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73 votes

Mono Lake

55620 U.S. 395, Coleville, California 96107 USA

  • Independent
  • Public
  • Outdoor
  • No Wifi

“exposing tufa towers since '41”

Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline soda lake in Mono County, California, formed at least 760,000 years ago as a terminal lake in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake. These salts also make the lake water alkaline. This desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp that thrive in its waters, and provides critical nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp. The human history of Mono Lake is associated with its productive ecosystem. The native Kutzadika'a people derived nutrition from the larvae of the alkali flies that live in the lake. When the city of Los Angeles diverted water from flowing into the lake, it lowered the lake level, which imperiled the migratory birds. The Mono Lake Committee formed in response, winning a legal battle that forced Los Angeles to partially restore the lake level. In order to provide water needs for the growing city of Los Angeles, water was diverted from the Owens River into the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power extended the Los Angeles Aqueduct system farther upriver into the Mono Basin. So much water was diverted that evaporation soon exceeded inflow and the surface level of Mono Lake fell rapidly. By 1982 the lake was reduced to 37,688 acres (15,252 ha) having lost 31 percent of its surface area of 1941. As a result alkaline sands and formerly submerged tufa towers became exposed, and Negit Island became a peninsula, exposing the nests of sea gulls to predators (such as coyotes), and forcing the sea gull colony to abandon this site. Currently, Mono Lake is in a geologically active area at the north end of the Mono–Inyo Craters volcanic chain and is close to Long Valley Caldera. Volcanic activity continues in the Mono Lake vicinity: the most recent eruption occurred 350 years ago, resulting in the formation of Paoha Island. Panum Crater (on the south shore of the lake) is an excellent example of a combined rhyolite dome and cinder cone. he Diver, a photo taken by Storm Thorgerson for Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here (1975), features what appears to be a man diving into a lake, creating no ripples. The photo was taken at Mono Lake, and the tufa towers are a prominent part of the landscape. The effect was actually created when the diver performed a handstand underwater until the ripples dissipated. The general appearance of the lake and surrounding mountains circa 1973 can also be seen in the Clint Eastwood film High Plains Drifter.

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Reviewed by
Daryn Hillhouse

  • 49 Reviews
  • 81 Helpful
August 31, 2014
Rated 5.0

They say that often the best surprises are the places that jump out of nowhere, and Mono Lake is definitely one of those... It’s only when you’re halfway past the lake does the beauty and majesty of the location hit you. You’ll soon find yourself pulling over and spending an hour taking in the scenery... it really is stunning, and one of the those places that will leave you telling stories about it for year to some.

Next time we will definitely be stopping over for a night... and a swim! Added to my bucket list!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • Road Warrior
  • 401 Reviews
  • 205 Helpful
September 28, 2014
Rated 5.0

Have you ever seen natural mountains of rocky salt? We hadn't until we visited Mono Lake.

With the help of our camera's zoom lens we were able to see birds nesting at the tall salt rocks of the lake. This place is specified for bird watching.

The hike is very easy if you follow the trails, and there were many visitors around.

If you visit then take in mind you will need water because there isn't any shop at the surrounding area.

I would recommend binoculars to the wildlife lovers!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Krystal Bailey

  • Road Warrior
  • 19 Reviews
  • 52 Helpful
June 04, 2014
Rated 5.0

Mono Lake is breath taking. The flies are pretty gross but you get over it. Even Mark Twain commented on them. No body can take a bad photo of mono and when I went we were the only people brave enough to take a dip or a float as it were. Bring a jug of water with you. Some people are sensitive to all the salt in the water so just rinse yourself off when you are done!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 11 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
June 27, 2017
Rated 3.0

Pretty cool place. Worth a stop as you drive by.

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Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
August 22, 2016
Rated 5.0

What an amazing place, never seen anything like it. The alkaline flies are disgusting, yet so interesting. Seems like a place that belongs in another country.

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Reviewed by
E. B.

  • 18 Reviews
  • 11 Helpful
October 18, 2015
Rated 5.0

This place is a hidden treasure. Been there a couple times now and each time better than the last.

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Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
July 29, 2015
Rated 5.0

Worth the drive.

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Reviewed by
A Jaunt With Joy

  • Road Warrior
  • 119 Reviews
  • 28 Helpful
April 16, 2015
Rated 4.0

South Lake Tufa's had the best photo opps, though it was a few bucks to park there.

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Mono Lake

55620 U.S. 395
Coleville, California
96107 USA

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  • Independent
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • No Wifi
  • Yes Parking

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