MONO LAKE MAGIC
The drive down US 395 from Carson City to Lee Vining was nothing short of spectacular. Sierra Mountains to the right and golden rolling hills to the left.
Did I mention the clouds? I don't think I've never seen a rainbow inside a cloud before.
We made camp at Mono Vista RV Park and set out to explore beautiful Mono Lake. Pronounced Moh-Noh , this lake is a remnant of an ancient lake that once covered the Great Basin of California.
It is an oasis in the very dry Great Basin area east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. There are no fish in the lake because of the high saline level. Instead there are trillions of brine shrimp and alkali flies- these provide food for the millions of migratory birds that visit each year.
A trail leads from the parking lot to the waters edge where unusual formations called tufa dot the landscape.
Tufa are fossilized limestone formations that developed underwater over centuries when underground springs rich in calcium interacted with the highly carbonate lake water. The reason you can see them now is because the lake level is so low. The water level fell dramatically after water diversions began in 1941. The lake level dropped 25 feet in 18 years.
The lake covers about 70 square miles and constantly changes colors from green to aqua marine to blue. The day we visited it was extremely windy.
Mono Lake is now a state preserve. When the ecosystem of the lake collapsed in the 1960's, people organized and demanded that water diversion be limited so the lake could revive. The water diversion project was established in 1941 to send water to Los Angeles- it took about 20 years to change the ecosystem. Today the salinity of the lake is monitored. Water flows down Lee Vinning creek to the lake.
We found some interesting sand formations on the shore. These were also formed under water but the springs weren't as high in calcium.
The lake sits in an active volcanic area. There are craters and hot springs in the surrounding hills.
The crater on this island is thought to be about 320 years old
I visited the lake @ dawn before we moved on.