Golden Gate Photo - Long Valley Caldera Gallery
Fine Art Photography from the Long Valley Caldera Region of East-Central California.


Long Valley Caldera is an oval-shaped area east of the Sierra Nevada Range about 12 by 20 miles (about 20 by 35 Km). The caldera itself is barely discernible from the ground, but some edges of the rim are recognizable from aerial photographs and maps. This is a center of recent volcanic activity with hundreds of volcanic eruptions in the past 2 million years. A catastrophic eruption 760,000 years ago formed Long Valley Caldera when 150 cubic miles (600 Km3) of rhyolitic magma rose to the surface and exploded, ejecting ash columns and associated ash falls and ash flows. The ash settled and cooled to form the Bishop Tuff. Wind-blown ash from that eruption covered most of the western United States. Hundreds of smaller lava flows, domes, and pyroclastic flows subsequently erupted in the central and western parts of the caldera. Mammoth Mountain, on the western fringe of the caldera, was formed by eruptions between about 200,000 and 50,000 years ago. The most recent eruptions in the area occurred from the Inyo Craters about 600 years ago. The Recent eruptions at Mono Craters are also associated with this volcanic episode. Long Valley Caldera is still active, with swarms of small earthquakes occurring daily, hot springs and geothermal development (Casa Diablo) in the Caldera, and occasional seeps of gases of volcanic origin.

Hot Springs Creek

Hot Springs Creek

Located in the east moat of Long Valley, Hot Springs Creek is a low point where groundwater within the caldera surfaces and flows along the stream channel. Some springs can exceed 195oF (90oC) due to the residual heat of the volcanic activity, and the water and rocks around the springs are often colored by chemical alteration.

Print No. A99-35-6

Check out the close-up of a steam vent.

Dead Trees, Horseshoe Lake

Dead Trees, Horseshoe Lake

These trees died in 1980 when carbon dioxide began to seep into the soil from below following a series of moderate earthquakes. The CO2 asphyxiated the tree roots. Even today, the U.S. Geological Survey is constantly monitoring CO2 in the area and warning signs are posted in the area for skiers straying from the groomed trails on the backside of Mammoth Mountain.

Print No. A99-36-3

Last Light on Devils Postpile

Last Light on Devils Postpile

This 60-foot (18-meter) cliff face is made up of columnar basalt. Erupting from volcanic vents, basalt lava flows out and sometimes during cooling it shrinks, forming cracks. If the lava is homogeneous and cools at a steady rate, angular columns with 3 to 7 sides form. Devils Postpile, just west of Mammoth Mountain, is one of the best examples of columnar basalt in the world.

Print No. A99-35-1

Here is another example of columnar basalt from Yosemite National Park

More Images of Sunsets

Inyo Craters - South Crater

Inyo Craters - South Crater

The Inyo Craters is a north-south oriented chain located on the northwest rim of the caldera and the west side of Long Valley. The craters are 550 to 650 years old, forming explosively as shallow magma contacted groundwater, causing it to flash to steam and rapidly expand. The peak of Mammoth Mountain is seen over the crater rim.

Print No. A99-35-9

Bloody Mountain Glacial Moraine

Bloody Mountain Glacial Moraine

Along the southern edge of the Long Valley Caldera, Bloody Mountain stands out with a peak elevation of 12,544 feet (3,824 meters) above sea level. In front of the peak is a u-shaped valley, formed by the carving action of glacial ice during the Pleistocene Epoch. The debris the glaciers carved was bulldozed out in front of the glacier, and when the glacier began to recede, the piles of rock and soil left behind formed the moraine at the bottom of the image. Looking at the pattern of the moraine, the glacier exited the valley and sharply turned toward the east (to the left in the image).

Print No. A99-34-8

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