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California: More tufa towers exposed as Mono Lake water level drops

Lower water levels at Mono Lake has made views of the tufa towers even more spectacular

The water level at Mono Lake on the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park has dropped 3 vertical feet since 2011 as a result of the drought. It has left a noticeable "white bathtub ring" that's clearly visible to passers-by, the Mono Lake Committee reports.

But it also created an opportunity for visitors to see more of the funky tufa towers that define the body of water near Lee Vining, Calif.

"... The landscape definitely has a more otherworldly look, with larger swaths of exposed mud, and tufa towers seeming taller relative to the lake level," Arya Degenhardt, Mono Lake Committee spokeswoman, writes in an email. "It's still a great spot to explore, and the photography opportunities are spectacular."

The drought has taken a big toll on lakes in California and the Southwest. Lake Mead reservoir on the Nevada-Arizona border has hit a record low, and recreational Cachuma Lake in Santa Barbara is drying up too. Castaic Lake north of Santa Clarita has closed its swim beaches because of the drought.

Only Mono Lake grows more weirdly beautiful.

"It’s hard to see the lake so low," Degenhardt writes in the Mono-logue newsletter. "You almost feel like you should look away, but the landscape left behind is oddly fascinating."

And that's reason enough to go.

Despite the drought, annual summer canoe trips led by the organization continue through Sept. 7. Visitors see birds, scoop up brine shrimp, get close to the tufa and learn the lake's history too. Trips are held at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, reservations required. It costs $25 per person.

Info: Mono Lake Committee Canoe Tours, (760) 647-6595


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