L.A. Aqueduct Centennial 2013

History of LADWP Recreational Leases


Bishop-City-ParkIn the fall of 1861, Samuel Addison Bishop, along with his brother-in-law, three cowboys and a few Indian herders, arrived in the Owens Valley with 600 head of cattle and 50 horses, and established the San Francis Ranch, on what soon became known as Bishop’s Creek. After a brief 18-month stay, Bishop and his family moved south where in 1865, he helped organize Kern County and became one of that County’s first Supervisors.  Bishop was not present to see the development of the town site which bears his name. As the 20th Century began, the town of Bishop boasted of more than 500 citizens within the town limits. At an election held in April of 1903, Bishop was incorporated as a sixth-class municipality.

The property which is now the Bishop City Park was purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1927. At that time the property was not within the town limits. In 1950 the property was leased to the City of Bishop and the Lions Club for use as a roadside park. The City of Bishop soon purchased and leased adjacent property and since the late 1950’s the City’s Parks Department has operated and maintained the park facility.


A sandy, desert brushland property was just west of Lone Pine purchased by the City of Los Angeles in July of 1908 as part of the right-of-way for the Los Angeles Aqueduct. For several years, a man known only as ‘Portagee” Joe (last name unknown), a part time laborer/ranch-hand and part-time prospector, lived in a tin-covered cabin located west of the aqueduct at the base of the Alabama Hills.

Since Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle filmed The Roundup in 1920, the Alabama Hills have been a favorite location for many of Hollywood’s most memorable movies, western serials, and, more recently, television commercials.  More than 180 movie companies have shot on location in these hills and the surrounding area. The famous Gunga Din, filmed just a few miles west of Portagee Joe Campground, produced one of the largest location camps in movie history. The climatic battle scene featured some 1,200 extras, 400 horses, 9 water buffaloes, 8 camels, and 4 elephants.

In 1974, the campground property was leased to the County of lnyo, which operates and maintains the facility.


MillpondIn the late 1860’s John McGee, one of three brothers of the pioneer McGee family, settled near the present location of Millpond Recreation Area, calling it Pleasant Valley Ranch. The creek that bears McGee’s name flows a short distance to the south of the site.

To the west is the 13,6524oot high landmark of the region, Mt. Tom, which was named for Thomas Clark, the first European to climb to its peak. Mt. Tom also figures prominently in northern Owens Valley Paiute history. According to local legend, at the time of the Great Flood the people and the “good animals” found escape from the Flood waters by climbing into the clouds atop Mt. Tom, where a “door” was closed behind them to protect them until the waters subsided.

The property on which Millpond Recreation Area now sits was purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1934, and for many years was leased to various individuals for use as residences and equestrian areas. More recently, the lnyo Lumber Company leased the site for their sawmill operation. In 1970, the property was leased to the County of Inyo, which operates and maintains the multi-purpose facility.


The Dehy Park property in Independence, part of what was once known as the Doctor Loundagin Addition in the town of Independence, was purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1934. The site was originally leased to the Independence Business and Professional Men’s Club, who maintained the Independence Roadside Park. The local Girl Scout meeting house was also constructed on the property.

The park was later renamed Dehy Park in honor of Judge William Dehy, the popular Superior Court Judge of the 1920’s.  Since the 1960’s, the property has been leased by the County of Inyo, which maintains the facility.

Narrow-gauge railroad Locomotive #18, the “Slim Princes,” became a fixture in Dehy Park following the closing of the Lone Pine to Laws railroad line in the 1950’s.  Through the efforts of Anna Kelley of Independence, the Southern Pacific Railroad agreed to give old #18 to lnyo County’s Eastern California Museum.  Using a derrick and two tractor drawn low-bed trucks, personnel from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and Inyo County relocated the engine from the station at Owenyo (near Lone Pine) to the Park site.


When purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1926-1927, much of the Bishop Golf Course property was irrigated agricultural land, planted in wheat, corn, and alfalfa encompassed by irrigated native grass pasture. Prior to European settlement of Owens Valley, however, the Native Paiute had a well established and complex system of irrigation vegeculture unique to North America.  This irrigation of wild plants for food was often referred to as “irrigation without agriculture.” The property was part of a larger area known as “pitana patu”, which consisted of a dam on Bishop Creek to the west, and a three mile long main ditch leading to several irrigated plots of wild plant crops.

The property containing the club house facilities and the first nine holes of the golf course was leased to the Bishop Golf Club in the 1950’s. The lease was expanded to provide for a second nine holes in 1983.


The Izaak Walton Park property, originally part of a saitgrass meadow and riparian woodland strip along the south fork of Bishop Creek, was purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1929. In 1950 the property was leased to the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America. It was named in honor of English biographer Izaak Walton (1593-1683).  Walton is probably best known as the author of ‘The Complete Angler” (1653), a classic guide to the joys of fishing and one of the most reprinted books in the history of British letters. Walton himself, however, rarely participated in the activity.

Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, members of the lzaak Walton League in the Bishop area devoted much time and effort in predator control measures to protect and enhance the upland game species of the region. Today, the property is leased to the County of lnyo, which maintains the park facility.


Browns-TownWhen purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1927, the Schober Lane property just south of Bishop was an irrigated pasture of native grasses and clover. Prior to European settlement, however, the site was a small part of an area known as pitana patu, a highly developed Paiute system of irrigated vegeculture, unique in North America, often referred to as “irrigation without agriculture.”  Each year, the tribe chose one man for the highly honored position of “head irrigator” who maintained a dam on Bishop Greek to the west, a three mile long main ditch and several smaller ditches used to irrigate numerous plots of wild food plants.

In 1960 this property was leased to the County of Inyo for use as a roadside park and campground. In 1982 the County sub-leased the site to a concessionaire who operates and maintains the facility.


In 1860 the settlement of Lone Pine derived its name from a tall Jeffrey pine tree which stood alone along the creek three miles to the southwest of this location. The lone tree was a local landmark for many years, but flowing water had been slowly undercutting the tree’s root system and in February of 1882 it was blown down in a windstorm.  A count of the tree rings revealed its age was 132 years.

This property was once part of the E.H. Edwards ranch located immediately north of the old Lone Pine town Plaza. In the early 1900’s a cottonwood grove on the southern portion of the ranch was the town’s 4th of July picnic grounds.

The present park property was purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1931 and in the early 1960’s was leased to the County of Inyo, which operates and maintains the facility.


Upper-Owens-CampgroundThe Benton Crossing Campground property, located on Benton Crossing Road north of Crowley Lake is part of an 1800-acre parcel purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1930, which encompassed the historic river crossing (Benton Crossing) on the primary road between Mammoth Lakes and Benton Hot Springs.

The upper Owens River and tributary streams became a popular fishing area shortly after the planting of rainbow trout, relocated from the Walker River in northern Mono County in 1874. Late in the 19th Century, the surrounding native grass meadows and high desert sagebrush lands supported more than 50,000 head of grazing cattle, horses and sheep throughout the summer months, as well as herds of deer and antelope.

A more primitive campsite was once maintained on the same site by the Mono County Department of Parks and Recreation, and the present campground facility has been leased by the operator since 1987.


The Eastern California Museum property, located at the west edge of Independence, was purchased by the City of Los Angeles in the early 1920’s.  For the following 40 years it was leased to individuals who used the site for a residence, a livestock holding area, or both. During those years, the Eastern California Museum, which was established in 1928, was located in the basement of the Inyo County Courthouse three blocks to the east. In 1968, construction of a new facility was completed the Eastern California Museum was relocated to the site under the management of the lnyo County Museum Department.

To preserve historic old buildings, a number of structures were brought to this site from various locations in Owens Valley. A “pioneer town” was erected adjacent to the main museum building and named Little Pine, one of the earliest names of the town of Independence.


When purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1931, much of the property where the Mt. Whitney Golf Course just south of Lone Pine is now located, was swampy marshland.  A small tract of higher ground near Highway 395 was an irrigated alfalfa field. The LADWP leased the property to the Lone Pine golf Club in the 1950’s for use as a public golf course. The facility was named for the majestic Mt. Whitney, the 14,495-foot high peak on the Sierra crest that rises more than 10,000 feet above the valley floor, overlooking the golf course.

In 1871, Clarence King ascended to the top of what he thought was the tallest peak in the Sierra, and named it Mt.  Whitney. He discovered a year later that he had climbed the wrong mountain. The first ascent to the true Mt. Whitney was accomplished in August of 1873 by three fishermen from Lone Pine, John Lucas, Charles Begole, and Albert Johnson, who named the peak “Fisherman’s Peak.” King demanded that the peak be officially recorded as Mt.  Whitney, but this resulted in much discussion in the California State Legislature. Other names were suggested, such as “Fowler’s Peak” and “the Dome of Inyo,” but finally in 1878, the Legislature granted King’s request and officially name the nation’s tallest peak Mt.  Whitney.


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