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Dawn at Mono Lake        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Mono Lake is a remarkable and much-photographed body of water just east of the central Sierra Nevada, in eastern California.   It's an ancient lake with no outlet, and consequently is very mineral-rich:  not strictly salty (sodium chloride) as in the ocean, but full of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, plus various sulfates and carbonates.   Few species can survive in its waters except some algae, brine shrimp, and brine flies -- and thousands of birds that feed on the shrimp and flies.  During the last half-century, the lake level fell dramatically due to diversion of its feeder streams to the city of Los Angeles.   After a long series of court fights, environmental groups were victorious and LA is required to keep a sufficient flow into the lake to stabilize its level high enough to keep the two major islands from being joined to the mainland.   It's still lower than historic levels, which exposes the unique tufa towers, which form underwater from mineral springs.   These photos show scenes near dawn, mainly around the South Tufa reserve, including distant tufa towers with ospreys sitting on them.

  • Canon 1D II, Canon 100-400 IS, 70-200 f4 IS, or 500 mm IS with 1.4X or 2X converters (2005, 2006, 2007)