Located on Highway 395 near Lee Vining and Bodie State Park, Mono Lake is one of the oldest lakes in the Western Hemisphere. Movie aficionados might recognize scenes from Clint Eastwood’s movie High Plains Drifter because it was shot on location at Mono Lake in 1972. Although Mono Lake contains no fish, it’s a popular area for anglers because there are so many nearby trout-filled streams. Many people bring their own boats to explore the lake’s natural habitats but the islands in the lake are closed each year from April 1 to August 1 in order to protect nesting birds.
Mono Lake is most popular for bird watching and it’s recognized as a site of international importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Formed at least one million years ago, Mono Lake is a home for almost two million birds including migratory birds and shorebirds such as sandpipers, killdeer and American Avocets. It also contains America’s second largest nesting population of California gulls. Along the shores you will see picturesque limestone rock formations known as tufa towers. During the summer, walking tours and boat tours of the tufa towers are available and one of the best spots to see them is at the Old Marina site along Highway 395. Kayak and canoe tours to explore the lake are also available during the summer season. Other enjoyable activities include hiking, photography, cross country skiing during the winter and swimming during the summer. Because of evaporation and the lack of natural lake outlets, the high level of salts contained in the water cause swimmers to float instead of sink.
From 1941 to 1990 the City of Los Angeles diverted so much water from Mono Lake’s 65 square miles of area that its depth was reduced by 45 vertical feet, it lost half its volume and the migratory birds were threatened. But in 1978 the Mono Lake Committee was formed to save the lake. For more than 30 years they have worked to heal the damage to the natural habitat, protect Mono Lake from destruction and educate the public. In partnership with the California Department of State Parks, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, the Committee presents the annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua in June. This is a bird festival with many different events including field trips for the public.
Before the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua occurs each year, a new event called “Birding between the Breweries” has also become popular with beer drinking bird lovers who enjoy visiting local breweries in between bouts of bird watching. The tour includes one beverage per person per brewery but people can also purchase additional food and beverages.
Peter Cross is an accomplished article writer and creative writer who has produced hundreds of articles for many different clients since 2006 when he retired from his consulting business.