Roger's SkyPix

Water Works

Tufa Towers

Tufa Towers

Crusty pillars of calcium carbonate, known as tufa, stand out above the level of the lake that once submerged them. These towers are hollow, formed as warm mineral water entered the cold lake, depositing its load of previously dissolved lime in the process. Mono is a highly alkaline and salty lake that occupies part of a downdropped graben -- a desert basin between the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains. It has been there over a million years and, as such, is older than the Great Lakes, indeed, one of the oldest inland bodies of water in North America. In the 1940s, distant but desperately thirsty Los Angeles began taking water from streams that fed Mono Lake, contributing to its shriveling in ensuing decades. The lake soon shrank enough to cause air quality problems from alkali dust blowing off its former bottom, and to expose the formations of tufa that had been submerged. Court battles ensued amongst the various interests involved, resulting in a truce that will raise the lake -- not to pre-1940s levels, but to a sustainable medium that L.A. can't overdraw. The otherwordly aura and the stark beauty of the tufa, and of the basin as a whole, have attracted sightseers, bathers, naturalists and shutterbugs from worldwide. Mono Lake is one of those places that one must not deny the chance to visit when such an opportunity presents itself.

5 ESE Lee Vining CA (20 Jan 6), looking NNE.