Tufa towers at sunset, Mono Lake, California

Tufa Towers at Mono Lake

The tufa towers of Mono Lake's South Tufa Trail are striking enough during the day but really come into their own when lit up by a rising or setting sun. It's not unusual for sunsets like this one to arrive and make photographers giddy, though it's also not unusual to encounter breezes that make the water choppy and degiddify them all again.

The tufa is made of calcium carbonate and forms underwater, so the towers you see here were once below the lake's surface. They became exposed after Los Angeles started buying up water rights in the area and diverting water from the lake's inputs to the Los Angeles basin. At its nadir, the lake's level had fallen by 45 feet. After years of litigation, though, restoration is underway, ableit slowly - it's expected to take up to twenty years. The legally mandated level is 25 feet below the lake's original height, but this will still leave much of the South Tufa Trail inundated, so it's worth visiting soon.

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