I have a love-hate relationship with the eastern slope of California’s Sierra Nevada. I love the country, the sheer majesty of the land; but I hate what people have done here.
Following US Highway 395 along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada ia a magical trip with amazing vistas to see, natural mysteries to discover, and stories about the human condition you just have to hear.
The town of Lone Pine is in the heart of the Owens River Valley. The mountain views are breath-taking; sunrise on Mount Whitney is a spectacular event, not to be missed. This is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states and it stands proudly west of town, just past the Alabama Hills. Driving through this area will feel very familiar, due to the hundreds of movies and tv commercials shot here.
However, the valley is a sad object lesson. This once was an blossoming agriculture center until Los Angeles bought it and killed it off. This is why I think every central valley farmer should see this area; yes it is incredibly scenic, but also, what could be a rich agricultural center now simply provides water to Los Angeles. You’ll see a few farms left in the area, farms which show you what could have been if it hadn’t been for the shady operators from LA.
In the early 1900’s Los Angeles developers quietly began buying water rights and all the land they could in the Owens Valley and the mountains around it. Los Angeles politicians formed the The Bureau of Los Angeles Aqueduct, which later became the LA Department of Water and Power. The Bureau obtained the water rights from the developers, then built a canal and shipped the water south. The farmland dried up and blew away, the stores and businesses built to support the farms closed, and the people who lost their livelihood moved away.
Let’s learn from that.
Dry and dying citrus orchard east of Fresno, during the drought of 2015
Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.