Mono Lake: Visiting the strange formations of South Tufa
What I've learned from the countless road trips that I've taken is that some of the most interesting things lie right off of the highway. Whenever I plan to hit the road; whether it's a long or short trip, I always like to see what fun and interesting places can be seen before arriving to my final destination. My recent trip to South Lake Tahoe was no different, and I would soon realize that the highway used to get there was packed with jaw-dropping beauty!
Being that California is the third largest state in the United States there's no shortage of beautiful places to visit. For those who are fortunate enough to call California home; like myself, then you know just how diverse it is! It's known for having some of the most scenic roads, most notably Highway 1 that takes you all along the Pacific Coast, and another road I think is worth taking... Highway 395! Highway 395? Yes! It takes you all along the Eastern Sierras and includes many incredible stops along the way. One of which is Mono Lake, a majestic and ancient lake thought to have existed for over a million years!
I thought I had already seen the strangest lake when I visited the Salton Sea in southern California, but boy was I wrong! What makes Mono Lake so fascinating other than being one of the oldest lakes in North America, are its spectacular "tufa towers". These spires and knobs were formed by the interaction of the calcium rich spring water and the alkaline lake water. They were all once underwater, but are now revealed as the water level has declined. Back in the day, Los Angeles redirected a lot of the water to support its growing city and almost caused an ecological collapse, but now conservation efforts are in place at Mono Lake. There are a few different points on the lake where one can spot these strange formations, but probably none more prevalent than the lakes South Tufa. The South Tufa contains the highest concentration of tufa towers in Mono Lake and the countryside is picturesque with the Sierras looming overhead, and the Inyo Craters to the South. It's one of the most beautiful places that I've visited, the surreal landscape is quite memorable and it's definitely worth returning to!
THINGS TO KNOW
- Mono Lake is located off of Highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park near the town of Lee Vining, California.
- Winter is a particularly beautiful time at Mono Lake. The crowds are gone, a quiet stillness prevails, and snow crystals sparkle on the tufa towers.
- The Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center is a great place to start your visit to this area. The center is located just off Highway 395, north of Lee Vining and includes a variety of exhibits about the natural and human history of the Mono Basin. Visitor center staff stand ready to help you plan your explorations of Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra. The Visitor Center is closed Dec. 1 - March 31.
- Photographers come from all over the world to capture the interplay of light on the mountains, desert, and water. The natural history of the lake is described and explained in a one-mile self-guided nature trail at South Tufa. This is the best place to visit if you have time for only one stop.
DO YOU HAVE A STORY TO SHARE? SEND US AN EMAIL, AND SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA USING #THEMODERNDAYEXPLORER
About The Author
In 2015, Founder of TMDE Paul Martinez left a career in sales for a life of exploring. In just a matter of months he had visited over 10 countries, 30 cities, 10 states, countless national parks, taken thousands of photographs, and did a ton of soul-searching. His search uncovered a deep passion for exploration; which he now believes to be the essence of the human spirit, and led to the birth of The Modern Day Explorer. You can follow him on his personal journey by visiting his Instagram, and hopefully continue to support TMDE by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.