We arrived at Mono Lake on a late afternoon, and timed it this way because the lighting is better for photography. Low angle light makes the beautiful blue-green color of the lake and the tufa towers even more spectacular.
The Mono Lake is an enclosed saline lake formed in a low area of the Mono Basin, which is located in the Basin and Range Province of the United States. The greatest attraction are the tufa towers, spectacular features in the form spires and rounded knobs rising several feet above lake level.
Tufa is a form of calcium carbonate, and is similar to the stalactites and stalagmites that we enjoy so much in caves. At Mono Lake the towers start forming on the bottom of the lake, where fresh water springs rich in calcium mix with the water from the lake, which contains sodium and potassium carbonate in solution. The fresh water is lighter than the saline water of the lake and, as a result, it rises up. As the fresh water rises, the calcium in solution combines with the sodium and potassium dissolved in the lake water and precipitates tufa.
The tufa in the towers is porous, and as more fresh water enters the lake through the springs, it flows through the intricate structure of the pores and when escapes and reaches the lake water, it precipitates more tufa, creating the impressive knobs and spires we see today.