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Visitor questions at Mono Lake

July 10th, 2017 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Molly Casey, 2017 Mono Lake Intern.

South Tufa tours are a great way to learn about the mysteries of Mono Lake. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Since I started giving walking and canoe tours this summer, I have been asked some really thought-provoking questions. Some have straightforward answers and some are more abstract, but I love every question I am asked because it helps me think about the lake differently and it helps me understand what people are really interested in.

I would like to share some of my favorite questions so far because if one person asked, others must be wondering too.

1. What if you put a shark into Mono Lake?

There have not been enough (or any) studies to be able to conclusively state what would happen if a shark was put in Mono Lake.

After this question was asked, our group discussed if the sharks would tolerate the lake’s high salinity and pH, what the sharks would eat (probably gulls), and if a mating pair would thrive in Mono Lake.

Maybe someday someone will do some research on this?

2. How fast does tufa grow?

Tufa grows at a rate of about half an inch a year. Tufa continues to grow at that rate as long as it is underwater where calcium from the spring water is mixing with the bicarbonate in Mono Lake to create calcium carbonate, or limestone.

3. Are there fish in Mono Lake?

No. There are no fish in Mono Lake. In the lake are brine shrimp and alkali flies. These two little water-dwelling species are the main food source for the birds that visit Mono Lake throughout the year.

4. Can you eat the brine shrimp?

Sure. You can eat the brine shrimp lake if you want. It’s not going to hurt you. That being said, it is not recommended to eat a quarter-pounder of brine shrimp. Moderation is key.

This question usually comes after I mention that people native to Mono Lake used to harvest the alkali fly pupa, the cocoon-like stage of the fly’s life cycle. These have about ten small calories each. I have had people on my tours try them and the most people say they taste like bacon or popcorn.

If you don’t believe me, you can visit and try it for yourself. There are free walking tours at South Tufa at 10:00am, 1:00pm, and 6:00pm daily throughout the summer. We also host canoe tours on the weekends—you’ll need a reservation for those.

Bring ketchup.

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