Red Skies at Mono Lake

Red Skies – Mono Lake is a lake with very high salt content in the Eastern Sierras in California.

Do you know what Tufas are? No, I didn’t hike tufa to take this picture and no, I didn’t get a tufa one deal on it either. Yeah, I know. Sounds like a punchline from a terrible joke. A tufa is actually a limestone deposit that is formed when an underground spring full of carbonate minerals shoot out of the ground.

You can see the best examples of these in California’s Mono Lake. These exposed tufa towers drive most of the traffic to Mono Lake. The California Park Service has carefully assembled wooden paths and boardwalks to protect the fragile environment along the lakeshore and even charges admission to a number of the more popular areas to defray the expense of maintenance.

The city of Los Angeles has diverted a lot of the water that used to feed this lake and as the lake started to shrink exposing more of these tufas on shore. The local ecosystem, as a result, was thrown out of equilibrium, and alkali deposits left on the shores have been picked up by the wind, causing concerns about air quality in the region.

After several years of citizen-led attempts, the California State Water Resources Control Board issued an order in 1994 to protect the lake and the streams that feed it. This order should end in the lake level climbing 17 ft (5m) within a span of 20 years.

These change in water level will submerge much of the tufa that currently brings visitors to the lake, perpetuating another interesting cycle of logic. Had the water never been redirected in the first place and the water amount not dropped the lake wouldn’t have turned into a famous tourist attraction it now is.

While I don’t mind being able to photograph the tufas, producing images such as this. I would rather it sink back into the lake whence it came as naturally as it has been in the past.

Keen on checking out Mono Lake?


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