pahavit (pahavit) wrote,

An Alien World in Menlo Park

An Alien World in Menlo Park

On Saturday D. and I went to the salt crystallization ponds in Menlo Park, where we found an alien landscape with few traces of life (and what little life there was struggling to survive). This contrasted sharply with the flourishing life in an adjacent flood control channel flowing with fresh water. Here's some pics I took.

At the parking area we see what we assume is a pump house for the salt evaporation ponds.  Its eaves are full of cliff swallow nests.

A rusty thing on the pump house platform.

San Francisco Bay is one of only two coastal salt works operations in the entire United States.

A series of salt evaporation ponds concentrates the brine solution.  When the brine is fully saturated, the salt begins to crystallize (a process that usually takes 5 years).

Salt crystals form at the pond surface, dropping to the bottom when they grow heavy enough to overcome the water's surface tension, eventually creating a bed of salt 12 inches deep.

There is enough salt in the ocean to cover the continents 500 feet deep.  Some of it is right here.

An alga called Dunaliella turns the water red.

The water is so saline that nothing else can live in or around it, creating an almost sterile alien landscape.

Taken out of context, this pic could be an aerial photo of the Arctic.

Is this Earth or the planet Mars? It can be hard to tell.

Looking southeast.

Is this a coconut or a Martian skull?

Life is harsh in this alien landscape.

This bottle is almost buried under the cement-hard surface of salt and mud.  I guess no one got the SOS. 

One section of the pond has a bizarre 25' long black void. The brine is too murky to tell anything about it at all, except that it is not an optical illusion or a reflection of the sky.  It is a mystery. 

Salt crust formations on the pond's shore.

A hawk skull cemented into the mud.  Life is harsh for prey and predator alike.

This severe landscape verges on the abstract.

Another crystallization pond.

Am I three feet above a San Francisco Bay salt pond or a thousand feet above a soda lake in Africa's Great Rift Valley?

Close to the levee we begin to see more signs of life.

Even though they have shut down their metabolisms during estivation, some of these milk snails will not survive the scorching summer heat.

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum has begun its blooming season.

This busted conduit looks like the broken ribcage of an extinct beast.

On the other side of the levee is another salt pond, but this one is bordered by a flood control channel flowing with fresh water.  We see more life here, including Canada geese.

♪♫♪ You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out . . . ♪♫♪

Some of these salt evaporation ponds once sent their output through a pipeline to other ponds for further processing. The harsh conditions here have taken their toll on the pipes.

This one shows its battle scars.

The view to the east.

Abstract alien world, with log.

It is a relief to see some normal-looking life, namely mallards in the flood control channel next to the salt pond.

A wolf spider (Schizocosa mccooki) pauses before scurrying across the levee.

I'm feeling kinda tired right about now.

Ducks on parade.


Canada goose in flight.

The orange stuff is a parasitic plant called dodder.  Since it gets its nutrients from the pickleweed, it does not need to have any chlorophyll to make its own food from sunlight.  It is common to see large swaths of orange in the salt marshes, but the pickleweed survives nonetheless.

The view across the salt flat moonscape toward the brontosaurus shape of the Dumbarton Bridge.

Access to a levee going into the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is denied.

Looking east across the salt ponds.

Looking west, with some of the black polyethylene pipeline visible.

A Pompilidae spider wasp feeds on nectar from fennel blossoms.  Adult females collect spiders and sting them to paralyze them for their larvae to feed on.

Bees also like to feed on the fennel.

On our way back we see the mallards again.

A Canada goose quenches its thirst in the flood control channel.

There are edumacational signs along the Bay Trail running adjacent to the salt ponds.  This one tells us about the range of the northern pintail duck.

Tags: abandoned, algae, alien, bay trail, bee, bird, bone, bottle, canada goose, carcass, cyanobacteria, duck, dumbarton bridge, field trip, flood control, flower, hawk, insect, jackrabbit, levee, mallard, mars, menlo park, milk snail, mystery object, mystery substance, nest, pickleweed, pipe, pumphouse, rabbit, rust, salt pond, sign, skull, snail, spider, swallow, wasp, wildlife refuge, wolf spider

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