The limestone towers, spires and knobs that rise from the saltwater lake at Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve are among the most memorable of the natural wonders around Lee Vining, California.
Mono Lake is over 750,000 years old and 2-1/2 times as salty as the ocean, and 80 times as alkaline. The tufas form when calcium-bearing fresh-water springs well up through the alkaline lake water, which is full of carbonates. As a result, limestone forms around the mouths of the springs.
Besides algae, the lake’s only inhabitants are tiny brine shrimp and flies, which provide food for the many migratory birds that nest here in spring and summer. Walking trails take you to the water’s edge for an up-close view of the tufas. They’re a sight to behold!
Lee Vining is where U.S Highway 395 meets State Highway 20, about 10 miles east of Yosemite National Park. The reserve is several miles east of U.S. Highway 395 via State Highway 120. The Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center, operated by the U.S Forest Service, is a good place to begin your visit; it’s located along Highway 395, north of Lee Vining.
Some parts of the reserve are wheelchair accessible. To learn more, visit Mono Lake online at California State Parks.
Interested in camping nearby? Check out KOA campgrounds in California.