This Beautiful California Lake Is One Of The Oldest In The Western Hemisphere
When you imagine waterfront scenes in California, your mind likely jumps to the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. While we’re all for the sea and its many attractions, there’s something truly special about California’s inland lakes. There’s one such lake that offers a unique combination of natural beauty, incredible history, and plenty of space for exploration.
Mono Lake is situated on Hwy. 395 near the town of Lee Vining, California.
While Mono Lake sits just 13 miles from Yosemite National Park, it doesn’t see nearly as much traffic as its world-famous neighbor.
The lake is comprised of 70 square miles and sits in the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the high deserts of the Great Basin, so the landscape around it is quite unique. Mono Lake also holds the title of one of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest lakes and is estimated to be between 1-3 millions years old.
Perhaps the most unusual feature of Mono Lake is the otherworldly limestone formations found along the lake’s shoreline. These stunning growths are known as tufa towers.
What makes them particularly unique is the way they are formed. Most limestone features are created by the slow process of water dripping in caves; however, tufa towers grow upwards as a result of the mineral composition from underground springs, so tufa can only form underwater.
Why can we see them towering over the shoreline? In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began diverting freshwater tributaries around Mono Lake, which dropped the lake's water level by half and uncovered many of the tufa towers that had previously been underwater.
You won’t see fish in the lake, as the water here has a very high salt content - another result of the water diversion and the fact that the lake has no tributaries to carry runoff to the ocean. However, Mono Lake is not devoid of wildlife; a large population of brine shrimp thrives in the lake, as they prefer high-salinity environments.
The lake also serves as a home for migratory birds and is a vital stop along their flyway, making Mono Lake a unique spot for birdwatching. Around two million waterbirds and shorebirds spend time at Mono Lake each year.
The natural beauty of Mono Lake is unmatched - in addition to the incredible tufa towers, you’ll also catch reflections of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the peaceful water. The basin surrounding Mono Lake is simply serene.
As you can imagine, Mono Lake attracts photographers who come to capture its otherworldly beauty, scientists who study the tufa towers, and everyday explorers looking for a unique destination. The Mono Lake Committee offers everything from ecological field seminars to guided tours, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to learn more about this amazing place.
No matter your motivation for visiting, you’ll always find something new to love and it’s a fascinating spot that the whole family will enjoy.
For more information about Mono Lake and its many attractions, click
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