We stopped off for a couple of nights in the small town of Lee Vining which is in the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area at a lovely little caravan park and campsite called Mono Vista RV Park. The park had views over to Mono Lake and its Tufa’s so we took the short drive down to the South Tufa Reserve it to explore it a bit further. Mono Lake is a vast inland lake nestled at the feet of the 13000 feet parks of the Sierra Nevada Range to the west, and the ancient volcanic Bodie hills to the north. It is one of the oldest lakes in North America and is at least 760,000 years old and is stunning and unusual . Stunning because of the beauty of the lake with its Tufa’s on the outskirts and the backdrop of the volcanic hills and unusual because the Lake has a high salt concentration which makes it a really buoyant swimming experience (not that we went into the lake). There is no fish in the lake as the water is so alkaline. We wandered around part of the lake admiring the Tufa tower formations. Tufa’s are like large spires which are formed when fresh water springs containing calcium bubble up through the carbonate-rich lake water.
The combining of these waters forms calcium carbonate, a whitish limestone deposit that forms the basis of the tufa formations. The scenery was amazing and calm and relaxing, the only downside is that were a lot of alkali flies around the edge of the lake and the sulphur/algae smell was a bit strong in parts. They also have a scenic area visitor centre at part of the lake and that has a lot of interesting information and exhibits.
The town of Lee Vinning has a couple of motels, restaurants and quirky gift shops which are good to wander round. Definitely worth a stopover if you are going in or out of Yosemite via this road.