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Image of Panum Crater near Mono Lake.
If you've ever wanted to see a 40,000-year-old crater created by a rhyolitic eruption (and why wouldn't you?) head on over to Virtual Yosemite today!

Virtual Yosemite: Panum Crater Near Mono Lake

For the interactive 360° VR experience, go to https://www.virtualyosemite.org/virtual-tour/#node291

A short distance east of Yosemite, and just beyond the south shore of Mono Lake lies a series of volcanic craters, some as old as 40,000 years, created by rhyolitic eruptions.

The newest of these is Panum Crater – believed to have formed only 650 years ago. Panum’s eruptions produced lava with high concentrations of silica (quartz – about 76 percent), making it very thick and glassy.

The cooling lava formed two primary types of rock – pumice, which is a very light in weight (it floats on water), and obsidian – a black, glassy rock that has extremely sharp edges when broken. Native Americans in the area made numerous hunting tools from obsidian, forming it into sharp arrow and spear heads, knives, drills, and scrapers.

The Panum Crater is comprised of an outer rim (shown here) made primarily of loose pumice, and an inner plug – a dome formed over the upward seeping lava near the end of the eruption, featuring numerous spires of mixed pumice and obsidian.

In this panoramic image, the view toward the south shows afternoon smoke from the devastating Creek Fire (about 30 miles away) blowing in through the June Lake area. Within an hour, the visibility here was down to just a few miles and the air quality deteriorated to unhealthy levels.

For several months in the summer and fall of 2020, smoke from the Creek Fire covered most of Yosemite National Park, Inyo National Forest, and the Mono Basin.

©2020 Photography by Scott Highton

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