Mono Lake: Tufas, Alkali Flies and Shorebirds

Mono Lake is a unique circular body of water located at the bottom of a basin that has allowed water to collect for thousands of years but has no exit to let that water back out. Because of this, high levels of salt can accumulate, and the water is only able to sustain a specific type of life, brine shrimp. The brine shrimp thrive in the water and are a natural food source for the millions of birds that migrate through here every year. The things you will notice at this lake are the Tufas, flies and the birds, all of which make Mono Lake the thriving and unique ecosystem it is.


The incredible thing about this lake is the tufas that are located in the south end and are described as “a soft porous rock consisting of calcium carbonate deposited from springs rich in lime.”

If you want to see them, you will need to proceed down Highway 395 to the road that leads to the small parking lot for the trailhead. Here you can park your car after a half mile trip down a dirt road in the little lot that has a bathroom, and walk about a half mile to the water and the diverse collection of tufas.

The hike from here is pretty much at your own pace. You can spend as much time as you like looking at these unique natural structures. Some even reach heights of around 15 to 20 feet. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Alkali Flies

One thing to note is that there were an insane amount of alkali flies. These are not the type of flies that bug you and buzz around, but the kind that collected on the ground by the water. Check out the black part near the water of the below picture, yes those are all flies. Crazy right?

In the history of this lake, one of the reasons why Native Americans settled here was because of the flies. They were able to harvest the larva for food. This is also one of the reasons why so many birds come through here as there are a lot of flies that can be eaten. Check out this video that shows how many flies there were as we were walking.


You can kayak on Mono Lake as well. For more information on that, check out this post.

I spent a good hour here walking around, and I could have easily spent longer, it was a crazy unique place. There are also a ton of great photo opportunities for photographers here as there is a lot to look at. Mono Lake is located right at the end of Tioga Pass Road, so it is an excellent way to complete a summer road trip or begin a drive over the pass. Make sure to check out the rest of the photos and get directions to see it for yourself below.

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About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.