The revival of the 62-mile Lower Owens River
is the largest river restoration project in the history of the American West.
From 1910 to 2007, a 100-km reach of the Owens River
of California was desiccated by water diversion, resulting in loss of meadow and riparian habitat.
The Owens River
drains into a large salt lake at its terminus--the
CONTACTS: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, www .ladwp.com; Lower Owens River
Fremont which left from Bent's Fort on the Oregon Trail met up with Walker and Richard Owens in 1844, and it was Fremont who named Owens River
, Owens Valley and Owens Lake in honor of Owens' abilities.
The residents of Owens Valley watched with muted bewilderment as government workers destroyed their orchards, roads, fields and buildings in order to divert water from the Owens River
. The people fought back, and the attacks on the aqueduct continued for months.
During the 1860s, settlers arrived in the valley to establish farms and ranches along the Owens River
. Mining camps soon dotted the Eastern Sierra, operated by miners who were lured to the mountain regions by the discovery of gold in 1857.
The valley is approximately 120 miles by six miles and is bisected by the Owens River
that, until diverted to the aqueduct, dumped into the alkaline Owens Lake.
Owens Lake was a perennial lake at the terminus of the Owens River
throughout historic time; the lake held water continuously for at least the last 800,000 years.
In the initial stage, Los Angeles must forego some water withdrawals from Owens River
above the lake.
The Owens River
flows southward through the valley, but most water has been diverted for agricultural and domestic uses.
Mulholland's agents managed to buy up about 95% of the water rights along the Owens River
, promising the local farmers and ranchers that they would be allowed continuous access to the vital liquid.