A large lake, 20 miles long with 60 miles of shoreline, Mono Lake provides feeding or nesting grounds for roughly 2 million birds each year. One of the oldest lakes in North America, its water level has dropped precipitously due to water diversions to Los Angeles. A similar lake to the south, Owens Lake, has been drained nearly dry. Recently a bacterium was discovered that appeared to substitute arsenic for phosphorus in its DNA, which would have been an entirely new type of lifeform. This was later shown not to be true.
The Milky Way arches over exotic calcium carbonate "tufa" rock formations, while reflecting in water nearly three times saltier then the sea. The tufa formations formed when the lake was higher, as calcium-rich spring water reached the alkaline waters of the lake.