Mono Lake lies in a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, and is guarded by mountains two thousand feet higher, whose summits are always clothed in clouds. This solemn, silent, sail-less sea–this lonely tenant of the loneliest spot on earth –is little graced with the picturesque. It is an unpretending expanse of grayish water, about a hundred miles in circumference, with two islands in its centre, mere upheavals of rent and scorched and blistered lava, snowed over with gray banks and drifts of pumice-stone and ashes, the winding sheet of the dead volcano, whose vast crater the lake has seized upon and occupied. (Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter 38)
Mark Twain wrote that based on his observations from the 1860s. In 1941 Los Angeles, needing more water for their rapidly growing population, began diverting the water from Mono Lake and by 1982 the lake had lost 31% of its surface area and the once submerged Tufa towers were exposed. In 1994 an order was issued to protect Mono Lake and since that time the lake level has steadily risen. The Tufa towers remain exposed.
The Clint Eastwood film, High Plains Drifter was filmed at Mono Lake in 1973 and the video for Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone) by Cinderella was filmed there in 1988. (I just watched, but didn’t listen to, that video on youtube and the Tufa towers look much higher).
I took a bunch of pictures. You can see them here.
I didn’t even know when we were there last week that Mono Lake State Park is proposed to be closed along with 25% of the California State Park system.