals in an ancient sea bed. However, a little internet research suggests that they are just deposits of calcium carbonate resulting from a somewhat alkaline lake receiving less and less precipitation. I hope that these pictures will help share the amazing formations around this lake.
Lake Tahoe, on the other hand is quite different in formation. It
Large Tufa Balls
These balls of calcium carbonate have been eroded in the millenia since formation showing little balls and details inside.
is between the Carson Range to the east in Nevada and the Sierras and was formed by faulting of the basin as the ranges rose. The lake was further modified by glaciation that scoured out basins and dammed exits in various places. The lake is very beautiful on the Nevada side which has a large State Park along the roadway. Although there was snow on the ground in April, there were people fishing on the lake. The lake is about 1600 ft deep with an average depth of about 1000 ft. It never freezes. It seemed extremely clear, but there is concern that the turbidity has been increasing significantly in recent times. There seems to be a great effort to improve sewage systems and other sources of nutrients in this absolute gem.
The creme de la creme of this side trip was our journey with Peter and Trudy to their vacation property in Fort Bidwell in the Surprise Valley, a magical place in the extreme northeastern section of California.
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