The first place we visited upon our arrival in Bishop was the visitor center. The gentleman there was very helpful and pointed out a few interesting places to visit that are not included in the usual tourist brochures. Once he found out we had a Jeep he told us about the columns at Crowley Lake. We had just driven past the lake on our drive to Bishop from Lee Vining but knew nothing of the columns. He shared pictures of the columns and used Google Earth to show us how to get to them by crossing the Crowley Dam and negotiating a series of dirt roads. We invited Dave and Sue to join us as we set out to find these elusive columns.
The roads leading to the columns was pretty smooth except for one short part that required four wheel drive and a bit of maneuvering. But we soon found the parking area and began hiking down the bluff to the shore of the lake. We could see the columns right in front of us as we descended to the shoreline.
Carved by wind and water into the soft pumice cliffs of the shore, this series of small, shallow caves and soaring stand alone columns of white and pink volcanic rock create a wonderland of water and crazily-sculpted stone.
Low lake levels from the on-going drought in California have exposed the columns and caves making them accessible for exploration.
Dave tried to show off his muscles by lifting a large rock over his head.
But the nimble hiker quickly exposed his deception. The volcanic rocks are quite light and some feel like they are really made of Styrofoam.
The caves were not very deep and the strong odor was evidence that they were the home to bats. We didn’t go very far into the caves as we didn’t want to disturb these fragile creatures (the smell also discouraged us).
The caves extended for quite a ways down the shoreline but a spot where the water came right up to the cliff prevented us from further exploration.
After hiking back up over the bluffs, we returned to the Jeep and made our way back the same dirt roads. All of us agreed the visit to this hidden gem was one of the highlights of our tour down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.