Mono Lake - Lee Vining - Hiking California

 

Controversial Mono Lake near Lee Vining is ecologically sensitive due to water demand elsewhere.

 

 

This unique lake has a story to tell and a very passionate group of people are fighting hard to get that story out.  There are hundreds of incredibly good pictures of Mono Lake.  None of them are mine.

 

Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA

 

Mono Lake is contained by The Great Basin (Mono Basin).  The Great Basin is surrounded by 18 inactive volcanoes.  The lake is fed by small rivers but has no outlet.

There are no fish in Mono Lake;  the water is more saline than the world's oceans but Brine shrimp thrive in Mono Lake and the lake harbors huge colonies of  birds.

 

Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA The first view of Mono Lake from Lee Vining.  
 

 

In 1941, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power started to divert water from Mono Lake tributary streams to provide water and electricity for the rapidly growing metropolis of Los Angeles.

The impact of diverting water to colonize a desert with modern city conveniences was, possibly, not well thought out. 

By 1962, the level of Mono Lake had dropped by 25 feet (7.6 m).  By 1995 the lake level was down by 40 ft (12.2 m).  The ecological impact is significant.

Some reversal has been negotiated but much more needs to be done.

 

Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA

 

Mono Lake has existed for 760,000 years and has volcanic origins.

As lake water volume gradually decreased to half its original volume, features which were previously underwater, called tufa towers, rose through the surface.

These towers are very beautiful but stand as skeletal testament to the alteration of a unique and valuable ecosystem.

The old marina was left suspended nearly 50 ft (15.3 m) above Mono Lake's ravaged water levels.

 

Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA

 

Highway 395 travels south past Mono Lake and immediately into Lee Vining, California.  This route is driven several times including the visit to Bodie State Historic Park for a unique tour of the gold rush ghost town of Bodie. 

Several times the route passes the unassuming facade of the Mono Inn Restaurant which hosts a concrete pedestal with a brass plaque nearby in the parking area.

Within a busy hiking schedule time is set aside to have dinner here one evening within the short stay at Lee Vining.  This fine dining experience is, hands down, the best culinary experience of the entire trip.  And, the brass plaque is significant. 

For dinner, a perfect Lavender Chicken plate, the house specialty, is followed by Mud Pie for dessert while seated in a large, glass-enclosed porch overlooking Mono Lake as the sun across fascinating horizon. 

The brass plaque on the concrete pillar documents the death of Adeline Carson Stilts in 1859.  She was purportedly the favorite daughter of the infamous Kit Carson, for whom Carson City, Nevada is named.

 

Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA

 

The Mono Basin Visitor Center is nearby at the west end of Mono Lake across from Black Point.  Although it is never open in evening hours, the surrounding terrain offers excellent views over Mono Lake.

 

Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California, USA

 

Mono Lake is a special resource worthy of reprieve from sins of the past.  It has happened before and it will happen again but this mistake needs correction for a host of justifiable reasons. 

When there is an opportunity to return to Mono Lake, more time will be allocated to explore and learn from this fascinating eco-structure.

 

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