Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Surreal Mono Lake Landscapes

East of Yosemite N.P. and not far from the town of Lee Vining is the singular Mono Lake. Not commonly will you find a place with such fascinating formations and I'd say this is a definitely must for any bucket list (especially if you'll be passing by Lake Tahoe and Yosemite anyway).

A first glimpse of Mono Lake from a distance at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center in Lee Vining. The tufa towers are barely noticeable sticking out of the water.

Mono lake is primarily renown for its special tufa formations, a kind of limestone formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from surrounding water bodies.

Probably the best place to start exploring is from the South Tufa/Navy Beach area. The drive from the information center to South Tufa is about 20 minutes away after heading south on the I-395 and then east on the SR 120. There is a fee of $3 per adult although the sights of the South Tufa trail are definitely worth it.

Due to the history of Los Angeles having diverted the feeder, freshwater streams of the lake to meet its own water demand, Mono Lake suffered from a severe loss of water volume and significantly affected the ecosystem. As a result of this, many of the tufa towers that were previously underwater now stood high dry land amidst the desert vegetation.

Conservation efforts are now in place to restore the water level of the lake. If you're here, give the water a try and you'll definitely feel the alkalinity. It's almost as though you're putting your hands in some soapy water.

The lake is also home to a large number of alkali flies, which you'll no doubt encounter at the water's edge, which are main food source for millions of birds.

Looking out west, you can see Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance framed by a particular tall tufa tower.

Again, if your plans already take you near either Lake Tahoe or Yosemite, this place would be a great stop to add to your itinerary. The experience certainly won't disappoint!

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