Mono Rock

Thu, Aug 13, 2009

With: Adam Jantz
Sean O'Rourke
Bill Peters
Daria Malin
Scott Sullivan
Elena Sherman

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

Mono Rock (11,554 ft.)

Named by USGS in 1909

Also Pass, Lake, Craters, Dome, Creek, Divide

"'Mono County and Lake are named after a wide-spread division of Shoshonean Indians on both slopes of the Southern Sierra Nevada. ... by their Yokuts neighbors they are called Monachi. ... The Yokuts word for "flies" was monoi, monai, or monoyi.' (Kroeber, 48-49) 'If we assume that this word forms the stem of monachi, it is quite certain that the name means "fly-people" and is quite properly applied. On the shore of the otherwise barren [Mono] lake are found countless millions of the pupae of a fly. ... These pupae were not only the favorite food of these Indians, but they used them for trading with the neighboring tribes. ... The conclusion is forced upon us that the Yokuts called these Indians Monachi because their wealth consisted of flies.' (CFQ 4, no. 1, Jan. 1945: 90 ff.)

The first use of the word as a geographic name was by Lt. Tredwell Moore's party in July 1852, calling the lake 'Lake Mono, after the tribe of Indians that inhabited that section.' (Daily Alta California, Aug. 26, 1852, 2.) The lake and pass [there are two Mono Passes -- this reference is to the northern one near Mono Lake] are shown on Trask's maps of 1853.

The craters were named in the 1880s. 'By far the grandest display of quaternary volcanic action within the Mono basin is furnished by the Mono Craters. I have given this name to the slightly crescent-shaped range of volcanic cones which commences at the southern margin of Lake Mono and extends about ten miles southward.' (Russell, Quarternary, 378.) 'Mono Dome' probably was named by the USGS during the 1898-99 survey for the Mt. Lyell 30' map; it is on the first edition, 1901.

The Brewer party of the Whitney Survey crossed the pass on August 2, 1864; none of the 'Mono' features was named at that time. (Brewer, Up and Down, 539-40.) Theodore S. Solomons used the name 'Mono Creek' in 1894, but does not indicate that he named it. (SCB 1, no. 6, May 1895: 226.) Some if not all of the other features probably were named by the USGS during the 1907-09 survey for the Mt. Goddard 30' map; all are named on the first edition, 1912."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada

"July 9 [1863] we came on about ten miles north over the plain and camped at the northwest corner of Lake Mono. This is the most remarkable lake I have ever seen. It lies in a basin at the height of 6,800 feet above the sea. Like the Dead Sea, it is without an outlet. The streams running into it all evaporate from the surface, so of course it is very salt -- not common salt. There are hot springs in it, which feed it with peculiar mineral salts. It is said that it contains borax, also boracic acid, in addition to materials generally found in saline lakes. I have bottled water for analysis and hope to know some time. The waters are clear and very heavy -- they have a nauseous taste. When still, it looks like oil, it is so thick, and it is not easily disturbed. Although nearly twenty miles long it is often so smooth that the opposite mountains are mirrored in it as in glass. The water feels slippery to the touch and will wash grease from the hands, even when cold, more readily than common hot water and soap. I washed some woolens in it, and it was easier and quicker than in any 'suds' I ever saw. It washed our silk handkerchiefs, giving them a luster as if new. It spots clothes of some colors most effectually.

No fish or reptiles live in it, yet it swarms with millions of worms, which develop into flies. These rest on the surface and cover everything on the immediate shore. The number and quantity of these worms and flies is absoulutely incredible. They drift up in heaps along the shore -- hundreds of bushels could be collected. They only grow at certain seasons of the year. The Indians come far and near to gather them. The worms are dried in the sun, the shell rubbed off, when a yellowish kernel remains, like a small yellow grain of rice. This is oily, very nutritious, and not unpleasant to the taste, and under the name of koo-chah-bee forms a very important article of food. The Indians gave me some; it does not taste bad, and if one were ignorant of its origin, it would make fine soup. Gulls, ducks, snipe, frogs, and Indians fatten on it."


We crossed the summit that day. As we approached it, it seemed impassable -- great banks of snow, above which rose great walls and precipices of granite -- but a little side canyon, invisible from the front, let us through. The pass [this is the other Mono, near Little Lakes Valley just south of Mono Rock] is very high, nearly or quite twelve thousand feet on the summit. The horses cross over the snow. So far as I know it is the highest pass crossed by horses in North America. There is no regular trail, but Indians had taken horses over it before the soldiers did. The region about the pass is desolate in the extreme -- snow and rock, or granite sand, constitute the landscape."
- William Brewer, Up and Down California

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