The vitreous blue expanse of Mono Lake sits in the midst of a volcanic desert tableland in the eastern shadow of Yosemite National Park. This science-fiction landscape holds two large islands – one light-coloured (Paoha), the other black (Negit) – surrounded by salty, alkaline water. Strange sandcastle-like formations of tufa – calcium deposited from springs – were exposed after Los Angeles extended an aqueduct carrying water diverted from the lake’s feeder streams into the Mono Basin through an eleven-mile tunnel. Mono Lake is the primary nesting ground for the state’s California gull population – twenty percent of the world’s total – and a prime stopover for hundreds of thousands of grebes and phalaropes.

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