Mother Nature is the artist. I just collect the memories…

A Visit to Keeler

Keeler is an old mining town, nestled between the foothills of the White/Inyo Mountains, and the vast desert of the Owens Dry Lake.  At one point in history, several eons ago(before LADWP), the area was a vast watershed, with HUGE amounts of healthy riparian habitat, giant spring-fed wetlands, and water, water everywhere. 

Now…it’s a barren salt flat, where daily dust storms cause bronchial infections in the very young and very old, animals struggle to scrape out a living(along with the tough locals that stick around), and the deserted landscape is as vast and empty as the LA Aqueduct is deep and wet…


The first thing I noticed about Keeler was the sense of abandonment.  It seems that everywhere you looked, something was rusted, rotted, empty, or falling down under the weight of decades of desert environment and neglect.

Keeler Firehouse

We went by the Keeler Volunteer Fire Department.  Their vehicles were all more than 50 years old, most of them retired from other fire districts and most likely donated to the KVFD.  Sometimes you do your best with what you got. At least they HAVE a fire house…

Broke Down Palace?

This stone house is probably over 150 years old, though I couldn’t say for certain.  Makes a nice contrast to the vastness of the desert and the beauty of the Eastern Sierra in the background.  Nestled among the peaks back there is Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the Continental U.S.  And about 1 hour south(behind me in this photo) is Death Valley and Badwater, which is the lowest point in the Continental U.S.

Mother Nature Never Fails

And where men have fought, and fallen, struggled to eke out a living in the vast, dry desert, Mother Nature still makes a stand…

Thanks for reading!


4 responses

  1. Robin Black

    Great pics, as always, especially that last one. The good news is that the Owens restoration project is now underway, and in another 2-3 years (we’re 3 years into it now), we should begin to see some significant changes along the river and lake. Bird populations along the watershed and re-emerging wetlands are way up already. The only silver lining to all of this is that thanks to LADWP buying up most of the valley almost 100 years ago, the valley is largely undeveloped (and let’s hope it stays that way), unlike the western side of the sierras. Now let’s get Hetch Hetchy undammed, too.

    November 18, 2009 at 11:29 am

    • You’re right. The LADWP isn’t all bad. The LORP(Lower Owens River Project) IS a feather in their cap, and the restoration of habitat is progressing incredibly well. It just seems unfortunate that the habitat was decimated to such an extreme before anything was done to correct.

      I credit them for putting forth the time, money, and effort to correct the wrongs of the past. They definitely deserve to be proud of their current accomplishments and their efforts at open communication and reversal of the damage done…

      November 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

  2. Robin Black

    Oh, I don’t give LADWP THAT much credit! 😉 They’re only doing what they’re doing thanks to a protracted court battle and threat of monstrous fines. I’ve been following this pretty closely for the last few years, in part because I love the Owens valley, and in part because I’m an Angelino who hates what her city has done to the valley. The LA Times ran a story a few years ago about Keeler and some of the other towns around the lake, and the story and pictures would break your heart (as you well know, since you’ve been out there). Honestly, I wish they’d significantly increase the amount of flow they’re letting into the river, but at least it’s a start. I’m just thrilled there are already measurable results from what has been done so far. As to the no-development bonus, it’s a happy accident (nobody at LADWP is anti-development, I’m pretty sure), but I’ll take it.

    November 19, 2009 at 8:40 am

    • Of course you’re right. The LADWP only surrenders water when they are forced to. Fortunately, when they do, it benefits the entire valley.

      The Owens River Gorge is a prime example of an LADWP accident that benefitted the entire valley. A broken pipeline, followed by a lawsuit, resulted in a constant, year-round flow of about 35cfs, and one of the most spectacular wild trout fisheries in the area.

      You really can’t blame them for turning a lost lawsuit into a prime Public Relations opportunity…

      November 19, 2009 at 10:34 am

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