Owens Lake

A trip around an almost non existent lake that is the source of a big problem in the region.

Owens Valley is a downdropped block of land between two vertical faults, it was formed by a long series of earthquakes, such as the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake.
We enter the lake gravel loop at the Boulder Creek RV Park. No signage, no people, just us and the great flat dry-lake.
The region is a highlight for bird watchers, with the rusty barrel-like structures a perfect hideout.
Owens Lake was a perennial lake at the terminus of the Owens River throughout historic time; the lake held water continuously, and at times overflowed to the south, for at least the last 800,000 years.
Soon after Los Angeles began diverting the water that fed Owens Lake, the lake went dry and the dust of the lake bed was exposed to the howling winds of the valley. In the shallow parts, the water is pink and forms a pink crust on the edges. The coloration is caused by halobacteria living in a thin layer of brine on the surface of the lake bed.
Environmental lawsuits have been filed over the decades since, and in recent times the DWP has paid over a billion dollars to reintroduce water to a 61-mile stretch of the river and lake.
In spite of the efforts, though, the old west past of Owens Valley will never be reborn.
The semi-arid and spectacular landscape of the Owens Valley is characterized as high desert. The rain shadow cast by the Sierra Nevada means the valley receives less than 10 cm of precipitation annually.
We have lunch and start watching birds.
This area appears to be a major stop-over site for shorebirds and waterfowl in the southern California interior.

The trail is part of the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program.
Part of the project?
We are a bit sceptical.
Rotating clockwise around the lake to see more of the valley, here parts of Keeler on the Cerro Gordo Road.
A very long stretch of road until the next intersection.
Sand dunes beginning to form, even covering parts of the street… the wind must be blowing here at times.
The lake at the southern corner. More water, but the dams, pipes and other structures give it an eerie feel.
The gleaming white material in the foreground is soda ash (sodium carbonate), once harvested from evaporation ponds by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory.
Strange how it is advertised as a bird paradise since the water has been sold out, but it’s not a novelty, there probably were even more birds when the lake was whole.
Western side of the lake: Cottonwood Creek Charcoal Kilns, got a roof a few years back.
The abandoned Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory.
Stopping at Diaz Lake.
Scenic stop at a water filled basin created by the Lone Pine quake.
It’s a popular recreation and fishing spot: The most popular species caught here are Rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, and Bluegill.


Donations in form of Darbo Preiselbeer Kompott are greatly appreciated ;)