NAMING THE OWENS VALLEY
Late in the summer of 1845, John C. Fremont’s Third Expedition headed west from Bent’s Fort on the Oregon Trail with a force of about 60 men, including pathfinder Kit Carson. Along the way, the expedition was joined by Joseph Reddeford Walker and Richard Owens, a close friend of Kit Carson. The company reached Walker Lake, Nevada, on November 23, 1845. From Walker Lake, Fremont, Owens, Carson, and a dozen of others headed north to cross the Sierra along the Salmon Trout River–today called the Truckee.
The main party of nearly 50 men, including Walker and Edward M. Kern (later of Kern County fame), headed south under the command of Theodore Talbot. They reached the head of the Owens River on December 16 and followed the river south through the Valley to Owens Lake, then southerly through Walker’s Pass to the San Joaquin Valley, where they joined Fremont and the others. After the expedition, Fremont named the Owens River, Valley, and Lake for Richard Owens, although Owens never saw the region.