Mono Lake Tufa SR
Narrated by Russ Christoff
When you pass through the town of Lee Vining, while traveling Highway 395, you can’t miss Mono Lake.
Covering nearly 60 square miles, this 700,000 year old body of water is one of the oldest lakes in North America.
If you plan to visit the extraordinary Tufa Grove in the state reserve, be sure to stop in and get a map at the Mono Basin Visitor’s Center first.
This state of the art structure is an easy turnoff from 395, and is full of displays and information on the rich natural and cultural history of the area.
The National Forest Service owns and operates the center, whose mission is to educate the public about the areas fragile ecosystem.
Checkout the scenery from the balcony while you are there. The view is astonishing.
A handy bookstore run by the Eastern Sierra Interpretative Association, is also located inside. With good books on Mono Lake and nearby Bodie State Historic Park.
Don’t leave the center without first getting film for your camera.
Mono Lake with its back drop of the majestic Eastern Sierras, the volcanic craters to the north and south, and its exquisite high desert flora, will turn any photograph taken here, into a work of art.
One of Mono Lake’s highlights is at the South Tufa area. If your stay is going to be short, this is the area I recommend visiting.
This section of the basin is located about ten miles from the visitor center, and involves a turnoff at Highway 120 East.
From the parking lot at South Tufa, hikers take a one quarter mile unpaved trail which will lead them down into the ancient Tufa Grove.
Here before you lay a geological masterpiece.
These unusual spires, some towering over 30 feet, are created when calcium rich fresh water springs bubble up into alkaline lake water.
When all the liquid elements combine, the result is a solid in the form of limestone.
The tufa towers were all created under water.
When the mountain streams that once fed Mono Lake were diverted to the Los Angeles water supply, the lake began to dry up and the formations were exposed.
Although Mono Lake has often been referred to as a dead sea, the lake supports and amazing amount of wildlife, including alkali flies and brine shrimp.
Boating is permitted on the lake with Navy Beach???, east of the South Tufa area, being a good spot to launch your canoe or kayak.
Boaters are encouraged to stay close to shore at all times because of sudden and unpredictable squalls.
North of Lee Vining, visitors will find the Mono Lake County Park.
This is a good place to have a picnic and let your kids unwind.
The county park also has a boardwalk that leads to a view of more tufa formations.
California State Parks is responsible for protecting the land bordering the shoreline around Mono Lake. All of this area has received state reserve status, giving the land and its features the highest level of protection from further damage.
All the resources found here are to be left where they’re found, and the tufa formations may not be walked or climbed on.
This is so that there beauty may be admired by future generations.
Tours of the South Tufa area are given on certain days throughout the year.
If you would like to join a tour, call ahead for weather conditions and time schedules.