Sunday, 5 March 2017

Mono Lake, California

Even though it looks a bit like something out of a science fiction film, Mono Lake is very pretty.   A bit Weird, but pretty.

The lake is 2½ times saltier than the sea, 100 times more alkaline and much denser than either the sea or fresh water.   I think you’d find it hard not to float!   There are no exits from the lake so the only way water leaves is by evaporation.

The white columns are tufa which is created by springs rich in calcium flowing into the lake, where it mixes with carbon in the water and forms calcium carbonate a type of limestone.

Over time the tufa forms towers and only stops growing when the lake level drops.   As well as looking decidedly weird tufa’s very fragile, not to mention extremely sharp and would probably cut you to ribbons if you fell on it.

During the breeding season Mono Lake is home to 80% of California’s gull population.   Thank goodness we weren’t there then, it must be like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’!   Akali flies (very pesky and they bite!) and even Osprey, who nest at the top of tufa’s, are among the many other different species found around the lake.

In 1941 the city of LA extended it’s water aqueduct system into the Mono Basin and started diverting water from 4 of the 6 streams that feed the lake.   This caused the lake to drop nearly 50 vertical feet and double its salinity over the next 40 years.   The retreating water also caused dreadful dust storms and health problems. 

After lots of wrangling, all parties agreed to return the water in the lake to an elevation of 6,392 ft, even so the water will still be 25ft lower than before water diversion started.

Our last stop around Mono Lake was ‘Navy Beach’.   During the Cold War it was home to one of many remote US testing facilities.

Operated by the US Navy, hence the name, the facility closed in 1962 and if it wasn’t for the marker and the name of the beach you’d never have known it ever existed. 

Have fun, we are!

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