These pale gray and ivory "tufa towers," located in California's Mono Lake, may look like eerie art instillations, but they occur naturally and are made of limestone. Check out more of these fantastical towers.
Tufa, the unusual rock formations that jut out of Mono Lake in California's Eastern Sierra, are famous for their otherworldly beauty. The greatest concentration of these unique "towers" is located at the south end of the lake. In the photo above, the moon rises over one of the dark ivory towers.
Made of limestone, tufa forms as a byproduct of the precipitation of carbonate minerals from surrounding water. When water from heated underwater hot springs rich in calcium meet with the carbonates in lake water, the result is calcium carbonate, also known as limestone.
The uncanny tufa formations take on a golden appearance at sunset.
The formations look especially eerie in this photo, taken during a cool autumn morning.
Another strangely beautiful early morning shot of the tufa formations, with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.
The tufa towers rise like giant sand castles, peeking above Mono Lake's surface.
The odd shapes that tufa take can sometimes resemble coral. Towers like these were once submerged, but gradually began to become visible as water was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the surface level of Mono Lake fell.
hown at sunrise.Mono Lake is what remains of a much larger Pleistocene lake known as Lake Russell, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Here, the lake is shown at sunrise.
Mono Lake's tall grasses and shrubbery are shown growing along the bottom of this tufa formation.
The delicate white tufa towers formed where freshwater springs percolate up from the bottom of the lake.
This photo of the towers was taken during wintertime. The more recent calcareous, or calcium carbonate, deposits that make up the tufa formations are closer to the bottom and lighter in color.
A sunset casts a warm glow over the tufa formations as seagulls forage for dinner.
The tufa towers are seen in this reflection in Mono Lake's calm waters. However, the water's serene surface is sometimes disturbed by circular wave patterns that are caused by bubbles from freshwater springs rising to the top.
This stunning shot shows the towers' reflections against the salmon pink sky, with the periwinkle haze of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.