The Owens River is not just for fishing; part of it makes a great, early season hike
The Owens River is that big river out east of Mammoth that cuts a fine brown and green line through the sage and rabbitbrush foothills of the Eastern Sierra.
Most of the time, the river stays close to the surface of the two big valleys that drain it; Long Valley near Mammoth, and the Owens Valley, where Bishop lies.
It’s a mild river, as rivers go, no rapids or waterfalls or big pools or big drama.
In one place, though, the river goes a bit crazy. It disappears from sight and plunges for 19 miles like a knife through butter through hundreds of vertical feet of soft, pink volcanic Bishop tuff before coming once again to ground to rest on flat ground just north of Bishop. Down at the bottom of this hard dark line of cliffs and boulders, the river crashes and clamors and rumbles over endless waterfalls, cutting its way through almost 3,000 feet of elevation as it drops from Crowley Lake (at 6,900 feet) to Bishop (at 4,100 feet).
There is a hike down in this gorge, if you know where to find it and it's worth the effort because down there, in the bottom of this deep and narrow gorge, the river runs clear as light between soft, pink walls that tower hundreds of feet above it. The world here is of another time and place from the colder, higher, drier desert high above and the snow still blanketing Mammoth and the rest of the Sierra high country in spring. Down here, it is warm, humid. The sound of canyon wrens and swifts skitters up and down the pink walls. The incense smell of cottonwoods and wet sandy beaches is a balm to the high desert dweller. The wild roses begin to bloom in May. The water in the river gets warm enough to swim in. The sun gets high and long and the shadows deep and gold.
Get out there.
For the rest of this story and directions on how to get to this hike, pick up this week's issue of the Mammoth Times to find in on p. 13. The paper is out on newsstands. You can also subscribe to get the entire paper delivered to your computer, tablet or phone every Thursday morning by going to mammothtimes.com and clicking on the E-Edition button.