Owens Valley Tribes Honor a Legacy of ‘Beauty and Suffering’ With Historic Site Nomination

Spirits live here. That’s what Paiute and Shoshone tribal members say about the Owens Lake playa, an arid, eerily flat expanse along the eastern Sierra Nevada range that is prone to choking dust storms.

It is best known as the focal point of a historic feud that began in the early 1900s, when Los Angeles city agents quietly bought up ranch lands and water rights for an aqueduct to quench the thirst of the growing metropolis 200 miles to the south.

L.A. diverted so much water via the aqueduct system that the 110-square-mile lake dried up and it was nearly impossible for local farmers and ranchers to make a living — a scandal dramatized in the classic 1974 film “Chinatown.”