Mono Lake, Yosemite National Park
It is a very long drive over to Mono Lake but if you are driving the Tioga Road it is a side trip well worth the effort and if camping at Tuolomne Meadows, the town of Lee Vining where the lake is located is your closest place to shower, pick up supplies, or find a restaurant. The lake is not man-made but man sculpted in a sense. With Los Angeles' population booming, it was decided in 1941 to divert streams that once fed Mono Lake. The massive lake was cut in half and with its fresh water supply cut, it became three times as salty as the ocean, obviously having catastrophic effects on the wildlife that called the lake home. Conservation groups soon sprung up and have helped keep it from total destruction but it remains an eerie sight with giant tufa towers jutting up. We thought it was well worth the drive and would love to be here late afternoon/early evening some day for some prime photo opportunities.
It will take you nearly two hours to drive the 70 miles from Yosemite Valley but it's only a half hour from the Tioga Pass Entrance Station on the east side of the park.
Mono Lakes sits to the east of Yosemite NP, in the desert that rings the eastern part of the state. It is a geologic anomaly, formed when the large lake began to evaporate and be drained off, exposing these large irregular columns of carbonate deposits known as "tufas." These creations, similar in shape (but not size) to the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, give the lake an otherworldly aura.
It is not often visited, as you must travel along the Tioga road and through the pass to reach it. But it is a strange and interesting site to visit. Definitely a great photo opportunity, especially if you land there in the early or late parts of the day.
To the north of Mono Lake is the old ghost town of Bodie. Founded in 1859, it was a booming mining town for some decades. But early in the 20th century is was abandoned. Today it's a state historic park, the largest ghost town in the state.
In its day, it had an unsavory reputation for crime and corruption. A popular saying was "Goodbye God. I'm going to Bodie."
From Highway 395, take State Highway 270. Drive 10 miles until the paved road ends, then continue on for the last 3 miles of an unpaved dirt road.
Just a few miles east of the Tioga Pass Entrance is Mono Lake, an ice age relic now 700,000 years old. Tufa is scattered around this alkaline Great Basin lake. For a good part of the 20th century, Mono Lake was home to one of the greatest environmental conflicts in American history; the struggle of the Mono Lake Committee (led by the late David Gaines) against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. In the 1940s, the LAWDP began diverting water from creeks flowing into Mono Lake. This eventually lowered the level of the lake, threatening the wildlife and the beauty of the region. The Mono Lake Committee led a court battle against LADWP, and in the 1980's, courts ordered the water level of Mono Lake to be raised. Today, Mono Lake is rebounding, and also hauntingly beautiful. Since you've made it to Yosemite, there's no reason you shouldn't visit Mono Lake.
This lake has water so alkaline that it has a rather odd, soapy feel to it. Not many plants or animals survive here. But there are few, including insect species which provide food for birds. The birds use this as a stopover on their long migrations.
The water has high mineral content, forming weird rock formations known as tufas. These are mostly along the south shore of the lake.
Located near Lee Vining, California.
Do not give a miss to this lake and its formations. This lake has high concentrations of salt and alkali that form incredible formations.
Being there for the sunset was a great idea, we were not the only ones staying longer to do photos of the sunset, and we meet a French couple and an Australian guy.
Mono Lake is about 10 miles outside Yosemite via the Tioga Pass Road (closed in Winter).
Here you'll find a salt-water lake which is fed by the mineral rich water from the mountains around. As it emerges from the springs into the lake, it deposits the minerals in the form of limestone towers. Since water was diverted byt he local water authorities to provide drinking water, the water level has dropped about 40 feet revealing these towers. They are very spectacular and best seen at sunrise (5am in summer) and sunset (around 8 in summer).
Accomodation is available in Lee Vining where is cost us $14 to camp overnight.
Mono Lake is drying up, and soon it will be like Owens Lake - non-existent. Note the structures in the background ('Tufa'): They only develop IN water.
Mono Lake is situated at the foot of the Sierra (east), not far from Lee Vining. It used to be a real lake, with water up to its brim. But nowadays.....