Scenery: Mono Lake’s spectacular scenery is otherworldly. Its waters always seem to be a different shade of blue or green, its unique limestone tufa towers warrant hours of exploration, and the surrounding landscape – from the volcanic Mono Craters to the iconic Eastern Sierra – are world-class.
History: From the native Katzadika’a people’s way of life to the first westerners, Mark Twain’s famous visit in his book Roughing It to more recent history in a political and environmental struggle over water rights, Mono Lake’s history is rich and fascinating.
Science: Mono Lake’s unique scenery owes itself to the unique chemistry of its waters. Containing chlorides, carbonates and sulfates, it’s almost three times saltier than the ocean! All those minerals built its famous tufa towers and shaped the local ecology that makes the region a natural wonder.
Geology: The Mono Basin is a tectonic basin formed by faults and a warp in the earth’s crust – dating somewhere from one to three million years old. The Mono Craters to the south are North America’s youngest volcanic chain – most recently erupting 700 years ago. Paoha Island in Mono Lake – also volcanic in origin – emerged within the last 350 years, making a protected place for birds to nest.
Birding: Mono Lake is a migratory bird mecca, and a must-see spot for any birder. Eared Grebes, Wilson Phaloropes, Red-necked Phalaropes and 79 other species pass through Mono Lake, and 85 percent of California’s breading population of California gulls nests at Mono Lake.
Pop Culture: From Clint Eastwood’s classic western, High Plains Drifter, to a picture on the album jacket of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Mono Lake’s landscape has been a magnet for the film industry, musicians, artists and photographers. Enjoy an occasional 80s hair band jam? Mono Lake was also the filming location for Cinderella’s Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone). The ghost town Bodie is in there too.
Yosemite: Sitting at the crossroads of US Highway 395 – which spans the scenic eastern Sierra, and Highway 120, which climbs Tioga Pass to the eastern entrance of Yosemite National Park – Mono Lake is the gateway to the park’s Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake and Olmsted Point.
If you go: Stay at Tioga Lodge right across the street from Mono Lake, and grab a bite to eat at the Mono Inn with a beautiful view across the lake, or the unique and fun Whoa Nellie Deli. Ice cream at the Mono Cone on a warm summer day shouldn’t be missed either. Visit the Mono Lake Committee Information Center in Lee Vining to learn more, or drop by the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center which overlooks Mono Lake to speak with Forest Service staff. Find out more at monocounty.org or call (800)845-7922.
About Mono County:
Located approximately 310 miles west of Las Vegas, 315 miles north of Los Angeles, and 280 miles east of San Francisco, Mono County accesses the east entrance to Yosemite National Park and beckons visitors in all seasons. The region was listed among the Top 10 U.S. destinations by Lonely Planet and its major thoroughfare, US Highway 395, has been named among the country’s best five road trips by USA Weekend. From abundant trout fishing, hiking, horseback riding and bird watching in summer, stunning fall foliage in autumn, to wintertime pursuits of skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing – and simply partaking in good old-fashioned fun in the snow – Mono County is a year-round recreation paradise. For more information or to request guides, visit www.MonoCounty.org or call 800-845-7922.
Mono Lake Photos: