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Owens Valley

Owens Lake


Owens Lake - August 2003

Owens Lake is a large dry lake in the eastern Sierra Nevada of Inyo County in eastern California. It lies on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada and southeast of the city of Lone Pine. Owens Lake holds significant historical, environmental, and political importance due to its involvement in the California water wars.


Owens Lake - 1913 (before diversion)

Historically, Owens Lake was a significant body of water, covering approximately 108 square miles. However, in the early 20th century, water from the Owens River was diverted to supply Los Angeles, leading to the lake's desiccation by the 1920s. This diversion sparked the California water wars and had dramatic ecological consequences.

The lakebed is known for its high concentrations of salts, alkali dust, and minerals, making it a source of significant dust pollution, which poses health risks due to airborne particulates. In response, various measures have been taken to mitigate dust emissions, such as shallow flooding and the growth of salt-tolerant plants.

Today, the lake is also recognized for its unique landscape and is a site for birdwatching, particularly during migration seasons, as it remains a critical habitat for various bird species. Efforts to restore parts of the lake continue, focusing on balancing water use and environmental protection.

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The Owens Valley Paiute belong to an extensive group known generically as the Northern Paiute (in western Nevada as the Paviotso), which extends through ...

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