Tufa, part 2: The Trona Pinnacles

One of the most enjoyable trips we took this year was out to a place called the Trona Pinnacles, which are located in the Searles Valley, just southwest of Death Valley.

The Trona Pinnacles are located in the southern part of the Searles Valley.

A 10-mile (or so) dirt road will take you out to them. The road is suitable for passenger cars (just drive slowly).
The Pinnacles might look familiar to you. They have been used in commericals, TV shows and movies.

On the day we visited, though, we had the place to ourselves.

The Trona Pinnacles are tufa formations. Tufa is formed when the calcium in freshwater springs meet with carbonates in the waters of a lake, forming calcium carbonate.
Since water is essential for tufa formations, it means this valley was once filled with water.

These tufa formations are much older than the tufa formations at Mono Lake.

The lake that once existed here was one of the Pleistocene lakes.
There's a driving tour around the pinnacles, but they are best experienced close-up, on foot.

You can also camp out here, but it is remote camping with no services. I bet the stars at night must be incredible though.

The road out to the pinnacles takes you across the Searles Lake playa.

At the northern end of the valley is the mining town of Trona, serviced by this branch of the railroad.
The complex solution mining process extracts minierals from the naturally-occurring brines underneath Searles Lake.

Here’s everything you ever needed or wanted to know about Searles Lake and the Trona Pinnacles:

This location has the seal of approval by Casey, Desert Adventure Dog.
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