Kayaking Mono Lake, CA

GPX Track for this Route.

My friend Gruppo and I headed to Mono Lake for a quick trip this spring.  Prior to departure, we discovered that the islands in the middle of Mono Lake are closed to boaters for gull breeding April 1 to August 1…  Pahoa Island is the larges of the islands.  We did a short paddle along the shore of Mono Lake, and camped at the first legal campsite.  It was an alien landscape – almost like being on the moon.  The water did not taste salty – but was more like baking soda.  We noticed that there was much less resistance on our paddle blades, which we could not explain.  We camped along the beach, and endured occasionally strong winds, followed by periods of calm.  The wind blew from any-which-way it chose.  We managed to get a relatively calm paddle through South Tufa the next morning.  Kayaking Mono lake can be a crapshoot because the winds can pick up ferociously at any time.  Mono lake is a beautiful, remote, and quiet setting for kayaking.  You will want to have a 4 season tent to withstand the winds, and be prepared for strong wind waves.  The scenery amongst the Sierra is fantastic, and the Tufa towers are amazingly unique to visit from the water instead of land.

The Tufa Towers are beautiful and amazing to visit from any angle.  I feel that the view from the water, with the snow covered Sierra for a backdrop is one of the best sights.

The Tufa Towers are beautiful and amazing to visit from any angle. I feel that the view from the water, with the snow covered Sierra for a backdrop is one of the best sights.

Tufa Towers with a little wave action.  Small waves generate foamy water in Mono Lake

Tufa Towers with a little wave action. Small waves generate foamy water in Mono Lake

Tufa Tower

Tufa Tower

You are allowed to camp in certain areas on Mono Lake.  You must secure a permit at the ranger station prior to camping, and they will tell you where you can (and cannot) legally camp.  Remember that Paoha Island is closed during mid-spring to mid-summer due to seagull breeding.

You are allowed to camp in certain areas on Mono Lake. You must secure a permit at the ranger station prior to camping, and they will tell you where you can (and cannot) legally camp. Remember that Paoha Island is closed during mid-spring to mid-summer due to seagull breeding.

Sierra Nevada behind my buoyant kayak.

Sierra Nevada behind my buoyant kayak.

The mix of colors on Mono Lake, and the feel of the water is other-worldly.  Definitely worth a visit!

The mix of colors on Mono Lake, and the feel of the water is other-worldly. Definitely worth a visit!

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Landing at the first legal camping beach on Mono Lake

Landing at the first legal camping beach on Mono Lake

Mono Lake sunset

Mono Lake sunset

Mono Lake Sunset

Mono Lake Sunset

Camping at Mono Lake

Camping at Mono Lake

We followed this up with a trip to (ranger recommended) Crowley Lake – but were disappointed by the crowds of motor boats.  We ended up hand-packing our gear towards Fern Lake (near Mammoth) only to find the trail buried in snow.  The next day, we drove to Silver Lake along HWY 88, and experienced ice kayaking.  We were pleased to find that our wetsuits were adequate for this 32F water, as we rinsed the Alkali salts from our boats.

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