Posted by: Brad Nixon | September 14, 2018

A New Look at Mono Lake

Gaining a new perspective of something you already know is the same thing as learning something new.

Early in 2017, I described a visit I made to California’s Mono Lake some years earlier. Varying in extent from 45,000 – 55,000 acres, it’s the third largest lake in the state. It isn’t famous for fishing, boating and other typical lacustrine activities. Many people, including me, go there to see the geology, which looks like this.

Mono Lake Brad Nixon 004 (640x427)

Those rock-like formations have a fascinating origin. I’ll explain briefly, but for more information, you can read my previous post at this link.

Mono Lake is endorheic. In plain English, it’s a closed system; water flows in, but not out. Due to evaporation, the water in endorheic lakes like Mono is extremely alkaline. Some water enters Mono Lake from underground springs. The alkaline water causes calcium in the spring water to precipitate out as solids, forming underwater “towers” of limestone at the springs. In the case of Mono Lake, the water level is much lower than at one time, revealing the limestone deposits — referred to as “tufa towers.”

Mono Lake Brad Nixon 008 (640x426)

Birdwatchers visit Mono Lake to see large numbers of migratory birds attracted by dense populations of brine shrimp.

Walking along the southern shore of the lake to see the tufa towers, it was difficult to appreciate the size of this isolated inland sea. This week, I traveled past Mono Lake en route to another California attraction, but didn’t stop. Instead, descending from the higher land to the north on U.S. Route 395, I got this view of Mono Lake from several hundred feet above.

Mono Lake pano Brad Nixon

The view looks south. The town of Lee Vining sits at the far right-hand edge of the lake. The Sierra Nevada mountains, further south, are on the right. Not far to the right of this view, over the Tioga Pass, is Yosemite National Park.

Life is so short that one has to resist the temptation to revisit the same places, no matter how interesting they are. In my book, getting a new perspective on somewhere you’ve seen before counts as a new experience, not a repeat. Nice to get an aerial view of the lake without having to board an airplane.

© Brad Nixon 2018


  1. I do agree with you, Brad. I also found myself visiting one place couple of times. In my opinion, every time gives its particular experience. Nothing goes the same…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed this (and the previous) post Brad – how bizarre are those rock formations. Definitely a sight to behold. I very much enjoy visiting the same place twice, particularly during different seasons – you certainly get a much different perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Looks like the votes are in for revisiting. Makes me feel better about all the return visits I’ve made to a number of places.


  3. The other side of this particular coin could be, “Life is so short that one has to resist the temptation to keep pressing on to new places, no matter how interesting they are.”

    I’ve always appreciated Annie Dillard’s take on the issue. She says that there are two ways to travel; we can travel far, or we can travel deep. Of course both have value, but I enjoy the way repeat visits can help to develop a relationship with a place. There’s nothing like experiencing a place in all of its seasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I admit to being on both sides of the coin. Call me Janus — or something. Some places I WILL always return to. There’s no resolution to this. It’s one of life’s dynamics. I’m simply grateful I’ve had the opportunity and the freedom to do either.


    • Excellent points. Totally agree.

      When you return to a place previously visited, you return with knowledge and experience you didn’t have on the prior visit(s). With that knowledge and experience, you cease being a mere transient tourist. The place has become a part of you, and you in turn add a new dimension to those you encounter on your trip.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well said. Thank you.


  4. Great photos as usual! I love the “tufa towers!” In one photo, the angle makes the formations almost appear like a castle.

    The formations remind me of alien terraforming (Defiance, Season 2). Scifi geeks will understand. Sometimes I can’t help myself. 😉


    • I must have missed a generation of sci-fi geekdom. I’ve heard the term terraforming, but don’t know “Defiance,” probably because I never watch TV. Anyway, absolutely, it’s an “otherworldly” setting that bears a lot of exploring.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually I don’t watch TV either, but I do watch DVD’s from the library. Apparently Defiance originated on Syfi and was the best watched Syfi drama. Cost of production appears to have been a factor in cancelling the show after three seasons.


      • Okay. Thanks to libraries, once again. I’d never have seen Mad Men without it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting rock formations, it really looks other worldly.


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