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!