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Convict Lake Moraines, Geology on California Highway 395
Geology of Convict Lake
While sitting in camp at Convict Lake one wonders about the vistas rising before you. The panarama has two magnificent pikes, a deep cold lake, and gravel on all sides.
The biggest thing that happened here is a very large volcano blew. The volcano was active because a hot zone developed due to forces crunching and building the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the U.S. west coast. Cailifornia Hwy. 395 cuts through the Long Valley Caldera, the main feature of that long ago event. That moment in time is also evident as you drive up Hwy. 395 from Los Angeles, because basalt and cinder cones litter the scenery.
Later, about 20,000 years ago, cold set in and huge glaciers crawled down the mountains and left piles of rock called moraines. Convict Lake formed because a moraine is acting as a natural dam holding the water back.
Photo above illustrates the classic U-shape a glacier leaves behind. On each side are lateral moraines. In the foreground is a close up of what the moraines are made of. The lake is 140 feet deep. Ice and water moved the material down the slope in radiating deposits and aerial photos give clear evidence of the glacier's work.
Are you interested in geology?
East End Natural DamClick thumbnail to view full-size
Aerial View of Sierra Nevada Moraines
Photo Above by Marli Miller
This aerial view of a spot visited so often by West Coast campers is an eye popping new perspective. Many questions are now answered about this quiet place in the mountains of California. All the material the glacier moved to form the distinctive ripples is called till. It is clear the ice flow made a sharp left turn and advanced to make the large moraine near the bottom of the photo. Imagine a series of warm and cold years over hundreds of years creating the ripples going uphill toward the lake. The lake would have been larger at the peak of glacier melting.
View of the Down Slope End of Moraine FieldClick thumbnail to view full-size
Laurel Mountain Is a Photography Workshop Stop
In modern times, only the last 100 years, Convict Lake began as a camping and fishing resort spot. In the last couple of decades it has expanded into a wedding destination with a Four Star Restaurant rating. Multi-room, well appointed, rustic cabins have been built for wedding guests and families. Music from the white hosting tent is evident every Saturday night and can be heard at the campground.
Many visitors of the area take photography workshops and the east end of Convict Lake is a very popular photo stop at dawn.
Here are some awesome photos. James Neeley's Flickr post Moonset at Convict Lake is at dawn with moon glow. Technically, I do not know how an image like this is captured, but it is spectacular. The second link is a collection of photos of Convict Lake on Flickr. There are dozens of photos of California scenery and the American vacation lifestyle.
Photography at Convict Lake
Have you been to Convict Lake?
Red is Route 395
Highway 395 in California Is for Camping
It is easy to meet RV travelers from all over the world along this highway. The rental minivans converted with complete housekeeping amenities, except the bathroom, are for rent at major airports in California. A new traveler can spend many days seeing the geology of the area. Campgrounds with dry camping or no hookups are available, and places to stop for the night are plentiful. Be sure to have a campground guide, because not all campgrounds are posted along the highway.
Side trips to see volcanic features in California are Lassen National Park. Mt Lassen is over 10,000 feet and blew in 1915 sending ash nearly 300 miles to the east. Visit mud pots and stinking fumaroles. Lava Beds National Monument is lava tube cave heaven for slunkers. The area has the largest lava field in California.
Mono County, CA
When visiting Convict Lake you are in Mono County, CA. California counties are not as famous as the Irish counties, but they are by far larger. Enjoy geology and the wilderness in the eastern side California!
A Rainy Day Look of Convict Lake Basin
© 2013 Sherry Venegas