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Long Valley Caldera: Formation

Updated on September 4, 2012

Long Valley formed similarly to all other Volcanoes. Magma began to accumulate in one area and rise up, until eventually it was released in an eruption. The actual depression of the caldera was caused during a collapse around 730,000 years ago, right after the Long Valleys largest eruption. The Earths surface collapsed over a mile below the original position after the eruption slowed or stopped. The same eruption that caused the collapse was capable of producing nearly three thousand times the amount of lava as the American volcano, Mount St. Helens.

Eruption Effects

If another eruption were to happen from the Long Valley Caldera, the effects would be devastating, especially if it was equal to that of a previous eruption. The ash produced from the last known eruption caused complete or partial coverage all the way to Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas. Collectively, all the build up of pyroclastic flow deposited around the immediate area of Long Valley was called the Bishop Tuff. Pyroclastic flow is a mixture of small rocks, ash and pumice. This mixture can be incredibly hot and can travel up to ten miles away from the site of eruption. The extra ash thrown into the atmosphere could have changed the temperature of the earth, due to the greenhouse effect, too. With the recent scare of “global warming”, it is becoming evident just how terrible a change of a few degrees could be.

Although the Long Valley Volcano created the obvious destruction, it also helped shape the Mono Craters, Inyo Craters, and Mammoth Mountain. The Inyo Craters were the most recent to form, somewhere between 5,000 and 500 years ago. The Mono Craters were formed around 40,000 to 600 years ago. There are around 27 smaller volcanoes within the Mono Craters. Mammoth Mountain was formed around 400,000 to 60,000 years ago or “shortly” after the caldera of the Long Valley volcano was formed.

Community Benefits

These areas formed have been wildly beneficial for tourism and attractions. Interest in this area began around 1850 when people started to flock to the craters during the gold rush. Since then, the Long Valley Caldera and the surrounding areas have been popular zones to hike, camp, and explore. The Hilton Creek Fault and Glass Mountain are two tourist zones. The views and diversity of the area are very intriguing to many. Crowley Lake, within the Long Valley area, is a frequently successful fishing spot, too. Camping can also be done around Convict Lake. Mammoth Mountain has been turned into an incredibly popular North America ski resort, as well. During summer months Mammoth Mountain continues to entertain visitors by providing mountain bike trails and horse back riding. There is no limit to the things that can be done around the Long Valley Caldera area. These spots help, not only to educate people on the Long Valley Caldera, but also to help the economy of the surrounding area.


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