February 25, 2012

Photo Essay: Trona Pinnacles

It seems like everywhere I go in the California desert, there is some kind of mine or mill, a historic railroad, and a dry lake bed or the site of a prehistoric sea.

Death Valley (and its environs) is the perfect confluence of all of those things.

Just west of Death Valley is the site of the Searles Dry Lake basin, most recognizably marked by the rising of several tufa towers — but, unlike the case of Mono Lake from which they rise out of the water and along the shore, these pinnacles stand out from a prehistoric-looking landscape that's long since been dry. The area was a part of the historic Searles wagon route and near the abandoned Trona Railway and Epsom Salts Monorail, thanks to the mineral-rich (formerly underwater) land.

The pinnacles distinguish this area as one of California's most geologically unusual...

...and can be viewed along a scenic drive...

...or, preferably, on foot.

The first time I visited Death Valley in 2008, I was coming from Las Vegas, entering the part from the east - so I didn't get to see much of anything on its western side (beyond staying at Panamint Springs Resort). But this weekend, I discovered there is so much more that lies outside the national park boundary...

Stay tuned for more.

Related Post:
Mono Lake: From Shore to Surface

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