Enjoying the abundant stream-side camping on the Eastern side of the Sierras between Yosemite and Lee Vining, we have been exploring and paddling local lakes.
Mono Lake has a fascinating history. The streams feeding the lake were diverted by the LA Water Dept. causing the lake to drop 45 feet and double in salinity. Until David and Sally Gaines formed the Mono Lake Committee, the lake was dying, just as Owens Lake did, and it is no longer recoverable. However, a successful law suit reduced the water diversions from feeder streams by 75% and the lake is rising. The damage is still evident in the many Tufa structures on the North Shore surrounded by scrub.
The Tufa resemble the dribbled accumulation of sand castle construction. The towers look like Antonio Gaudi’s cathedral, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, except that the towers are seated in lake water, creating lovely reflections. Tufa towers are continuing to form underwater, as the calcium in the underground streams meets the carbonates in the salty lake water, the precipitate, calcium carbonate builds over the years into these fantastic towers. The salinity is high but supports enough fish to keep the Ospreys in place, currently nesting. Additionally 4 trillion (that’s 12 zeroes!!) brine shrimp live in the lake. Alkaline flies feed on them thrives using air sacs that allow them to dive down and feed. Maybe not a trillion, but tons of flies! The pupae are protein rich and used to be harvested by the original lake dwellers, the Kutzadika.
The bird life here is abundant (frustrated dog, hanging over the edge of the kayak…so close…). The Phalaropes summer in Canada and stop here en route to Argentina, doubling their weight gorging on brine shrimp.