Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scenic Mono County


Crowds, Starbucks and traffic jams are just some of the things you won't find in California’s Mono County.

Instead, travelers passing through this part of Eastern California will find plenty of beautiful landscapes, interesting history, fascinating geology, friendly towns, fishing, hiking, camping and a host of other places to see and things to do.

To reach Mono County from Carson City, you just head south on Highway 395, through the Carson Valley, and into California. You cross into Mono County about an hour south of Carson City.

Mono County dates to about the same time that Nevada gained territorial status. The county was created in 1861 and was the first of the mining counties organized on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in California.

On a map, the county is long and narrow, averaging 108 miles in length and some 38 miles in width. It includes more than 3,000 square miles, wedged between the crest of the Sierra Nevada and the Nevada state line.

The focal point for the county is the community of Bridgeport, located about 85 miles south of Carson City. Bridgeport, which is the county seat, developed during the late 19th century and fortunately has retained many of the historic buildings and flavor of its early years.

Perhaps the most prominent landmark in Bridgeport is the county courthouse. Built in 1880, this three-story white wooden structure, which remains in use, features classic Italianate architecture and is topped with a square cupola and flagpole.

Behind the courthouse is the original jail, a simple square stone building constructed of native rock that was used from 1883 to 1964.

Slightly to the west of the jail is one of the best places to learn about the history of the area, the Mono County Museum (760-932-5281), housed in an old schoolhouse. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Inside this traditional white and green schoolhouse you will find an interesting array of artifacts including a fine collection of handmade baskets woven by local Paiutes, antique furniture, firearms, farming equipment and a great collection of historic photographs.

The latter displays include a large number of scenes of the nearby ghost town of Bodie, now a California state park.

Adjacent to the museum, visitors will also find a pleasant community park with picnic tables. Bridgeport also contains a number of businesses, such as gas stations, motels and restaurants, geared for the traveler.

The surrounding area is very beautiful as Bridgeport is located in a large valley surrounded by spectacular mountains. In fact, the mountains southeast of the town are the northern border of Yosemite National Park, certainly one of the most beautiful scenic areas in the world.

The eastern entrance to Yosemite, at Tioga Pass, is located about 30 miles southeast of Bridgeport via 395 and State Route 120. This road takes you through the Tuolumne Meadows and winds around to the magnificent Yosemite Valley in the heart of the park.
Directly north of the town is Bridgeport Lake, a popular reservoir that offers camping and fishing. There is also quality recreation available at the Twin Lakes, located about five miles southeast of Bridgeport.

The south end of Mono County includes a couple of well known skiing areas, Mammoth Lakes and June Lake as well as Crowley Lake, said to be one of the best trout fishing lakes in the Sierra.

A particularly scenic detour from Highway 395 is to take State Route 120 east to Benton (go opposite of 120 to Yosemite), then head south on U.S. Highway 6 to Bishop, where you reconnect with 395. This drive takes you through some remote but picturesque areas, including the Chalfant Valley.

For more information contact the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce, 760-932-7500 or go to http://www.bridgeportcalifornia.com/.

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