Lee Vining, CA
One of the most interesting things to do in the Lee Vining area is to visit the tufa formations along Mono Lake. When we arrived here on Monday, we drove down to the lake and looked at the sand tofa near Navy Beach, but since it was a cloudy day we decided to wait to visit the main area of tufa formations.
Tufa is essentially common limestone. What is uncommon about this limestone is the way it forms. Typically, underwater springs rich in calcium (the stuff in your bones) mix with lakewater rich in carbonates (the stuff in baking soda). As the calcium comes in contact with carbonates in the lake, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in calcium carbonate–limestone. The calcium carbonate precipitates (settles out of solution as a solid) around the spring, and over the course of decades to centuries, a tufa tower will grow.
Tufa towers grow exclusively underwater, and some grow to heights of over 30 feet. The reason visitors see so much tufa around Mono Lake today is because the lake level fell dramatically after water began to be diverted to the Los Angeles area in 1941.
When Los Angeles diverted water from the lake, it lowered the lake level, which imperiled the migratory birds and dried the area around the tufa formations. The Mono Lake Committee formed in response and won a legal battle that forced Los Angeles to partially restore the lake level. A state court ruling has established a minimum lake level just below the 1941 level. No water diversion can take place until that level is reached. When the minimum level is reached, the path through the tufa area will be under water. But that time is years away, especially with the current drought.
After our visit to the tufa area we drove about seven miles north of Lee Vining, then turned west on Lundy Lake Road. We had read that the ride up Lundy Lake Road was very scenic with the leaves turning and a beaver pond located along the road up in the canyon.
Lundy Lake is a reservoir that is showing the effects of the long drought in this area. Once past the lake the road narrows and becomes dirt. The high mountains and the changing leaves make for a colorful drive.
Well, that wraps up an exciting week in Lee Vining. Tomorrow we fire up the engine and head south along with Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) for a visit to Bishop, CA. The sixty-three mile trip is one of the shortest moves we have ever made, but just the kind of move we like.