Mono Lake is an amazing place to paddle.
can’t help but appreciate the lake’s harsh beauty
while paddling upon its salty waters. The lake has a
mystical quality; utterly barren, with a silent,
prevailing stillness, with an exceptional beauty of
its own. Surrounded by the high desert, the lake’s
water breathes life into the desolate landscape of
the Great Basin.
Lake may be one of the most memorable lakes you will
ever paddle in the entire state of California. It
lies on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada
Mountains, where high alpine peaks descend rapidly
in elevation to the Mono Basin. Mono Lake is a
massive body of water covering about 65 square
miles, at 6383 feet above sea level, just east of
Lee Vining. The Mono Basin is accessed via Highway
395, which is one of the most scenic highways in
The panoramas between the black islands and
bluffs are spectacular. Photographers come from all
over, seeking to capture the interplay of light,
water, and sky on the mountains and desert. The Mono
Basin is a large, relatively flat expanse surrounded
by mountains. Due to its proximity to the mountains,
Mono Lake has a reputation for and extremes of heat
and savage afternoon winds that can really whip up
the lake’s water surface.
In fact, winds on Mono Lake can reach hurricane
force on a typical afternoon. There are warning
signs posted all around the lake for hazardous wind
conditions. A number of kayakers have been rescued
and several have lost their lives while paddling
unprepared for the severe windy conditions that can
occur on Mono Lake.
Mono Lake is reminiscent of San Luis Reservoir,
Lake Tahoe, Lake Isabella, and the Salton Sea. All
four have intimidating wind conditions. Use extreme
caution if you choose to paddle any of these lakes.
Begin kayaking early in the morning, especially
during the summer months. Winds from the south pick
up about midday, which could make the return trip
extremely challenging and exhausting.
Fishing: Mono Lake is a majestic body of water
covering about 65 square miles. Mono Lake’s
alkalinity makes life impossible for fish. In
contrast the freshwater streams flowing into Mono
Lake are home to non-native rainbow and brown trout.
Open: Most of Mono Lake is accessible any time of
the year. The road to South Tufa Reserve is kept
plowed, allowing year-round access except
immediately after large storms.
Fees: Day use fee for the South Tufa Reserve.
Lake Facilities: Hiking, photography, bird
watching, swimming, boating, and cross-country
skiing are just a few of the many activities you can
enjoy at Mono Lake.