During 13 nights of Rayleigh lidar measurements at Urbana Illinois in 1984–86, thirty-six quasi-monochromatic gravity waves were observed in the 35–50 km altitude region of the stratosphere. The characteristics of the waves are compared with other lidar and radar measurements of gravity waves and with theoretical models of wave saturation and dissipation phenomena. The measured vertical wavelengths (λ2) ranged from 2 to 11.5 km and the measured vertical phase velocities (cz) ranged from 10 to 85 cm s−1. The vertical wavelengths and vertical phase velocities were used to infer observed wave periods (Tob) which ranged from 100 to 1000 min and horizontal wavelengths (λx) which ranged firm 70 to 2000 km. There may be errors, in the inferred values of the horizontal wavelengths because they were calculated by assuming that the observed period inferred the intrinsic period. Dominant wave activity was found at vertical wavelengths between 2–4 km and 7–10 km. No significant seasonal variations were evident in the observed parameters. Vertical and horizontal wavelengths showed a clear tendency to increase with Tob, which is consistent with recent sodium lidar studies of quasi-monochromatic waves near the mesopause. An average amplitude growth length of 20.9 km for the rms wind perturbations was estimated from the data. Kinetic energy density associated with the waves decreased with height, suggesting that waves in this altitude region were subject to dissipation or saturation effects.