Mono Lake. Lake in California, United States

Mono Lake

Lake in California, United States

Mono Lake Photo © JeffMoreau

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Mono Lake

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	Lake Tufas - Mono Lake
Mono Lake Tufas - Mono Lake. Photo by Tim Malabuyo
Mono Lake, the oldest lake in California, United States, is a majestic body of water that happens to be more than a million years old. One of the most prominent features that makes it so popular are its dramatic Tufa (Wikipedia Article) towers. These towers were formed when the rainfall at the lake could not keep up with the evaporation and therefore, allowed the minerals to build up around it. This is also a reason why the lake that we find today is two and half times more salty and eighty times more alkaline than the ocean water.

Visiting the lake is surely going to provide you with a lot of sightseeing. From wherever you approach the lake, the view is simply breathtaking. The wide expanse of water and the blue sky reflection, below the Lee Vining Town along with a giant rocky island in its center is an eye catching sight for all nature lovers.

Even though the smell of ammonia and sulfurous type odor around the lake shores (due to the rotting fish that is scattered due to low lake levels in the summers) is somewhat unpleasant, however it will make for some really interesting bird watching as you will find a wide species of bird flying around the shores for catching the fish. The checklist includes over 325 species of birds over the Mono Basin (Wikipedia Article), of which the interesting ones include the California gulls, sage thrashers, yellow warblers, green-tailed towhees, eared grebes, Wilson’s and the red-necked phalaropes. The Tufa formations itself are also truly amazing, in fact the South Tufa and the Mono Lake Basin make for the best visiting spots.

Sun rise, sun rise, see the morning in your eyes -
	Mono Lake
Sun rise, sun rise, see the morning in your eyes - Mono Lake. Photo by Chris Chabot

Things to do at the Mono Lake

A few activities that you can indulge yourself into are listed below.

Interpretive Programs

There are interpretive programs offered by the State Natural Reserve, US Forest Service and the Committee of Mono Lake. These programs include Tufa Walks at the South Tufa Area 3 times a day.

The Visitor Centre

The Mono Basin Scenic Area is a great starting place for visiting this area. Located north of Lee Vining Town, there are a variety of exhibits related to human history and nature of Mono Basin that you can be a part of. The staff is ready to help you explore the Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra, however it remains closed from the start of Dec till the end of March.

Various Outdoor Activities

Photography, bird watching, boating , swimming, cross country skiing and hiking are some of the outdoor activities that you can always enjoy at this unusual lake. Swimming in the lake provides for a memorable experience. According to a legend, the lake water cures almost anything that is soaked in it, so don’t forget to swim in the lake water if you get the chance, however try and keep it out of your eyes and any cuts you may have, as its saltier than ocean’s water and therefore stings more.

The sunshine falling on the desert, water and the mountains attracts photographers from world over to capture some of the most interesting shots. There is also a self guided natural trail at the South Tufa where the natural history of lake is described for those interested in it. If you have time for one stop only, then this is the place that you must visit. A walk below the trail will lead you to the north shore Tufa area and the wetlands.

You can also go for dispersed camping, which can be set up in the scenic area located above the lake bed lands, however campfire permits are required. Those interested in boating can always go for it as all types of boating are allowed. There is restricted access between the months of April and August due to nesting gulls. You are also advisable to stay near shore for high wind alerts. Kayak and canoe tours are available during the summer months, but if you want you can always explore the lake through your very own boat. Still, due to the alkaline nature, the popular watercraft are the kayaks and canoes. You must always check the weather forecast in advance to avoid any unpleasant experiences.

Milky Way from Mono Lake - Mono Lake
Milky Way from Mono Lake. Photo by Joe Parks

Travel Tips

Weather at the lake is erratic, which is why layered clothing is recommended. The well kept road to South Tufa allows access all year around except after the large storms.

Best Time to Visit

Even though anytime to visit the lake provides for a great travelling experience, you can visit it particularly during fall to sight see migrating birds stopping at the Mono Lake through the Pacific flyway migratory route. Winters are very quiet, however the snow crystals sparkling on the Tufa towers makes for a wonderful sight. The South Tufa, Old Marina and South Tufa Navy Beach are also some of the most amazing places to go for cross country ski considering the snowing conditions.

More Points of Interest to Enjoy in Lee Vining

Some of the more interesting points to enjoy in the town of Lee Vining include:

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Author: Khadija. Last updated: Jan 23, 2015

Pictures of Mono Lake

Mono Lake - Mono Lake
Mono Lake - Photo by Joe Parks

Mono Lake Painting - Mono Lake
Mono Lake Painting - Photo by Howard Ignatius

Mono Lake @ First Light    (Explore #10) - Mono Lake
Mono Lake @ First Light (Explore #10) - Photo by Jerry Kirkhart


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