Don Bain's 360° Panoramas of
East of the Sierra Nevada
Mono and Inyo Counties, California
The most wonderful book about any part of California is "The Land of Little Rain" written in 1903 by Mary Austin. She lived in Independence and her book describes Owens Valley and the ranges that flank it. It is not a geography or travel book, but a collection of essays about the people and the landscapes.
By a strange quirk of history "this long brown land" is perhaps better preserved than any other sizeable chunk of California. Early in the 20th century the City of Los Angeles bought almost all the private land on the floor of the valley in order to secure the water rights - so they could build the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The federal government already owned the lower slopes (now administered by the BLM) and the mountains (Inyo National Forest). The result was a permanent halt to development of all kinds, so the towns have remained small and the desert is still dry and uncultivated.
The early days of the Los Angeles aqueduct project were ruthless and single-minded. But now decades of legal action have forced many concessions - Mono Lake must be maintained at a reasonable level, flow has been restored to the entire length of the Owens River, water has been allocated for wildlife, and dust-abatement is on-going at vast Owens Dry Lake.
To their credit LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) have always managed their lands similarly to the federal agencies whose lands border theirs - free public access for recreation. Plus, if it were not for the water-export mandate, Owens Valley would now be covered with condos and golf courses, like Palm Springs, and I for one prefer it the way it is.