Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

See the amazing recovery of Mono’s creeks firsthand on July 20th

As you walk down the Lee Vining Creek Trail, you notice black cottonwood trees on the hillside, fed by the Lee Vining Public Utilities District percolation ponds uphill. Many of these trees are dying and falling over, victims of old age and the three driest consecutive years on record, making formerly shady areas of the trail a bit sunnier, as this hillside naturally would be.

The bright green vegetation along lower Lee Vining Creek's bottomland channels indicate places where water flows once more. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

As you walk along the creek at the bottom of the hill, you notice many young black cottonwood trees sprouting and growing. A dry channel is filling with leaves under the shady new forest canopy. Releasing flows that mimic the natural peak flow has done wonders for cottonwood regeneration on Lee Vining Creek, and the riparian forest is slowly expanding, making formerly sunny areas of the trail a bit shadier, as the bottomlands naturally would be.

Lee Vining Creek is recovering beautifully; Rush Creek will soon get a boost in its recovery too. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Over the last two decades, I’ve gotten used to a shady hillside and a sunny bottomlands. But this is now reversing, and over the next two decades, visitors will experience the opposite, more natural situation: a sunny hillside and a shady bottomlands. Rush Creek is next in line—it will get more natural flows after the new Grant Lake Reservoir outlet is built in about four years. But the beavers along Rush Creek aren’t waiting around, and are building their own infrastructure that is influencing the habitat. Join me on Sunday, July 20th to see what else is changing along Mono Lake’s tributaries, as we explore Mono Basin Streams: Flow, Fish, Forest, & Fowl, which still has a few spots available.