31-Mar-2001 -- Inspired by my friend Terje Mathisen’s confluence hunting in Norway, Blake Ward and I decided to visit 38°N 119°W, a point in the Eastern Sierra of California that happened to land in Mono Lake.
Mono Lake is a 760,000 year old lake at an altitude of nearly 6,400 feet. Mono has a pH of 10 and is almost three times as salty as the ocean, and is one of the most life-productive ecosystems in the world. Over 80 species of birds, including Snowy Plovers, Eared Grebes, and over 85% of California's breeding population of California Gulls can be found here. Since 1941 the city of Los Angeles has been diverting water from stream inflows causing the lake level to drop. The Mono Lake Committee was formed in 1978 to protect the lake and its ecosystems, and in the 1990s the CA State Water Resources Control board ordered minimum flows of creeks flowing into Mono Lake to stabilize its level.
We set off early in the morning of March 31st from Navy Beach on the south shore of the lake, borrowing kayaks for the 2 hour paddle out to Paoha Island, where we landed at 38°N 119°01.283W. We kept our cameras and GPS units in ziplock bags to protect them from the salt water. From April 1 through August 1, boats must stay at least 1 mile from the islands to avoid disturbing nesting birds, so this was our last chance until late summer to visit the island (the confluence itself can be visited any time, however). Although the lake is known for sudden high winds, we were lucky to have relatively calm conditions. Paddling due east from Paoha we reached the confluence in a little over a half hour. We did drift a little from the exact confluence as we photographed the panorama. At that distance out in the lake it is very difficult to determine whether you are moving at all; the long paddle back to shore took just under two hours, for a total time of 4:15 to cover 9.5 miles.
Picture #1 is a panorama south and west from the confluence, with Mono Craters (due south) on the left.
Gilcrest Peak, Mt Warren, and Lee Vining Peak are visible due west, and the lower end of Lee Vining
Canyon can be seen mid-panorama.
Picture #4 is Blake Ward at the confluence, with Mono Craters in the background, left, and Banner Peak
in the distance on the horizon to the right.
Picture #5 is at the confluence, though we've drifted somewhat from the exact location. Each thousandths of
a minute is approximately a paddle stroke :-)