Crowley Lake Columns – Mono County, California - Atlas Obscura

Crowley Lake Columns

Eons old volcanic activity created one of the most stunning rock formations in the United States. 


Hundreds of thousands of years in the past when the Long Valley Caldera was created by violent volcanic action, the ultra hot lava flows created California’s Bishop Tuff tableland range, an otherworldly length of stony waves and columns. 

The giant plateau formation sits in one of the world’s most interesting volcanic areas. Over 767,000 years in the past a massive volcanic eruption sent rivers of lava cascading over the surrounding desert which had just been covered by falling ash. As the colossal torrents of lava washed over the built up ash it baked the ash to a layer of stone in an instant.

Now after millennia of erosion from wind and water the bottom layer and the top layer of cooled lava can be clearly seen, taking the form of rocky waves bisected by a dividing line. In certain sections along the tuff, the stone has turned into bulbous columns known as “degassing pipes” creating a veritable forest of oddly shaped stone. The Bishop Tuff also sits near the equally alien Mono Lake where the only traces of non-carbon-based life were discovered.

Know Before You Go

The columns are along the east side of Crowley Lake. Access roads are winding and sandy, four wheel drive recommended.

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