Tufa texture

The Lake's Geological Features



Though Pyramid Lake is filled with geological wonders, one of mother nature’s most impressive creations are the geyser and hot springs that pepper the north end of the Lake. While no longer open to non-tribal visitors, they remain a point of interest for those keen on learning more about the various histories and hidden gems around the Lake.

Not only are the geyser and hot spring a beautiful sight to see, but they are also one of the main sources of the Tufa rock formations. Even though the geyser is now a beautiful (and relaxing) attraction, they were once submerged completely underwater during the existence of the ancient Lake Lahontan.

Tufa formation


One of Pyramid Lake’s most striking features are the amazing rock structures that both surround and jut out of its waters. These rock formations, ancient and mystical to the untrained observer, are called Tufas. Created between 26,000 and 13,000 years ago during the time when Lake Lahontan still covered much of Nevada, they have become a fixture of the northern Nevada landscape as one of the Earth’s largest deposits.

The reef-like, and sometimes sheet-like, structures are composed of calcium carbonate that can form from spring water, lake water or a mixture of the two. Interested in learning more about the Tufas? Visit the United States Geological Survey for more information.

Anaho Island

Anaho Island Terraces

Pyramid Lake is has four principle erosional terraces that are scattered throughout the geological formations of the Lake. These terraces serve as a somewhat of a visual history of the Lake’s water levels. Anaho Island happens to exhibit all four of these terraces, and if visitors know what to look for, they’ll be able to trace the formation of the Lake they see today.

The lowest of the four terraces can be seen between the elevations of 1,177 and 1,183 meters with its distinct feature being the white “bathtub” ring that covers the broad, flat erosional surface. The middle terrace is the hardest to miss with a low, relatively flat bench that extends from the elevation of Emerson Pass Sill (the overflow point) to the Smoke Creek Desert. The outer edge of the upper terrace is at 1267 meters and consists of reef-like tufas, and the highest terrace occurs at an elevation of 1,337 meters and has a distinct wedge-shaped platform of rounded cobbles and gravel.