|Mono Lake looking south down CA 395|
(Click on the photo to view larger versions of all of the photos in sequence)
Vast as it is, covering 70 square miles and filled with ¾ of a cubic mile of water, Mono Lake is but a puddle of its former self. From when it was formed about a million years ago, until the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago, it was up to 500 feet deeper and twice as large, extending from what is now California well into western Nevada.
|The tufa columns of Mono Lake were created as|
underwater springs deposited dissolved minerals.
The ancestral Mono Lake was one of several large Lakes within the Great Basin during that time, known by geologists as Pliocene – Pleistocene time. The Great Basin is an area of internal drainage including most of Nevada and eastern California – rivers within the Great Basin are trapped by topography and never make it to the sea. The Great Basin formed beginning about 4 million years ago as the movement of tectonic plates began to pull that part of the continent apart, tilting some crustal blocks and dropping others as fault-bounded valleys, or grabens. The ongoing expansion and tilting created the Sierra Nevada range and the fault block mountain ranges of Nevada. The down-dropped grabens form the vast, 40-mile-view sagebrush-covered valleys. Passing through that landscape seen from the point of view of our life span, minuscule in comparison to geologic time, all seems stable, the mountains and vast valleys as having existed unchanged forever. In fact, by speeding up time in our imaginations as a stop motion video, we can see the mountains continually rising, while being worn down by erosion nearly as fast as they rise, their sediments carried into the valleys by periodic catastrophic flash floods building huge alluvial fans and filling the basins to depths of many thousands of feet.
|The desert quiet enhanced the gentle sounds of birds. Two of them flew into this shot as I was setting up, to perch on the top of a tufa tower.|
|Tufa towers at sundown,|
|A nearly full moon rose to add to the feeling of otherworldly ambiance|
|Chancing eviction we camped in a parking lot near the lake |
to encourage us to emerge from cozy beds to catch the morning light.
|Our first night's camp on the south shore of Mono Lake|
|Breakfast with a view before heading east and deeper into the Nevada desert.|