Pyramid Lake for Pelicans and More...

We have been meaning to visit this strangely beautiful place, since moving here. Seventy miles northeast of Lake Tahoe, the similarly sized but much less visited Pyramid Lake presents a very different appearance - 2,500 feet lower in elevation in the barren basin and range country on the dry eastern side of the Sierras. The lake is enclosed by treeless hills and sandy, sagebrush desert, and although Reno lies just 30 miles south, there is very little settlement nearby.

This area is part of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, a Paiute preserve of about 1,800 people, who care for this amazing place. We visited the museum, gathered information and then headed to the Lake.
Pyramid Lake is the site of some of the Earth's most spectacular tufa deposits. Tufa is a rock composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that forms at the mouth of a spring, from lake water, or from a mixture of spring and lake water. The explorer John C. Frémont (1845) wrote about the tufas during his 1843-44 expedition.


The Paiute name for the lake is Cui-Ui Panunadu, meaning fish in standing water. Their language is still very prevalent here.

Anaho Island supports one of the highest breeding colonies of American White Pelicans in the western United States. It is a national wildlife refuge that was established in 1913, as a sanctuary for colonial nesting birds, primarily these majestic pelicans.


In recent years, between 8000 and 10,000 pelicans have returned from their wintering grounds in southern California and Baja, Mexico. I think we were a tad early for the massive migration but the pelicans we did see were a great treat.
The more geologically interesting parts of the region are either off limits to the public or reachable only by rough tracks, including on the east side, The Pyramid, after which the lake was name. This is a conspicuous, pointed tufa mound right at the edge of the lake, forming a tiny island at times of high water. This is Lake is a place to which we will return. It is so unique and so close to us.

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