Evening light on tufa towers at the south shore, Mono Lake, California
The Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, which was established in 1982, is one of 70 parks, historic buildings and monuments that California State Park officials plan to close by the end of June 2012 due to budget restraints. The famous south shore tufa will still be accessible (as will the rest of the lake), but the visitor center and information kiosks will likely close and with them a valuable educational resource that has helped keep Mono Lake alive.
Since the early part of the 20th century, the water rights along the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains have been hotly contested with the construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct. The classic story of how Mulholland bought up the ranch lands of the Owen’s Valley to build his dream and bring water to the desert of Southern California is well-documented in the movie Chinatown, and the subsequent LA Department of Water and Power has been in court many times over the years as a result.
Mono Lake has no outlet and its proximity near the start of the LA aqueduct makes it critically dependent on the naturally flowing streams that feed into it from the nearby Sierra. Its highly saline waters are a perfect breeding ground for brine shrimp, which in turn are the staple diet for over 2,000,000 migratory birds that visit the lake each year (including the second largest nesting population of California gulls in the US).
Fortunately we’ve had a couple of very wet winters and Mono Lake is receiving the water it needs for now. But with the growing demand of a rapidly expanding and thirsty west, its future remains uncertain.