Mono Lake is a salt lake in California, which is known for its Tufa Towers, a special limestone formation.
The lake is considered to be amongst the oldest ones in North America, at least 760000 years old, but more likely even 1-3 million years.
It is about 20x15 km and has no water outlet. It is 2.5+ times as salty than the ocean.
The Tufa Towers form due to the chemical reaction of calcium-rich underwater springs and carbonate-rich lakewater to calcium carbonate limestones. This CaCO3 precipitates around the underwater spring and form the Tufas. The process might even take centuries.
The Tufas only grow underwater, but due to a significant water level drop, they rose to the surface.
The highest density of Tufas is at the South Tufa point of the Preserve.
Numerous bird species are nesting there, amongst them the California Gull (at Mono Lake it's the 2nd largest colony in the world). In general, Mono Lake is a very active ecosystem due to algae, alkali flies, etc..
There is a lot to do at Mono Lake.
If you just want to enjoy the stone formations, you can walk parts of the loop trail. Just follow signs for Mono Lake and the loop trail is accessible from the parking lots.
You can also take boat rides, join free guided tours or enjoy bird watching. It all depends on the time you want to spend there.
To visit the lake is free, but if you want to access the 'South Tufa' viewing area (where the highest density of Tufa Towers is), you will need to pay $3 (adult fee).
Mono Lake is a great stop if you are planning to visit Yosemite National Park, as it is just 30min away from the Yosemite East park entrance. Located right at highway 395, it's an easy stop and really worth spending an hour or two enjoying this amazing natural feature.
The 'Old Marina' is a good place to stop as you can get close to the water (and wheelchair accessible) and it is a spot where many Tufa Towers as located.
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