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Long Valley Caldera: Hydrothermal System

Updated on September 4, 2012

The Long Valley Caldera also has a thriving hydrothermal system. Hydrothermal simply means “hot water”. Hydrothermal systems are caused when heat from the underground magma rises and warms the groundwater above. The heated water can create hot springs, geysers, etc. The groundwater comes from snow and ice melted from the surrounding mountains. The largest of the springs is in Hot Creek Gorge. Hot Creek Gorge is located at the base of Mammoth Mountain and is a popular tourist zone. However, some hot springs at Hot Creek Gorge are so warm that they can cause extreme burns.

Mineral Deposits

A result from this unusually warm water is mineral deposits. The warm water can make some chemical reactions easier to take place. The reactions can leech certain minerals out of rocks and deposit them elsewhere. Substances such as kaolinite and amorphous silica have been formed. Sometimes, after a certain mineral has been leeched out of a rock, the alteration was so extensive that the original rock is not recognizable anymore. In the eastern part of the caldera, when chemical reactions take place, silicon becomes silica amorphous and sulfur gases become acid sulfate. Clays and sulfates are popular by-products, as well.

Because of the hydrothermal system, the Long Valley area has been popular with miners, too. The kaolinite formed from the chemical reactions is used in all kinds of personal and cosmetic products. Gold and Silver have also been found quite abundantly in the Long Valley area. It has been estimated that around one hundred million tons of silver and gold are scattered throughout the Long Valley Caldera. Unfortunately, it can be as far down as two hundred feet. Gold is in its highest concentration around the “Morrison Block”. This area includes Mount Morrison, Deadman Pass, and Bishop Creek.

Geothermal Energy

The hydrothermal system also creates geothermal energy. This energy can be incredibly beneficial. It has been estimated that around forty thousand houses can be supplied with electricity through the geothermal energy from the Long Valley area. In turn, a reduced amount of coal used helps provide for a greener environment. The warm water provided by the hydrothermal system also helps breed a large number of trout, which benefits the surrounding areas seafood economy.


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