If you want to see a natural magical wonder in California, you should visit these amazing stone columns of Lake Crowley. These columns are located nearby Highway 395, though there is no easy access to reach the columns. I have driven this highway many times. Little did I know the columns were located there. Anyway, last year I decided to visit these beautiful columns on the shore of Lake Crowley, which is originally a reservoir created in 1941 by the Log Angeles Department of Water and Power. Good thing is that there is no hike involved, well, maybe a little bit. But the important thing is you will need a four-wheel drive to reach the parking lot. The road is impassable without a 4WD in the last part. We saw many people driving 2WD, but they could not make it to the last with their vehicles. They parked somewhere before the last stretch and hiked the rest. So, if you are driving to Lake Crowley with a two-wheel drive, be prepared to hike the last part.
Once you are at the parking lot and parked the vehicle, you have to descend through a short but steep trail to reach the beach. At the beach, you will be able to see the columns. The columns go on for quite a while and the size and shapes are different in places. Some of the columns are 15 feet tall while others are small and without any shape. You can walk along the beach for a 0.5 mile or so to explore the columns. But that depends on the water level of the lake. When the water level is high, the columns may be partially submerged in the water, and you may not be able to explore all the columns. We went during the low water level. To be honest I was a little disappointed to see no water near the column. I was expecting a little water level, but that’s not under my control. But no water means more columns to see. There are many small caves surrounded by columns. So, how did the column form? Over 760,000 years ago, there was a volcanic eruption which was the reason behind the formation of the columns. Snowmelt from the surrounding area seeped into the still-hot tuff resulting in boiling water which created the even hollow space in between the columns. Tuff is a porous rock that is formed from consolidated volcanic ash. Though the columns were formed a long time ago, they remained buried and hidden for a long time. When the reservoir was built, the constant pounding of the water at the base of the cliffs craved out the softer material (made of pumice and ash) slowly with time. From the beginning, it was a huge mystery how and from where did those columns come. Since its discovery research has been initiated to find out the reason behind the formation of these beautiful columns. There are over 5000 columns along a mile of shoreline on the east side of the lake. They are different in shape, size, and color.
This place is unreal- it’s hard to believe that this is not man-made. It felt like, I am in a castle with lots of ornamental columns. It was so amazing to walk around and to be able to explore the cave-like space into the rock. I spent a lot of time just walking here and there and seeing the different sizes and shapes of the columns. We also watched the most amazing sunset here. The last ray of the sun fall into the water and the glistening effect had created a very beautiful scene. The lake is also a beautiful place to spend time here. There is a marina on the south end and people come here for trout fishing. Instead of driving you can also choose to kayak or paddleboarding to the columns. Overall, the experience was amazing. If you are visiting, please be respectful of the place.
At a glance
- Location: Benton Crossing Rd, Bishop, CA 93514
- GPS Coordinate:
- Column location: 37.60984, -118.72031
- Parking lot location: 37.60771, -118.71907
- Amenities: none
- 4WD is required to reach the trailhead that goes down to the lake. The last part of the road is a dirt road and there are some sections with massive potholes in the road and some steep sandy sections. These parts are not possible to drive without a 4WD. But the good thing is there is a parking lot somewhere on the dirt road before the difficult section. Many people park their 2WD vehicles there and hike the rest of the path.
- Check out the water level first. The water level can get very high, and access may not be possible.
- This is a very unique place. Please protect this place. Do not climb, draw or destroy any formations. It takes years (sometimes millions) to form something spectacular like this, but only a moment to destroy. Now, you have to decide, you want to be a destroyer or a protector. Also, writing your name or creating graffiti on a natural formation is a waste of creativity and humanity. Let’s be protective of nature and protect this beautiful place. Be sure to take all your trashes out and follow all the ‘leave no trace principles.
- Researchers determine origin of mysterious stone columns along Crowley Lake - Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)
#travel #lake #explore #hidden #secret
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