One of the most beautiful and oldest lakes in the world, estimated at 760,000 years old, Mono Lake has the look of an alien planet. Its haunting beauty is a photographer’s paradise. The shimmering blue water reflects its amazing landscape. An immense inland sea, the 70 square mile lake fills a natural basin which is 700 square miles in size. The lake is located just 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park in California.
The trouble with Mono Lake began when the city of Los Angeles, located hundreds of miles to the south, started diverting water from the Mono Basin in 1941. The diversion has cut the lake’s water level in half and has doubled its alkalinity and salinity which severely damaged the lake’s ecosystem. An extended court fight has finally stopped the water diversion and the lake is growing once again.
Perhaps the most intriguing of Mono Lake’s natural phenomena are the tufa towers, visible along much of the shoreline. Tufas form exclusively underwater when calcium comes into contact with carbonates, causing a chemical reaction which results in limestone. Over the course of decades to centuries, the build-up of limestone causes a tufa tower to grow. Declining lake levels have exposed the tufa towers we see today. Some of these towers have grown up to 30 feet.