Highway 395, Part Three
For the last part of our excursion down Highway 395, we visit a ghost town, walk on ancient lava, explore the history of Owens Valley, and one last stop at a small lake.
Continuing on our way south, we made a brief stop at the vista point for Owens Valley along Highway 395. I was intrigued by this beautiful valley which spanned as far as you could see with its green fields and the spectacular mountains in the back ground. It looked like a wide open place where you could ride your horse for miles, or spin around singing, “The hills are alive” just like in the movie Sound of Music.
I took a photo and made a point to research it later. That was when I realized that things were not as they seem in Owens Valley. History has a harsh story for this peaceful little area.
Evidently, there was, and still is a Owens Lake. In the beginning of 1913, the Owens River was diverted to bring water to the city of Los Angeles. By the mid 1920’s Owens Lake was completely dry and of course to much dismay of the local residents. To make matters worse, the dry bed produced large amounts of dust. The dust contained carcinogens and the lake bed soon became a huge polluter. The pollution levels became 25 times the amount that is acceptable under clean-air standards. Owens Lake soon developed into the largest source of dust pollution in the United States.
Soon, multiple legal battles ensued and eventually Los Angeles had to establish a dust mitigation project. Over a billion dollars was spent to keep the dust down in the dry lake by pouring gravel and in parts, watering it or filling it with water. But it is worth it as the winds are strong in this area and can carry particles to many other cities that are close by.
Today, there is hope for Owens Lake as the restoration project is slowly bringing life back and birds are flocking to this once desolate lake area.
As I think back to that serene little valley, I am sure the residents were not happy with losing their lake as well as the dry bed becoming polluted. I hope things are better for them all.
Although we were in the heat of the mid day, we still wanted to fish one last time. We found a small lake on the map and decided to stop by.
The temperatures were in the nineties so finding shade was a must. That proved a little hard as there weren’t that many trees around the water. Gone were the pine trees and the mountains, as Diaz Lake looked like something in the desert. Surrounded by a RV park, the place was pretty deserted so we slipped into a parking space and tried our luck for about forty five minutes.
Just like in the Sierras, no fish were to be had, it was our last chance and once again we came up empty. Even though this little lake isn’t as picturesque as the mountain lakes, it was still nice sitting on its banks enjoying the day. It looked like a great place to camp with your family.
I read a brief snippet of Fossil Falls and on the map we saw that it wasn’t far from Highway 395, so we added it to our excursion list. In the two paragraph article I read about it, it said, “don’t expect any fossils or waterfalls.” They were sort of right.
We drove just a few minutes from the highway and came to a parking lot that didn’t require any payment. In fact everywhere we went on the 395 with the exception of one place, no fee was ever required.
As we stepped out of the car, the sun was beating down on us with ninety-five degree mid day temperatures. Adding to the heat, the landscape looked like something out of this world, so it wasn’t hard to imagine we were on Mercury or one of those other hot planets .
Dating back over 150,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions caused the lava flow along the Owens River and through the valley.
Fossil Falls is a lava flow that was sculpted by rushing water in the ice ages. So it is kind of a fossil in itself.
If you hike in far enough you will see the portion designated as “The falls”. The flat area comes into a small valley or chasm where you can see where this hot molten rock became a lava waterfall.
It was too hot for me so I snapped a few photos and headed back to the air conditioned car. I saw small a campground in the distance and wondered what they could possible do out here.
I guess it is a great place for hiking, rock climbing and of course night sky viewing that I am sure is incredible.
For one of our small excursions during our trip down Highway 395, this was interesting and I am glad we stopped.