Memories of Mono Lake

Sage Thrasher - Oreoscoptes montanusMono Lake is unique. To the uninterested or uninformed passerby it might seem just another large lake, and it is large (over 45,000 acres). What is less obvious is the dynamic ecosystem that has evolved over the 760,000 years this lake has existed.

With no outlet to the ocean, water comes in to the lake, it can only leave by evaporation, but the dissolved minerals remain. Today the water is two or three times saltier than the ocean. Native fish cannot survive here. Yet a rich ecosystem has evolved in this lake; one that depends on this high (but not too high) salinity.

All spring, algae blooms here, followed by exploding populations of brine shrimp and alkali flies. These food sources are very important for millions of breeding and migratory birds. The lake hosts the second largest breeding population of California Gulls. Only the Great Salt Lake in Utah supports a larger breeding colony.

I can’t remember my first visit here, but the first images I collected were from May 2005 while I was heading north on my expedition to Alaska. Since that time I’ve visited in November 2009, August 2014, May 2016, July 2017, and August 2019, and I’ve enjoyed every visit.

My best encounters at Mono Lake have been either from the Western shore north of Lee Vining, or on the Southern shore between Rush Creek and Navy Beach, which includes South Tufa Beach. A third location I’ve included here is Mono Mills, a few miles southeast of the lake where piney woods spread over the pumice bedrock, and play host woodpeckers and other forest loving birds.

The gallery below displays samples of the meetings I’ve enjoyed here.

Click map markers to reveal further information