Cartago Landing


Cartago Landing holds a significant place in the history of the Owens Valley and Eastern Sierra region of California, particularly during the era when Owens Lake was a fully watered body. Cartago Landing served as a crucial point for transporting and shipping goods before the lake’s desiccation due to water diversion to Los Angeles via the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the early 20th century.

Pre-Aqueduct Era:

  • Economic Hub: Cartago Landing, situated on the shores of Owens Lake, was an important economic hub in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The lake provided a natural route for transporting goods, making Cartago a vital location for loading and unloading cargo to be distributed throughout the Owens Valley and beyond.
  • Steamship Operations: The use of steamships on Owens Lake facilitated the movement of silver ore from mines in the area, particularly from Cerro Gordo, to Cartago Landing. From there, the ore was transported to processing facilities or railheads for further distribution. This mode of transportation was critical for the mining industry, which was a significant economic driver in the region during that period.

Post-Aqueduct Changes:

  • Environmental and Economic Impact: The construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which began in 1908 and was completed in 1913, profoundly impacted Owens Lake and Cartago Landing. The diversion of water to Los Angeles led to the drying up of Owens Lake, rendering the lakebed a source of dust pollution and significantly altering the ecological and economic landscape of the region.
  • Loss of Waterway: Cartago Landing and its role as a transportation and economic hub ceased with the lake’s desiccation. The area transformed from a vibrant community centered around the lake’s resources to one grappling with the environmental and health impacts of dust storms from the dry lakebed.

Modern Efforts and Legacy:

  • Environmental Restoration: In recent decades, efforts have been made to mitigate the dust pollution from the dried lakebed, including partial rewatering projects and establishing ground cover to stabilize the soil. These efforts are part of broader environmental restoration initiatives in the Owens Valley.
  • Historical Recognition: The history of Cartago Landing, along with the broader story of Owens Lake and the impact of water diversion, remains an important chapter in California’s environmental history. It serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between natural resource management, urban development, and environmental stewardship.

The transition of Cartago Landing from a bustling port to a reminder of ecological change underscores the profound impact human actions can have on the environment. It highlights the ongoing challenges of balancing water needs, environmental health, and community well-being in the arid West.