Sometimes the best attractions aren’t the ones in travel directories, but the ones you find yourself. Such was the case when we were visiting the Pyramid Lake area in Nevada. Pyramid Lake is a remnant of the much larger ancient Lake Lahontan, which has been evaporating for thousands of years.
As the lake shrank, its tufa formations—which had grown under the surface—were exposed.
Tufa is basically common limestone. What is uncommon about this limestone is the way it forms. Typically, underwater springs rich in calcium (the stuff your bones are made of) mixes with lake water rich in carbonates (the stuff in baking soda).
As the calcium comes into contact with the carbonates a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in calcium carbonate-limestone. The calcium carbonate precipitates (settles out of solution as a solid) around the spring, and over time, a tufa formation will grow. Many of the tufa formations formed as towers over the springs, growing an upwards of 30 feet or more.
While there are tufa formations around Pyramid Lake, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe prohibits non-tribal members from visiting ones on the east side of the water.
However, out of sight of the lake near the east side of the reservation, there are some little known, unsigned, beautiful tufa examples just off Highway 447.
Some are still upright, just how they formed while under the lake surface, others were towers which have fallen over, exposing the intricate structure of the carbonate-limestone they are comprised of.
These formations are located on BLM land just east of Highway 447 in Nevada. Pull off the road at N39° 56.601 W119° 23.004. From there you can walk or drive to the east where the road tees (plenty of room to turn around the RV).
While there are multiple formations in the area, the best two can be found at the following locations:
- A neat grouping of toppled tower formations can be seen a short walk to the north from where the road tees at N39° 56.735 W119° 22.858
- A large interesting tufa formation can be found by driving or hiking south at N39° 56.069 W119° 22.467 Note: A great use of an ATV if you have one.
Those wishing to spend the night in their RV will find a nice camp area complete with a rock fire ring next to the mentioned northern tufa formation at N39° 56.727 W119° 22.835. Standard BLM dispersed camping rules apply.
Discovering unique natural features along your travels…just another great adventure in RVing!
See also: Surviving Highway 50: America’s Loneliest Road
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
yes that are a sight to behold. do not touch them, do not do a anderson to them.
and tripple the note of stay off tribal land.
You forgot to mention the petroglyphs that can be found on a couple of the tall formations there.