Mono Lake Tufa Preserve

On the south shore of the picturesque Mono Lake is a collection of rock formations known as tufa. For thousands of centuries, the level of Mono Lake has fluctuated, with ancient lakeshores easily visible from commercial airliners. As the lake rises, more minerals cling to the existing structures, building them larger and taller. It really seems unlikely that the water levels will be rising, in the near future, even with the waters from Rush Creek being permanently sustained. There are just a few pocket glaciers left in the Sierra Nevada but, there were some very wet years in the 80’s which pushed water levels higher. This is a Forest Service site, which requires a fee or pass. Improvements include a nice boardwalk, bathrooms, a parking area and periodic road grading.

I stayed until well after sundown, capturing some dramatic shots. There were about another 30 photographers there, as well. It is a fragile place but, I haven’t seen much damage in the 30 years since I first saw it.

1 thought on “Mono Lake Tufa Preserve”

  1. Larry Harrell has written about and photographed one of the most important places in my life: Mono Lake in the magnificent Mono Basin of eastern California and western Nevada.
    As recalled in my memoir “Toiyabe Patrol: Five U.S. Forest Service Summers East of the High Sierra in the 1960s,” I fought my first fire in the Mono Basin in June 1962. “About forty miles from the [Bridgeport] ranger station, it was a BLM fire burning in the open pinyon-juniper woodland of the Mono Basin. … It really wasn’t much of a fire. Less than an acre of pinyon and juniper, as I recall. Buyt it was a thrilling first visit to the Mono Basin–John Muir’s ‘country of wonderful contrasts’ I would write a master’s degree thesis about some twenty-two years later–that holds me in thrall to this day. I guess I’d seen it on the map, but I really wasn’t ready for what I saw as the pickup topped Conway Summit on the way to that fire. The brillian blue expanse of Mono Lake–the ‘solumn, silent, sailless sea’ of Mark Twain’s 1872 classis ‘Roughing It’–with its black and white islands, dominated a Mono Basin golden in the late afternoon sun. ‘Hot deserts bordered by snow-laden mountains, cinders and ashes scattered on glacier-polished pavements, frost and fire working together in the making of beauty.’ Muir had written in ‘My First Summer in the Sierra’ of the scene I beheld that June afternoon of my first summer in the Sierra. And even his prose fell far short.”
    That master’s thesis, entitled “The Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Geography of the Mono Basin, California and Nevada,” written from 1982-1984 at Birkbeck College, University of London, while I was a U.S. Navy officer assigned to the Ministry of Defence in London, earned me a Master of Philosophy degree in geography from that esteemed institution.
    Bob Hoag, the first U.S. Forest Service district ranger I worked for on the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Toiyabe National Forest, was in 1985 detailed from the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho–where he’d been a key player in establishing the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and managing that forest’s famous ski areas–to serve on tghe intra-regional “blue ribbon committee” that set up the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area on the Inyo National Forest.
    I return to the Mono Basin to ponder its unique beauty whenever I have the chance.

    –Les Joslin, Bend, Oregon


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