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The Owens River

California

There is a paradox about the Owens River - its tributaries are among the most popular recreation resources in the state, but the river itself is little known. In fact, for more than 80 years most of the river was actually dry, its water entirely diverted into the Los Angeles Owens Valley Aqueduct.

As a result of decades of litigation, the river is gradually being restored. There is now water flowing along its entire length, small wetlands have been restored or created, and the dust problem of Owens Dry Lake is being dealt with.

To get the whole picture, be sure to look also at the pages on the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Mono Lake water diversions.


Big Spring - source of the Owens River

The Owens River begins in a series of small springs at the north edge of the Long Valley Caldera. This is just upstream from the Big Springs Campground.

 thumbnail - Source of the Owens River

This unimpressive series of springs along the base of a lava flow constitute the actual source of the Owens River

near Big Springs Campground, Inyo National Forest, California

July 29, 2015
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Long Valley and Lake Crowley

The Mono Craters Tunnel adds to the waters of the Owens River


The Owens River in the Long Valley Caldera

The Owens River flows through lush meadows on the flat floor of Long Valley Caldera. Fishermen have access to miles of the riverbank.

 thumbnail - Benton Crossing of the Owens River

Pastures flank the Owens River as it crosses the flat floor of Long Valley towards Lake Crowley.

Long Valley near Mammoth, California

July 29, 2015
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Long Valley and Lake Crowley

Lake Crowley is the main storage reservoir for the Los Angeles Aqueduct


Penstock at Middle Powerhouse in the Owens River Gorge

Most of the water of the Owens River is diverted into huge steel penstocks that conduct it through a series of three powerplants.

 thumbnail - Penstock down to the middle Owens Gorge Powerhouse

This penstock drops water from the rim of the Gorge directly to the middle powerhouse.

Owens River Gorge, north of Bishop, California

November 2, 2015
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Owens River Gorge

Penstock on the Volcanic Tableland

Penstocks descending the Volcanic Tableland

 thumbnail - Penstock above the Owens River Gorge

Most of the water from the Owens River runs parallel to the Gorge in this huge penstock, leading to the lower powerhouse at Control Gorge.

Owens River Gorge, north of Bishop, California

November 2, 2015
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Owens River Gorge

The re-watered Owens River in the Gorge

 thumbnail - Re-watered Owens River in the Gorge

After being dry for most of the 20th century, releases from Lake Crowly now ensure a minimal flow in the river.

Owens River Gorge, north of Bishop, California

November 2, 2015
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Owens River Gorge

Control Gorge Powerhouse on the Owens River

 thumbnail - Control Gorge Powerhouse

The lowest of the three electric generating stations in the Owens River Gorge.

Owens River Gorge, north of Bishop, California

November 2, 2015
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Owens River Gorge

Pleasant Valley Dam below the Owens River Gorge

 thumbnail - Pleasant Valley Dam

The Pleasant Valley Dam on the Owens River stabilizes flow below the powerplants in the gorge upstream.

Pleasant Valley, north of Bishop, California

November 2, 2015
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Owens River Gorge

The Owens River in Pleasant Valley

 thumbnail - Pleasant Valley on the Owens River

Pleasant Valley at the bottom of the Owens River Gorge holds a small reservoir and a spread-out campground that is popular with fishermen.

Pleasant Valley Campground, north of Bishop, California

October 16, 2015
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Owens River Gorge

The Owens River in the northern part of Owens Valley

The Owens River above the headgates of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

 thumbnail - Owens River near Aberdeen

The Owens River above the headgates of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, near Aberdeen in Owens Valley.

near Aberdeen in Owens Valley, California

November 3, 2015
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Taboose Pass and Aberdeen

Groundwater pumping by DWP in Owens Valley


Klondike Lake was created by DWP as wildlife habitat mitigation


Tinemaha Reservoir stores water for the Los Angeles Aqueduct


The Headgates of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

 thumbnail - Los Angeles Aqueduct Headgates - the river

Water released into the natural river from the headgates near Aberdeen.

near Aberdeen in Owens Valley, California

November 3, 2015
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The re-watered lower Owens River

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near Lone Pine, California

March 21, 2009
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North of Owens Lake

Owens Lake Pumping Plant

Here on the north shore of Owens Dry Lake the Owens River ends. Its water is either allocated to dust control projects, allowed to flow into the lake, or pumped up into the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Official site: The Lower Owens River Project


Dust storm north of Owens Dry Lake

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east of Lone Pine, California

March 21, 2009
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North of Owens Lake

On the former shoreline of Owens Lake at Keeler

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Keeler on Owens Lake, east of Lone Pine, California

March 21, 2009
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The East Side of Owens Lake

Dust abatment projects on the bed of Owens Lake


Western landing of the steamboat service on Owens Lake


Fossil Falls on the Pleistocene extension of the Owens River

 thumbnail - On the brink of Fossil Falls

In the Pleistocene Owens River flowed south from Owens Lake and cascaded over this lava flow. The spectacularly water-worn rocks seem out of place in the present desert climate.

near Little Lake, California

March 17, 2009
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More panoramas of:
Red Cone and Fossil Falls

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Rivers - Humboldt
Next Thematic Listing:
Rivers - Colorado upper