The Trona Pinnacles are a set of tufa that formed when this area was covered by a big lake. Calcium rich spring water bubbled up into carbonate rich lake water and reacted, making the formations. This is the same process that made the tufa at Mono Lake. These pinnacles are used in movies when an exotic landscape is needed, such as Planet of the Apes and Star Trek. Because they are on BLM land, there are fewer restrictions on what can be done here, and the area is littered with trash and vehicle tracks.
There are a lot of minerals in the area, and the tracks lead to a processing facility to extract the valuable ones. The first to be mined here, and in Death Valley, was borax.