River is a river in eastern
California in the United States,
approximately 183 miles (295 km) long. It drains into and
through the Owens Valley, an arid basin between the eastern slope of
Nevada and the western faces of the Inyo and White
Mountains. The river terminates at the endorheic
Owens Lake south of
Lone Pine, at the bottom of a 2,600 sq mi (6,700 km2)
In the early 1900s the Owens was the focus of the
Wars, fought between the city of Los Angeles and the inhabitants of
Owens Valley over the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Since
1913, the Owens
River has been diverted to Los Angeles, causing the
ruin of the valley's economy and the drying of Owens Lake. In winter
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power restored 5% of the
pre-aqueduct flow to the river, by court order, allowing the Owens
River Gorge, the river bed in the valley, and
Owens Lake to contain a
small amount of water.
5.1 Water rights controversy
6 See also
8 Works cited
9 External links
Main article: Owens
The river rises in the Sierra
Nevada in southwestern Mono County,
approximately 15 miles (24.1 km) south of
Mono Lake and 35 miles
(56.3 km) east of Yosemite Valley. It flows southeast across the
Long Valley Caldera, through
Lake Crowley reservoir, then descends
through the 20-mile-long (32 km) Owens
River Gorge, emerging at
the north end of the
Owens Valley northwest of Bishop. In the area
around Bishop, it is diverted through many ditches to irrigate the
surrounding farming region. It flows south-southeast through the Owens
Valley between the Sierra
Nevada on the west and the White and Inyo
Mountains on the east, past Big Pine. Approximately 14 miles
(22.5 km) south-southeast of Big Pine, most of the remaining
river is diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, completed in 1913 to
supply municipal, recreational and agricultural water to Los Angeles.
The remaining river flows through the southern valley, flanked by the
Los Angeles Aqueduct, past Lone Pine, entering the lake bed of
Owens Lake at the southern end of Owens
The river flows through two major valleys of the extreme southwestern
Great Basin – the Long Valley and Owens Valley. The north to
south drainage basin is in portions of Mono and Inyo Counties and
terminates in the now-dry Owens Lake. To the northwest of the
valley is the
Long Valley Caldera
Long Valley Caldera which is only a fraction of the size
of the Owens Valley. The Owens
Owens Valley from the
northwest, while the Spring Valley Wash drains the northernmost part
of the valley, extending a tiny portion of the basin into Nevada.
The river flows mainly on the east side of the valley, because
alluvial deposits from Sierra
Nevada streams have forced the river
channel in that direction.
Vertical relief in the basin is immense – elevations range from
14,505 feet (4,421 m) at Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the
continental United States, to 3,556 feet (1,084 m) on
the bed of Owens Lake. The Owens
River itself heads at an
elevation of 7,291 feet (2,222 m). Few people inhabit the sparse,
open grasslands and steep mountainsides of the watershed; the 2009
population of Mono County was about 12,927 while Inyo County had
some 17,293 inhabitants. The largest city on the river is Bishop,
with a population of just under 4,000. Other significant towns include
Lone Pine (population 2,035), Big Pine (population 1,707), and
Independence (population 669).
River flows through part of the
Basin and Range Province
Basin and Range Province of
North America's Great Basin. The
Owens Valley is a graben or rift
valley, a section of land that has dropped down between two parallel
faults, while the land on either side has risen. This has resulted in
the flat floor and steep, towering walls of the present-day
valley. With the Sierra
Nevada on the west side and the Inyo
Mountains and White Mountains on the east, with the highest peaks of
either range rising to over 14,000 feet (4,300 m) and the floor
of the valley at a comparatively low 3,000 to 4,000 feet (910 to
1,220 m), the Owens
River flows in one of the deepest valleys in
the United States.
Further to the north, the Owens
River basin encompasses predominantly
igneous rocks and vast remnants of past volcanic activity. The upper
30 miles (48 km) of the river run through the Long Valley
Caldera, an enormous 20-mile (32 km)-wide crater formed by a
volcanic eruption some 760,000 years ago. The eruption's resulting
ash cloud covered much of the southwestern United States, including
parts of ten U.S. states. Mammoth Mountain, to the southwest (more
popularly known as a major ski area) also formed from eruptions
related to the Long Valley Caldera. To the north of the Caldera,
extending to the
Mono Lake area, lie the chain of Mono-Inyo Craters,
which range in age from 400,000 to 500 years old.
Pleistocene at the end of the last glacial period, melting
glaciers in the Sierra
Nevada and Inyo/White Mountains fed prodigious
amounts of runoff into the Owens River, causing it to expand to many
times its current size. The increased volume of the river caused Owens
Lake to rise as well, eventually spilling out the south side of the
valley into the Mojave Desert. Ancient, now-abandoned river channels
suggest that the extended Owens
River ran south to China Lake, then
east into Searles Lake, north into the
Panamint Valley (where it
formed Panamint Lake) and finally east into
Death Valley and the
ancient Lake Manly. This great inland sea was also fed by the Mojave
River from the south, the Amargosa
River from the east and the Death
Valley Wash from the north. During this relatively short time, the
River became part of a vast interior drainage system that
stretched east to west covering over 8,000 square miles
(21,000 km2). During the peak of runoff, water from this massive
basin may have even escaped to the Colorado
River through a valley
leading to the southeast.
The semi-arid Owens Valley, with the Owens
River flowing through the
For thousands of years the Owens
River valley was inhabited by the
Owens Valley Northern
Paiute and the
Shoshone tribes of
Native Americans. The indigenous name for the river was Wakopee, while
Owens Lake Pacheta. In the upper
Owens Valley lie
traces of some of California's first irrigation systems, created by
Paiute groups to water small patches of crops. It is believed that
native people in the upper portion of the valley once built dams
across the Owens
River (and possibly one of its major tributaries,
Bishop Creek) to divert water into local canals. The switch from a
hunter-gatherer to a settled, agricultural lifestyle is probably the
result of the climate of the
Owens Valley becoming drier some 1,000
Typically, the Native Americans built dams across the river or other
tributary streams in the spring out of materials including boulders,
dirt, reeds, grass or other elements. The watercourse below the dam
would then be desiccated, and the water led by canal to the irrigated
plot of land, typically no more than a few square miles.
Directly after the dam was closed and the river dried up, fish trapped
on the dry riverbed would then be gathered and eaten. Before winter
storms caused floods, the dam would be breached, allowing the river to
flow naturally again, while fish would be collected in the dried-up
river channel. By then, there would be enough food stored to last
the winter in which the cropland would lie fallow.
In the nineteenth century, the Owens
River was first seen by American
explorers. One of the first explorers was John C. Fremont, who led a
cartographic expedition to the
Owens Valley in 1845. His party
included Kit Carson,
Edward Kern and Richard Owens, the latter for
whom the river, lake and valley are named. Other well-known
Jedediah Smith and Joseph R. Walker, who also
came into the area in the 1800s. Gradually, the river's
surroundings were settled by farmers and ranchers. The valley
never accumulated a very large population, but mining activities
brought significant income to the new inhabitants of the area. Ore
was shipped down the Owens
River from the north, and also borax and
Death Valley to the east. Up until 1924,
Owens Lake was
still so large that a steamboat ferry operated between its east and
west sides, ferrying freight and passengers across in three hours,
much less than the three days required to semi-circumnavigate the
lake. In 1872, the Lone Pine earthquake killed 27 people in the
Owens Valley, mostly in Lone Pine.
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has recently
decided to trap beaver (Castor canadensis) out of the Owens Valley,
claiming that beaver are damming flows into their diversions of water
to Los Angeles. This decision runs counter to an independent
assessment commissioned by LADWP and the Inyo County Water Department
in 1997, where it was recommended that beaver be maintained in
reasonable populations and their dams left in place because "Although
beaver activity has resulted in the removal of much willow and other
shrub and woody vegetation and the dams create favorable tule
conditions and reduce fish spawning habitat, they also provide
important fish rearing habitat, mesic meadows, and promote the growth
of other riparian species. It is most likely that the physical removal
of beaver dams will result in more adverse environmental impacts than
Beaver were re-introduced to the
Owens Valley by the California
Department of Fish and Game in 1948 in Baker Creek, and have since
spread throughout the Owens Valley. Although it is controversial
whether beaver were once native to the Owens Valley, there is growing
evidence that they were native to the eastern slope of the Sierra
Nevada. In particular, the northern
Paiute of Walker Lake, Honey Lake
and Pyramid Lake have a word for beaver su-i'-tu-ti-kut'-teh. When
Stephen Powers visited the northern
Paiute to collect Indian materials
Smithsonian Institution in preparation for the Centennial
Exhibition of 1876, he reported that the northern
Paiute wrapped their
hair in strips of beaver fur, made medicine from parts of beaver and
that their creation legend included beaver. In addition, fur
trapper Stephen Hall Meek "set his traps on the Truckee
1833", which strongly suggests that he saw beaver or beaver sign.
Supporting this line of evidence, Tappe records in 1941 an eyewitness
who said beaver were plentiful on the upper part of the Carson River
and its tributaries in
Alpine County until 1892 when they fell victim
to heavy trapping.
Water rights controversy
California Water Wars
The acquisition of water rights for the
Los Angeles Aqueduct
Los Angeles Aqueduct under the
William Mulholland was highly controversial and led to
violence and sabotage by local residents in the 1920s. The
diversion of water and the subsequent desiccation of Owens Lake
remains highly controversial, and the restoration of the lake has been
a long-time goal of the
California environmentalist community.
The lower Owens
Owens Lake were left dry by the 1913
diversions, until lawsuits forced LADWP to start releasing water into
the 62 mile long lower Owens
River in December 2006. In less than
one year, the lower Owens
River was teeming with fish, birds and other
Panorama of the Owens
River Valley from the Inyo Mountains. The large
body of water is Tinemaha Reservoir on the Owens River.
List of rivers of California
Owens Valley Indian War
^ "Query Form For The
United States And Its Territories". U.S. Board
on Geographic Names. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
^ a b c "Owens River". Geographic Names Information System. United
States Geological Survey. 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ "USGS Gage #10227500 on the Owens
River near Big Pine, CA". National
Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1975-12-19.
^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution
flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 17, 2011
^ "L.A. Returns Water to the Owens Valley". NPR
United States Geological Survey. "
United States Geological Survey
Topographic Maps". TopoQuest. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ a b USGS Topo Maps for
United States (Map). Cartography by United
States Geological Survey. ACME Mapper. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ "Boundary Descriptions and Names of Regions, Subregions, Accounting
Units and Cataloging Units". USGS.gov. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
^ a b c "Evaluation of the Hydrologic System and Selected
Water-Management Alternatives in the Owens Valley, California" (PDF).
California Water Science Center.
United States Geological Survey.
2010-05-27. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ "Mount Whitney". Geographic Names Information System. United States
Geological Survey. 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ a b "Points of Interest in the Owens
River Valley" (PDF). Center for
Land Use Interpretation. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ "Owens Lake". Geographic Names Information System. United States
Geological Survey. 1981-01-19. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ "Mono County, California". State & County QuickFacts. U.S.
Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ "Inyo County, California". State & County QuickFacts. U.S.
Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ a b Dutch, Steven (2006-01-06). "Owens Valley, California". Natural
and Applied Sciences. University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Archived
from the original on 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ Heil, Darla. "
Owens Valley geology".
Owens Valley Committee.
^ "Long Valley". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian National Museum
of Natural History. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
^ "Long Valley Caldera" (PDF). 2007 Annual Meeting. Geothermal
Resources Council. 2007-09-29 to 30. Retrieved 2010-06-05. Check
date values in: date= (help)
Long Valley Caldera
Long Valley Caldera and
Mono-Inyo Craters Volcanic Field,
California". Volcano World. Oregon State University. Retrieved
^ "The Little
River That Could: Nevada's Amargosa
River (section The
River Story)". Thoughts and Places.Org. Retrieved
^ "The Mojave
River and Associated Lakes". Publications Warehouse.
United States Geological Survey. 2009-12-18. Retrieved
^ a b c Cheuvront, Mike. "Bishop and the Owens Valley". Bishop
California. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
^ Bouey, Paul D. (1979). "Population Pressure and Agriculture in Owens
Valley". Journal of
Great Basin Anthropology.
^ a b Lawton, Harry W.; Wilke, Philip J.; DeDecker, Mary; Mason,
William M. (1976). "Agriculture Among the
Paiute of Owens Valley".
^ Hundley, p. 18
^ Hundley, p. 19
^ Hundley, p. 20
^ Gagnon, Al. "Chronological History of Owens Valley" (PDF). Owens
Valley History. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
^ Fretheim, Paul (2005). "Cerro Gordo and Panamint City – The Silver
Cities of Inyo" (PDF). Friends of the Eastern
^ "LA to hire beaver trappers for Owens Valley". ABC News. 2011-02-09.
^ Mark Hill, William S. Platts (1997). Technical Memorandum #3
Distribution and Abundance of Beaver in the Lower Owens River
(Report). Ecosystem Sciences. Retrieved 2011-02-12. CS1 maint:
Uses authors parameter (link)
^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Baker
^ Richard E. Warner, Kathleen M. Hendrix (1984).
systems: ecology, conservation, and productive management. University
California Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-520-05035-8.
Retrieved 2011-02-12. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
^ a b Don D. Fowler, Catherine S. Fowler, Stephen Powers
(Summer–Autumn 1970). "Stephen Powers' "The Life and Culture of the
Washo and Paiutes"". Ethnohistory. 17: 117–149. doi:10.2307/481206.
JSTOR 481206. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
^ Jesse D. Mason (1881). History of Amador County. Oakland,
California: Thompson & West. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
^ Tappe, Donald T. (1942). "The Status of Beavers in California"
(PDF). Game Bulletin No. 3.
California Department of Fish & Game:
14. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
^ "The Story of the Los Angeles Aqueduct". Los Angeles Department of
Water and Power. Archived from the original on 2009-02-01. Retrieved
^ Hundley, pp. 155-171
^ Sahagun, Louis (2007-07-08). "
River is resurrected: The long-dry
Owens now teems with birds and fish". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved
^ Kelly, William J. (2004-04-29). "Money in the Lake: You will end up
paying for repairing Owens Valley". LAWeekly. Retrieved
^ Louis Sahagun (2006-12-07). "In Owens Valley, water again flows"
(PDF). Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
^ Louis Sahagun (2007-07-08). "The long-dry Owens now teems with birds
and fish". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
Hundley, Norris (2001). The great thirst: Californians and water – a
history. University of
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Owens River.
"Owens River". New International Encyclo