Skip to Content

Swimming In The Mono Lake? (Read This First!) Complete Guide

Mono Lake is located near the town of Lee Vining, California and it is known for its unusual limestone towers. But can we swim in the mono lake apart from just seeing these towers?

Let’s answer the question along with rules, dangers, best time, and most ideal spots to visit Mono Lake? So have a pen and paper and start noting some important things from this article that’ll help you a lot during your visit.

Can You Swim In Mono Lake?

Beaufiul tufa formation at Mono Lake. But, is swimming possible in this lake?
Tufa Formations at Mono Lake in California

Swimming is not just possible, but it is encouraged in the dense water of Mono Lake. The water in the lake has more salt than the water in the ocean, making it thicker and more buoyant. This phenomenon is also noticed in the Great Salt Lake of Utah

The concentrated salt content in Mono Lake makes swimming more like floating, without the need to thread the water. It resembles how a buoy bobs in the water of the ocean. After swimming, ensure that you rinse off with regular water, as the salty water from the lake dries white and can itch. 

Due to this saltiness, it is advisable for individuals seeking to take a swim to keep their mouths and eyes above the water’s surface. Cuts or lesions should not be submerged in the water as they would sting. 

Besides the high presence of salt, the lake contains loads of minerals. The numerous health advantages make bathing in the lake similar to an appointment at the spa. Individuals believe that swimming in the lake cures any ailment or pain affecting an individual. 

Most Ideal Spots To Visit On Mono Lake

The best locations to visit on the lake are Mono Lake County Park and South Tufa. 

Nearby places to visit include

  • Bridgeport is a fantastic location for hiking and fishing. Individuals can even relax and soak themselves in the hot springs. Bridgeport is a small town just 30 minutes from Mono Lake. 
  • Mammoth Lakes is a thirty-minute drive from Mono Lake. There are top-rated hot springs, and during the winter season, individuals can ski and snowboard. 
  • June Lake is an excellent place for fishing, hiking, paddleboarding, and kayaking.
  • Lake Tahoe straddles the border between Nevada and California. It is a preferred spot during the winter and summer months. 
  • Yosemite is another popular location for visitors. From Mono Lake, it is only accessible during late spring, summer, and early fall. The pass closes in the winter season when there is snow.

Best Time To Swim In The Mono Lake

The known swimming season for Mono Lake is between July and August. During these two months, the water’s temperature never falls below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. [source]

During the other months of the summer season, the average water temperature is just above 67 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Even though the summer months are the most popular time of year for a visit to Mono Lake, most visitors do not venture into the waters. Therefore, the lake is not very crowded. 

Protection of the nesting and migrating birds requires that the water immediately surrounding the islands in the middle of the lake, plus the islands themselves, are closed to visitors between April 1st and August 1st. 

Water Activities Allowed On The Lake

Practically every boating activity has permission to occur on the waters of Mono Lake, but there is a $3.00 per adult fee to enter the South Tufa. Also, a few cautions and restrictions are in place, so consider these on your next visit.

There are also one-hour canoe tours that the Mono Lake Committee hosts. The fee ranges from $7.00 for children four years to twelve years and $17.00 for adults. For any child under four years old, the committee prohibits them from going on the tour. 

While boating, the authorities advise remaining close to shore and vigilant for high winds. Launch large boats that are too big to carry from Lee Vining Creek. 

Kayaking is another fun experience to have on the lake. The launch site for the kayaks and canoes is typically Mono Lake Navy Beach. 

There are no water sports allowed or fishing, as there are no fish in the lake. Hence, individuals opt to use non-motorized vessels to travel along the lake. Jet skis and speedboats are not suitable for this lake. [source]

You can also try the Big Bear Lake of Southern California if you don’t want like the experience of swimming in Mono Lake.

What To Avoid At Mono Lake

Tufa towers formed due to Limestone deposits fromations in the Mono Lake, california.

The tufa towers are the most prominent site on the lake. Tufa towers are structures protruding from the lake formed by limestone deposits. However, it is illegal to cause damage to them. Avoid these towers at all costs. Also, be on the lookout for underwater tufa towers.

Due to the wind hazards and the issues posed to swimmers and boaters, boaters should be out of the lake before noon. The high winds typically arrive in the afternoon. 

Avoid remaining in the water for more than 20 minutes because the alkalinity of the water makes it unhealthy for the skin. The pH of the Mono Lake water is above 9.

Although the waters of the Mono Lake are diverted to Los Angeles to provide residents there with water, individuals should not drink the water in the lake. They are massive amounts of carbonates, chlorides, and sulfates present in the lake.

Concerns At Mono Lake 

The tufa towers are becoming more exposed because of a three-year drought, currently shrinking the Mono Lake. The lake has fallen below a management level set in 1994 of 6,392 feet. 

The drought has compounded decades of excessive water diversions. Los Angeles has been importing water from the lake since 1941, reducing the surface levels over the years. The water in Mono Lake decreased by 45 feet in depth, lost fifty percent of its volume, and increased in salinity. [source]

According to authorities, the lake is not restoring itself as scheduled. The water level is currently below the management level. 

When the winds are coming off the Sierra Nevada, they whip up the soil of Mono Lake, sending the choking dust clouds into the atmosphere and through the neighboring towns. These dust clouds sweep across the landscape in quantities that surpass the public health standard limits.

As the lake resides in a barred basin, without any mediums connecting it to other bodies of water, chemicals entering the Mono Lake tend to remain there. Because of this, the lake builds up high concentrations of arsenic.

The establishment of the Mono Lake Committee was to protect and restore the lake through legislative, legal, and grassroots advocacy techniques. The committee works with other entities to monitor the water temperatures, streamflows, groundwater tracking, and on-the-ground restoration, including removing invasive weeds and tree planting.

Mono Lake As An Ecosystem

Due to the reducing levels of the lake, the ecosystem of algae, alkali flies, brine shrimp, and water birds is under threat. Over 80 waterbird species migrate to the lake annually and sustain themselves on the shrimp and flies. The entire ecosystem is one of complexity and fragility. [source]

Deaths On The Mono Lake 

The year 2008 was when experienced kayaker William Mendoza, a 57 years old California resident, lost his life. The Sheriff’s Office in Mono stated that the school teacher drowned while attempting to complete his annual solo paddle to Paoha Island. [source]