check out this post for some details of this fascinating place.
The real thrill of the day was to see water where water once was but was no longer, but once again was. Shall I explain?
During the Pleistocene Ice Ages between 2 million and 12,000 years ago, the climate of the northern hemisphere swung wildly from warm to cold and back to warm again, perhaps as many as twenty times. Ice accumulated across broad swaths of Canada and northern Europe, and several times crept across the border of the United States, ultimately covering around 30% of the lower 48 states. The thick ice cap never reached Oregon or California, but the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada developed an extensive network of alpine glaciers. Some streams of ice, for instance in the Tuolumne River basin, reached a length of 40 miles.
From several hundred thousand years to as recently as 10,000 years ago, basaltic lava flowed from cinder cones and fissures of the Coso Volcanic Field. Some of these flows blocked the river, and formed a forty-foot high waterfall. The river scoured a channel, and the waterfall eroded in an upstream direction. Boulders trapped in river eddies swirled around, forming amazingly deep potholes. And then the ice receded. The level of Owens Lake dropped below the rim, and the river through what we call Fossil Falls ended.
The river ended thousands of years ago, but on rare occasions there is an echo of the days when a wild river flowed through the gorge. I've seen it only twice, but when the rains have been plentiful in the Owens Valley, a small stream of water flows through Fossil Falls. That's what we got to witness last week, thanks to the Bombogenesis storm (or Lucifer, or whatever they called it). A river the color of a creamy latte made its way through dark basalts.
|This last picture is kind of cheat. I didn't climb down into the gorge for a close up, so this is from 2005, the only other time I've seen water at Fossil Falls.|