This was my first view on Mono Lake. It is the remnant of a larger salt lake. What is interesting is that it has a cinder cone in the middle, so obviously it is also part of a volcanic area.
The visitor center had this huge obsidian boulder!
Mono Lake is 2.5 times saltier than the ocean and 10 times more alkaline. Mark Twain visited here and wrote about it in Roughing It. He said you could dip your clothing in the lake and your clothes would come out clean and fresh. This is still true! Guess I have to find the book on my Kindle and reread it.
The white things on the shore are called Tufa. They are spires of calcium carbonate formed when springs bubbled up underwater and then hardened. The lake level is much less than it was even 50 years ago, but California has decided to allow more water to enter the lake, raising its level to 1967 levels. It is still a long way from there.
You can walk up very close to them, but are asked not to touch.
In spite of the intense saltiness and alkalinity of the lake, it contains a huge number of insects and brine shrimp, so it a great nesting and stopping place for birds. In fact, they said that 90% of California gulls nest at Mono Lake!
In addition to providing food for birds, the native American's harvested insect larvae from the lake, dried it, and used it as a major food source.