Yosemite is one of the most well known national parks in the world. With over 3.7 million visitors every year, this California park is an incredibly popular nature destination in the United States. Yosemite National Park is known for its awe-inspiring granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and over 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking trails. Half Dome, a massive granite cliff jutting out of the earth, is one of the famous icons of the park, along with Cathedral Peak and El Capitan. Most of Yosemite’s iconic peaks, lakes, and waterfalls are located in the tourist-heavy 7 square mile (18 sq. km) area of Yosemite Valley, but the entire park actually encompasses an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 sq. km). Yosemite has the honor of being the first national park ever designated, thanks in large part to conservationists like John Muir and Galen Clark. These men and others worked hard to protect the park both for the impressive diversity of plants and animals that lived there, and also for the enjoyment of future generations. Today, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a favorite destination for hikers, rock climbers, campers, and nature lovers of all kinds.
In Mono County, California, just Northeast of Yosemite National Park, lies a fascinating 760,000 year old saline lake. Mono Lake has no outlet to the ocean, and has become very salty and alkaline. The most notable feature of Mono Lake is it strange tufa formations, giving the lake an other worldly or moon-like quality. The tufa at Mono Lake are limestone formations that were once underwater but have slowly been exposed as the lake’s water evaporated. Tufa deposits are also found at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.