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Seminar spotlight: High Country Plants & Habitats—how are they coping with climate change?

July 4th, 2017 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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After an extraordinarily wet winter, this will certainly be an exciting year for wildflowers. We’ve already been delighted with the number of blooms in the Mono Basin and as the snow continues to melt at the higher elevations, there will be so many more to enjoy.

Join instructor Ann Howald for her field seminar High Country Plants & Habitats July 28–30. Photo by Robert Di Paolo.

Come join renowned botanist Ann Howald for her field seminar High Country Plants & Habitats, which will have a special focus on the ways high-elevation plants and animals of the Mono Basin are affected by climate change, now and in the future. During this field seminar, Ann will take you to sub-alpine meadows and forests, shores of sub-alpine lakes, streams that cascade toward Mono Lake, and natural rock gardens. … more »

See Mono Lake’s rise on the landbridge

June 30th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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The landbridge is a particularly excellent place to see Mono Lake’s incredibly fast rise right now (click on the images for larger versions):

Dawn on June 15 out on the landbridge, where Mono Lake lapped at the end of the temporary electrified fence that is protecting the nesting California Gull colony from coyote predation. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.

Twelve days later Mono Lake had risen over half a foot, and it was time for the end of the fence to be adjusted. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.

Mono Lake has risen 2.8 feet so far this calendar year and is projected to rise another 1.5 feet by year’s end.

Time lapse: Mono Lake rising

June 29th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Want to see Mono Lake rising before your eyes? Check out this time lapse from May 25 to June 25, when the lake rose an incredible 1.2 vertical feet!

You’ll see wildlife along the shore investigating the changing habitat as lagoons form, tufa blocks get submerged, and the grass floods. You might also notice that the lake rise speeds up in early June, when warm weather started melting snow in the high country more quickly, sending record volumes of water down the streams and to the lake.

Mono Lake has risen 2.8 feet so far this calendar year and is projected to rise another 1.5 feet by year’s end. It’s a remarkable time to be at Mono Lake when it’s rising so fast—make plans to visit this summer and see for yourself!

Free summer activities at Mono Lake

June 28th, 2017 by Charlotte, Mono Lake Intern
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With the end of June approaching, it is now officially summer in the Mono Basin! The Mono Lake Committee, in partnership with local agencies and organizations, has lined up a great selection of programs and tours at Mono Lake. No matter your interest or background, there’s sure to be a program perfect for you! Below is a brief list of these programs, which will be available from June 28 to September 1, 2017.

Join a State Park, Forest Service, or Mono Lake Committee guide for a South Tufa Walk every day at 10:00am, 1:00pm, and 6:00pm. Photo by Sandra Noll.

South Tufa Walks: 10:00am, 1:00pm, and 6:00pm every day
Unearth the mysteries of Mono Lake’s water, geology, and wildlife. You’ll even have the chance to create tufa and eat alkali fly pupae! Meet at the South Tufa Kiosk for this free 1 to 1.5-hour tour and don’t forget sunscreen, water, and a hat. To get to South Tufa from Lee Vining, drive South on Highway 395 for about 5 miles and then east on Highway 120 for 5 miles. Look for signs for “South Tufa.” … more »

Tioga Pass will open on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am

June 27th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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According to Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass will open for the season to all vehicular traffic on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am.

Current conditions at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. Tioga Pass will open for the season on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am. Photo courtesy of Yosemite National Park.

There will be minimal services available—no drinking water, gasoline, food, lodging, or cell phone service (911 emergency calls will not be operational). The Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center will be open from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Tamarack Flat is the only campground currently open along the Tioga Road, and it fills nearly every day on a first-come, first served basis.

For hikers and backpackers: “Anyone planning to hike or backpack near Tuolumne Meadows and in all high elevation areas of Yosemite should be prepared for winter hiking and camping conditions. Trails are still impacted by snow and ice. River crossings are high and swift moving. There are several high water areas currently impacting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the John Muir Trail (JMT) in Yosemite National Park. Trail conditions may vary at any time.”

Cyclists and pedestrians may use the road tomorrow, Wednesday, June 28. Find the full text of the Yosemite press release here.

Well, I guess we know who will be winning our office Tioga Pass poll!

When will Tioga Pass open? Here’s our office poll….

June 26th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The Tioga Pass area on the summer solstice, June 20, 2017. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The question of the year so far is “When will Tioga Pass open?” Your guess is as good as ours. In fact, here’s the office poll—compare your guess to ours!

  • Jess: June 16 soft opening; June 17 official
  • Elin: June 23 at noon
  • Bartshe: June 23
  • Ellen: June 24
  • Nora: June 26
  • Gabby: June 27
  • Greg: June 28 at noon
  • Lisa: June 29
  • Arya: June 30
  • Andrew: June 30
  • Geoff: July 1
  • Julissa: July 6

At 9,945 feet above sea level, Tioga Pass is the highest point on Highway 120 and the California State Highway system. There are 26 avalanche zones that this year had snowdrifts upwards of 50 feet, often concealing rocks and trees. Once the road is clear of snow, crews must repair any damage to the pavement, shoulders, and guardrails. The latest Tioga Pass opening date was July 8, 1933, and the earliest was April 29, 1988 … we’re all wondering what it will be this year!

Updated on Tuesday, June 27 at 4:30pm to add that it looks like Lisa will be the winner, unless we get a strange summer snowstorm!

Record runoff reaches the Rush Creek delta

June 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Unlike Mono Lake’s other tributaries, Rush Creek hasn’t experienced high restorative flows of water since the decision was made to restore the creeks in the mid-1990s. Until this year! Rush has been receiving its highest flows in 50 years, near and exceeding a volume of 800 cubic feet per second. The work that all this water is doing is visible at the delta, where the creek meets Mono Lake in a plume of fresh, turbid water. The foreground of the photo above is a laminar flow of fresh water where sediment drops out and builds the delta habitat.

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

Lee Vining Creek Trail closes after record runoff

June 23rd, 2017 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Over the past couple of years, I’ve walked the Lee Vining Creek trail more times than I can count. In the fall, I enjoy the golden aspens along the calm stream. In winter, I’ve trekked across the trail in deep snow on skis and on foot, marveling at the beauty and silence of that quiet season. Spring means the emergence of wildflowers and the beginning of the runoff season, while in summer all the plants burst back to life, lizards dart across the trail again, birds fly above, and the creek is raging as the runoff reaches its peak.

Lee Vining Creek’s braided channels are full and rushing with water during this peak runoff season. Unfortunately, the Lee Vining Creek Trail has been washed out and is closed temporarily. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Walking the trail yesterday, this trail I have followed numerous times before, I felt transported to an entirely new place. … more »

Birders flock to Mono Lake for the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

June 22nd, 2017 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Last weekend, more than 300 people and many more birds flocked to the Mono Basin for the sixteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. The Chautauqua brings birders together to enhance appreciation and understanding of the Mono Basin’s diverse and abundant bird life and to educate the public about this area’s value to birds and people. This year’s event featured over 100 programs to choose from, including field trips, lectures, workshops, and more.

Locating Hermit Thrushes near 10,000 feet above sea level at Virginia Lakes. Photo by Elin Ljung.

This year, Chautauqua participants saw an impressive 151 species of birds. Some exciting finds this weekend included Indigo Buntings near Lundy Canyon, a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a Long-tailed Jaeger in Bridgeport, and the rare Chestnut-sided Warbler near June Lake.

In addition to birds, the Chautauqua celebrates many other … more »

From East Coast to West Coast

June 21st, 2017 by Michael, Mono Lake Intern
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After hearing about Mono Lake from a former intern, I had to check out the area for myself.

This year’s seasonal staff get an orientation to the Mono Basin’s complex plumbing from Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin, center. Photo by Michael Morris.

I was raised in Massachusetts and was lucky enough to attend college at the University of Vermont, but I had never traveled west past South Dakota before! The aspect that I love most about my time so far in the Mono Basin is how new everything is, from the massive mountains to the crazy weather. Here are some photos from my first few weeks as a summer intern: … more »

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