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Friday, July 14, 2006

Foto Friday: Tufa Towers

David Fleck says I offended their old pond by calling it "stinky". So here I offer a stinky California lake:

Mono Lake, California

Sunrise on Mono Lake, California, Aug. 1995

Mono Lake is on the eastern side of the Sierras, near the town of Lee Vining. It's fed by internal springs and local rivers, but it has no outlet, so the water leaves only by evaporation. Because of this, Mono Lake is much saltier than the ocean. Decades ago, the city of Los Angeles (which is 300 miles to the south) started diverting water from those rivers, and the lake level dropped. Eventually environmentalists got them to cut it out, and the lake level has risen about ten feet since then.

The weird formations you see there are made of "tufa", aka calcium carbonate. The calcium carbonate is dissolved in the hot underwater springs, but precipitates out in the cool lake water and builds up around the spring source. You could think of them as sort of lake stalagmites (well, as far as I'm concerned you can). I'm not sure whether any tufa towers were protruding when Los Angeles began diverting the water. If not, the rising lake level may eventually cover them completely.

Here are some other people's photos:
Dan Heller
Gerald and Buff Corsi
Andre Gunther

A lot of these are better than mine, of course, but I don't think I did too badly. I was inspired to go to Mono Lake by an article I read in the travel section of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, years and years ago. It was accompanied by a picture of the tufa towers in golden light, looking like something from another world (not unlike the Corsi photo). I was obsessed with getting pictures in this light. I made grumpy old Niles get out before sunrise to go with me, and shot like a fiend while the light lasted. We went out again later in full sun and went on a nature tour. I took more pictures there without trying for Art. I should've, because even in full sun the towers are beautiful, white against the blue lake water. (I don't have any of these scanned in.)

Here's some information about the lake:
Living Lakes
State Park page
Tufa Truths

This was from one of our rare "dedicated" vacations. Usually we go on vacation because one of us has a business trip in the area. I was living in Silicon Valley, then. We drove to Yosemite, over Tioga Pass to Lee Vining, down Hwy 395 past Mt. Whitney to Death Valley. We'd tried to make the trip in June, but the pass was closed. Eventually I'll inflict other photos from this trip on you.

I'm so jazzed about being able to post images that I'm finding it hard to limit myself to one photo a week. But I only have 300M of free space, and at this size that's only about 5000 photos, or 100 years' worth, so I have to restrain myself.

(Actually, I'm thinking of posting some of my more interesting postcards and banknotes, too. Exciting, eh?)

UPDATE: I hate this guy. Look at all those beautiful pictures, many of Mono Lake. I particularly commend this one to your attention. Here are more photos by him. Nice rugged, er, landscape there.

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