09-15-19 – Fossil Butte National Monument


Fossil Butte National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the National Park Service, located 15 miles (24 km) west of Kemmerer, Wyoming, United States. It centers on an extraordinary assemblage of Eocene Epoch (56 to 34 million years ago) animal and plant fossils associated with Fossil Lake—the smallest lake of the three great lakes which were then present in what are now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The other two lakes were Lake Gosiute and Lake Uinta. Fossil Butte National Monument was established as a national monument on October 23, 1972.

Fossil Butte National Monument preserves the best paleontological record of Cenozoic aquatic communities in North America and possibly the world, within the 50-million-year-old Green River Formation — the ancient lake bed. Fossils preserved — including fish, alligators, bats, turtles, dog-sized horses, insects, and many other species of plants and animals — suggest that the region was a low, subtropical, freshwater basin when the sediments accumulated, over about a 2 million-year period.

During the Eocene this portion of Wyoming was a sub-tropical lake ecosystem. The Green River Lake System contained three ancient lakes, Fossil Lake, Lake Gosiute, and Lake Uinta. These lakes covered parts of southwest Wyoming, northeast Utah and northwestern Colorado. Fossil Butte is a remnant of the deposits from Fossil Lake. Fossil Lake was 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 km) long from north to south and 20 miles (32 km) wide. Over the two million years that it existed, the lake varied in length and width.

Fossil Buttes National Monument contains only 13 square miles (8,198 acres (33,180,000 m2)) of the 900-square-mile (595,200 acres (2.409×109 m2)) ancient lake. The ancient lake sediments that form the primary fossil digs is referred to as the Green River Formation. In addition to this fossil-bearing strata, a large portion of the Wasatch Formation, river and stream sediments, is within the national monument. The Wasatch Formation represents the shoreline ecosystem around the lake and contains fossil teeth and bone fragments of Eocene mammals. Among these are early primates and horses.

09-14-19 – Craters of the Moon National Monument


Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a U.S. National Monument and national preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. It is along US 20 (concurrent with US 93 and US 26), between the small towns of Arco and Carey, at an average elevation of 5,900 feet (1,800 m) above sea level. The protected area’s features are volcanic and represent one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.

The Monument was established on May 2, 1924. In November 2000, a presidential proclamation by President Clinton greatly expanded the Monument area. The National Park Service portions of the expanded Monument were designated as Craters of the Moon National Preserve in August 2002. It lies in parts of Blaine, Butte, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Power counties. The area is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Monument and Preserve encompass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles (1,000 km2) of sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles (2,893 km2). The Monument alone covers 53,571 acres (21,679 ha). All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet (240 m). There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava, as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features


Random roadside attractions in Wyoming



As I drove through Wyoming I found several roadside points of interest, and a surprise badlands

09-13-19 – City Of Rocks National Preserve



The City of Rocks National Reserve, also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a United States National Reserve and state park lying 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the south central Idaho border with Utah. It is widely known for its excellent rock climbing and rock formations.

The rock spires in the City of Rocks and adjacent Castle Rocks State Park are largely composed of granitic rock of the Oligocene Almo pluton and Archean Green Creek Complex.

California Trail wagon trains of the 1840s and 1850s left the Raft River valley and traveled through the area and over Granite Pass into Nevada. Names or initials of emigrants written in axle grease are still visible on Register Rock. Ruts from wagon wheels also can be seen in some of the rocks.

The landscape of City of Rocks has been sculpted from granite that was intruded into the crust during two widely spaced times. The granite that composes most of the spires is part of the 28-million-year-old Almo pluton. However, some of the spires are made of granite that is part of the 2.5 billion-year-old Green Creek Complex that contains some of the oldest rocks in the western United States. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes.

City of Rocks was designated a National Reserve, a unit of the National Park Service, in recognition of the nationally significant geological and scenic values of its rock formations and the historical significance of the California Trail. Rock formations in the reserve developed through an erosion process called exfoliation, during which thin rock plates and scales sloughed off along joints in the rocks. The joints, or fractures, resulted from the contraction of the granite as it cooled, from an upward expansion of the granite as overlying materials were eroded away, and from regional tectonic stresses. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes as high as 600 feet (180 m). The upper surfaces of many of the rocks are covered with flat-floored weathering pits known as panholes. The most notable panhole is located on top of Bath Rock and is continuously filled with water from rain or snowmelt.

Source: Wikipedia

09-13-19 – Basin and Range National Monument


Basin and Range National Monument is a national monument of the United States spanning approximately 704,000 acres (1,100 sq mi; 2,800 km2) of remote, undeveloped mountains and valleys in Lincoln and Nye counties in southeastern Nevada. It is described as “one of the emptiest spaces in a state famous for its emptiness.”

The Basin and Range National Monument area has geological, ecological, cultural, historical, paleoecological, seismological, archaeological, and paleoclimatological significance. The area is located in a transitional region between the Mojave Desert and the Sagebrush Steppe of the Great Basin.

Major features within the national monument include: Garden Valley and Coal Valley; the Worthington Mountains, containing the Worthington Mountains Wilderness Area; the Golden Gate Range; the Seaman Range; the Mount Irish Range; the Hiko Narrows; the White River Narrows; and the Shooting Gallery rock art site. Native American rock art at the site is about 4,000 years old.

Fauna of significance in the national monument include desert bighorn sheep, golden eagle, and many species of bat, lizard, and snake.

Source: Wikipedia

09-07-19 – Wander


A random wander through the south-eastern sierras

09-02-19 – Sequoia National Forest


Sequoia National Forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The U.S. National Forest is named for the majestic Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees which populate 38 distinct groves within the boundaries of the forest.

The Giant Sequoia National Monument is located in the national forest. Other notable features include glacier-carved landscapes and impressive granite monoliths. The Needles are a series of granite spires atop a narrow ridge above the Kern River. Forest headquarters are located in Porterville, California. There are local ranger district offices in Dunlap, Kernville, Lake Isabella, and Springville.

The Sequoia National Forest covers 1,193,315 acres (1,864.555 sq mi; 4,829.17 km2), and ranges in elevation from 1,000 feet (300 m) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to over 12,000 feet (3,700 m). Its giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) groves are part of its 196,000 acres (790 km2) of old growth forests.

There are six wilderness areas within Sequoia NF that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Some of these extend into neighboring National Forests, as indicated. Two of them also extend into land that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The National Forest contains over 2,500 miles (4,000 km) of road and 850 miles (1,370 km) of trails, and hosts a number of camping and recreational facilities. The forest is adjacent to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Sequoia National Forest was established on July 1, 1908 from a portion of Sierra Forest Reserve. On March 2, 1909 Theodore Roosevelt added land by Presidential Proclamation. On July 1, 1910 1,951,191 acres (7,896.19 km2) was removed from the forest to create the Kern National Forest. This land was returned to Sequoia National Forest on July 1, 1915.

08-25-19 – Chimney Peak Wilderness


The Chimney Peak Wilderness is a 13,134-acre (53.15 km2) wilderness area located 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Ridgecrest, in southeastern Tulare County, California.

The 1994 California Desert Protection Act (Public Law 103-433) created the wilderness and it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of the Interior.

The Chimney Peak Wilderness is a rugged and mountainous Mojave Desert environment on the eastern side of the Southern Sierra Nevada Range. The wilderness is named for Chimney Peak, elevation 7,871 feet (2,399 m), located in the northeast corner of the wilderness.

The area has Mojave Desert plants such as Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) and creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) on the valley floors and alluvial fans and in the Sierra foothills. Higher Sierra elevations have single-leaf pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla).

The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the wilderness area.

A portion of the Sacatar Trail, an old wagon road into the Owens Valley once used by soldiers and cattlemen, cross the Chimney Peak Wilderness, .

Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway
The BLM began a “byway” program in 1989 which is a tour by automobile through or near scenic public lands. This program designates “backcountry byways” along secondary roads. The Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway can be accessed from State Route 178, is over 38 miles (61 km) in length and travels through Lamont Meadow, circles around Chimney Peak, and returns to Canebrake Road at Lamont Meadow.

Source: Wikipedia

08-18-19 – Mono-Inyo Craters


The Mono–Inyo Craters are a volcanic chain of craters, domes and lava flows in Mono County, Eastern California. The chain stretches 25 miles (40 km) from the northwest shore of Mono Lake to the south of Mammoth Mountain. The Mono Lake Volcanic Field forms the northernmost part of the chain and consists of two volcanic islands in the lake and one cinder cone volcano on its northwest shore. Most of the Mono Craters, which make up the bulk of the northern part of the Mono–Inyo chain, are phreatic (steam explosion) volcanoes that have since been either plugged or over-topped by rhyolite domes and lava flows. The Inyo Craters form much of the southern part of the chain and consist of phreatic explosion pits, and rhyolitic lava flows and domes. The southernmost part of the chain consists of fumaroles and explosion pits on Mammoth Mountain and a set of cinder cones south of the mountain; the latter are called the Red Cones.

Eruptions along the narrow fissure system under the chain began in the west moat of Long Valley Caldera 400,000 to 60,000 years ago. Mammoth Mountain was formed during this period. Multiple eruptions from 40,000 to 600 years ago created the Mono Craters and eruptions 5,000 to 500 years ago formed the Inyo Craters. Lava flows 5,000 years ago built the Red Cones, and explosion pits on Mammoth Mountain were excavated in the last 1,000 years. Uplift of Paoha Island in Mono Lake about 250 years ago is the most recent activity. These eruptions most likely originated from small magma bodies rather than from a single, large magma chamber like the one that produced the massive Long Valley Caldera eruption 760,000 years ago. During the past 3,000 years, eruptions have occurred every 250 to 700 years. In 1980, a series of earthquakes and uplift within and south of Long Valley Caldera indicated renewed activity in the area.

The region has been used by humans for centuries. Obsidian was collected by Mono Paiutes for making sharp tools and arrow points. Glassy rock continues to be removed in modern times for use as commercial scour and yard decoration. Mono Mills processed timber felled on or near the volcanoes for the nearby boomtown Bodie in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Water diversions into the Los Angeles Aqueduct system from their natural outlets in Mono Lake started in 1941 after a water tunnel was cut under the Mono Craters. Mono Lake Volcanic Field and a large part of the Mono Craters gained some protection under Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area in 1984. Resource use along all of the chain is managed by the United States Forest Service as part of Inyo National Forest. Various activities are possible along the chain, including hiking, bird watching, canoeing, skiing, and mountain biking.

Source: Wikipedia

08-17_18-19 – Mono Lake


Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline soda lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in an endorheic basin. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake. These salts also make the lake water alkaline.

This desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp that thrive in its waters, and provides critical habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp and alkali flies. Historically, the native Kutzadika’a people derived nutrition from the Ephydra hians pupae, which live in the shallow waters around the edge of the lake.

When the city of Los Angeles diverted water from the freshwater streams flowing into the lake, it lowered the lake level, which imperiled the migratory birds.

Mono Lake occupies part of the Mono Basin, an endorheic basin that has no outlet to the ocean. Dissolved salts in the runoff thus remain in the lake and raise the water’s pH levels and salt concentration. The tributaries of Mono Lake include Lee Vining Creek, Rush Creek and Mill Creek which flows through Lundy Canyon.

The basin was formed by geological forces over the last five million years: basin and range crustal stretching and associated volcanism and faulting at the base of the Sierra Nevada. Five million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was an eroded set of rolling hills and Mono Basin and Owens Valley did not yet exist.

From 4.5 to 2.6 million years ago, large volumes of basalt were extruded around what is now Cowtrack Mountain (east and south of Mono Basin); eventually covering 300 square miles (780 km2) and reaching a maximum thickness of 600 feet (180 m). Later volcanism in the area occurred 3.8 million to 250,000 years ago. This activity was northwest of Mono Basin and included the formation of Aurora Crater, Beauty Peak, Cedar Hill (later an island in the highest stands of Mono Lake), and Mount Hicks.

Mono Lake is believed to have formed at least 760,000 years ago, dating back to the Long Valley eruption. Sediments located below the ash layer hint that Mono Lake could be a remnant of a larger and older lake that once covered a large part of Nevada and Utah, which would put it among the oldest lakes in North America. At its height during the most recent ice age, the lake would have been about 900 feet (270 m) deep. Prominent old shore lines, called strandlines by geologists, can be seen west of the Lake.

Currently, Mono Lake is in a geologically active area at the north end of the Mono–Inyo Craters volcanic chain and is close to Long Valley Caldera. Volcanic activity continues in the Mono Lake vicinity: the most recent eruption occurred 350 years ago, resulting in the formation of Paoha Island. Panum Crater (on the south shore of the lake) is an example of a combined rhyolite dome and cinder cone.

Tufa towers
Many columns of limestone rise above the surface of Mono Lake. These limestone towers consist primarily of calcium carbonate minerals such as calcite (CaCO3). This type of limestone rock is referred to as tufa, which is a term used for limestone that forms in low to moderate temperatures.