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The Tufa Towers of Trona Pinnacles, California


The Trona Pinnacles, America's largest collection of tufa towers, are in the Mojave Desert near Trona, California. (The town is named after the evaporite mineral trona, Na3(CO3)(HCO3)·2H2O.) Tufa towers are a sign of drastically changed climate. Tufa is a spongy kind of travertine, a calcium carbonate deposit formed where springs discharge groundwater into conditions (thermal or chemical) that force the mineral content out of solution. The presence of tufa towers means that where desert exists today, underwater springs once discharged into a large, deep lake—probably a salty, alkaline lake like Mono Lake, California, where modern tufa towers are growing. The remains of Trona's former lake, Searles Lake, are salt beds that are mined today for many useful minerals, especially boron ores like ulexite.

Bureau of Land Management page on the Pinnacles

Trona on the Web: The Pinnacles

Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society

More California Geology

Images 1-10 of 10
An eerie sightThe Trona PinnaclesRemains of a great lakeSearles Lake and the Trona PinnaclesVisible far and wideApproaching the Trona PinnaclesThe well-attended groupTrona Pinnacles, Northern Group
These are more pristineTrona Pinnacles, Southern GroupClumping towersTufa Tower ClusterGray eminencesTufa TowerLike a collapse brecciaTufa Structure
Worth a close lookTufa CloseupThey are delicate thingsHelp Preserve the Trona Pinnacles
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