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Lakes: Eastern Sierra

Mono Lake

Mono Lake, at an elevation of 6,382 feet has held water for over 760,000 years. Of volcanic origins, Mono Lake covers an area of a little over 45,000 acres and is about 160 feet at its deepest point. The lake is too alkaline for fish to live, but supports an abundance of birds living on alkali flies, which in turn live off brine shrimp, which feed on algae growing in the water which is approximately 3 times saltier than the ocean.

The reserve was established to preserve the spectacular "tufa towers," calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water.


For the last three to four million years the whole basin has been tilting westward and sinking while the Sierra has been ...

An Ancient Sea

And it is an ancient lake, (about 760,000 years old) -- One of the oldest lakes in ...


Mono Lake's tufa towers (pronounced "toofah") are spectacular examples of what nature can do with a few ...


Mono has been called a "dead sea" but it actually abounds with life. Few animals can tolerate Mono's salty, alkaline water, but ...

Historic Photos of Mono Lake

Regional Information

    Geomorphic Provinces

    California's geomorphic provinces are naturally defined geologic regions that display a distinct landscape or landform.

    Basin & Range
    The province is characterized by interior drainage with lakes and playas, ...

    Sierra Nevada

    Ecosystem Information

    Mono Ecosection
  • Mono Valley

    Outdoor Activities


    Highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park, near the town of Lee Vining, California.

    Seasons/Climate/Recommended clothing

    The weather can be changeable; layered clothing is recommended.

    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 road to South Tufa is kept plowed, allowing year round access except immediately after large storms.

    South Tufa, Old Marina, and the State Reserve boardwalk below the Mono Lake County Park are all wonderful places to cross-country ski when snow conditions permit.

    Mono Lake Satellite Image

    More examples of tufa "towers", can be seen at
    Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark
click the photo to view the slideshow pictures
photo of Mono Lake

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These items are historical in scope and are intended for educational purposes only; they are not meant as an aid for travel planning.
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