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Did you ever want to paddle an inland sea that’s water is 10x saltier than the ocean? A place where brine shrimp thrive, and birds come by the millions to feast on an all you can eat shrimp buffet.  Given the chance, would you paddle on the moon (if it had water)? A place with crazy gothic towers of white minerals jutting out of the water 30-40 feet high, creating bizarre castle-like turrets.

This is Mono Lake on the East Side of the Sierra in California and covers about 65 square miles:  a true playground to explore in a kayak.  Mono sits just east of Yosemite National Park near the town of Lee Vining, CA. We have driven around Mono many times on trips to Yosemite National Park and other parts of the Sierra but never stopped longer than to take a few pictures.  It is quite a place to spend some time, and quite possibly one of the most memorable lakes you will ever paddle.

This year, on our annual Thanksgiving paddling and climbing trip, we decided to take some time to actually paddle and explore Mono Lake. We explored the South Tufa* areas launching our boats from Navy Beach, it only took ten minutes until we found ourselves lost in some really wild scenery.  We used several of Jackson Kayak’s recreation boats:  the Cruise 10 and 12 and the Ibis.  Our friends, the Donnelley’s tried out the Journey 14 and the SUPer FISHal.  All of the boats were stable, fast and nimble and allowed us to quickly and easily access the tufa towers. A Tufa is common limestone that forms in a unique way. Underwater springs that are calcium rich mix with lake water. This creates a chemical reaction creating calcium carbonate and the tufa towers grow. Some of these are 40 feel high with pointy summits and growing out of the lake.

We lucked out with a glassy smooth, zero wind day on Mono but this is quite unusual.  Afternoon winds are frequent and can strand paddlers across the lake forcing a bivouac or long walk back to civilization. Some boaters have even lost their lives due to hurricane strength winds on the lake. Be prepared for the worst, watch the forecast, and be off the lake in the afternoons when the wind picks up. Make sure you wash your gear and boat thoroughly after venturing into the lake to remove all the salt.  Mono Lake is a big place where you will want more than an afternoon to explore.  We are already looking forward to our next adventure in this extraordinary place.