Saturday, July 03, 2021

Mono Lake

Mono Lake has always called to me because of the interesting features that surround the lake.  I think I saw it briefly in passing in 2004 or so.  It was on my list if we were going to drive up HWY 395.  I was hoping for sunrise or sunset, but the drive did not work out for that.  In retrospect, I think sunrise would offer better photographic opportunities because the sun sets in the west behind mountains not allowing that golden, magical light.  

It was later in the afternoon, but not “magic light” time, when Henry and I headed down the walking trail to the lake’s edge.  In some ways I wish I had taken the Canon 5D MKII and tripod, but since the light was still harsh, I only carried my phone and my field camera.  The Tufa Towers are incredibly photogenic even when the lighting is not ideal. 

Mono Lake is known for its unusual formations: Tufa Towers. This formations grow underwater as freshwater springs with calcium react with the lake water that is rich in carbonates forming calcium carbonate which is limestone.  The calcium carbonate precipitates out and over centuries the tufa towers grow. 

Today the lake level at Mono Lake is much lower than in the past because Los Angeles drew water from the tributary streams beginning in 1941.  The water level got so low that the lake's salinity was too high for the life forms in it.  The dry lake bed had natural toxins that were stirred up by dust storms. California gulls needed higher water to be able to succesful nesting.  When we were there, the lake was not at its desired level, but it is higher now than it was when they made the decision to quit transferring water from the streams. 

Mono Lake has not natural outlet, so the water is salty, 2-3 times saltier than the ocean.   It has no fish, but it has brine shrimp and alkali flies which feed the migratory birds each year.  I did try to photograph the tiny shrimp and flies, but I don't see any in the photos.  The lake itself had interesting patterns with white foam on the waves. 

The birds at Mono Lake deserve their own post   But as we left, there were flowers that called to be documented:

Freemont's Phacelia

Bigelow's Monkeyflower
And here we are . . . 

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