In 2015 the Owens Lake will be open to the public for driving routes to trails, viewing platforms, kiosks for information and more. Owens Lake is the richest wildlife location in Inyo County and has hosted over 115,000 birds in one day (April, 2013). For some species the numbers exceed Mono Lake. Owens Lake has international recognition and will soon become part the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. The first ever Owens Lake Bird Festival will occur
Owens Lake is a mostly dry lake in the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County, California. It is about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Lone Pine, California. Unlike most dry lakes in the Basin and Range Province that have been dry for thousands of years, Owens held significant water until 1924 Much of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, causing Owens Lake to desiccate. Today, some of the flow of the river has been restored, and the lake now contains some water. Nevertheless, in 2013, it is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.
Before the diversion of the Owens River, Owens Lake was up to 12 miles (19 km) long and 8 miles (13 km) wide, covering an area of up to 108 square miles (280 km2). In the last few hundred years the lake had an average depth of 23 to 50 feet (7.0 to 15.2 m), and sometimes overflowed to the south after which the water would flow into the Mojave Desert. In 1905, the lake's water was thought to be "excessively saline."
It is thought that in the late Pleistocene about 11-12,000 years ago Owens Lake was even larger, covering nearly 200 square miles (520 km2) and reaching a depth of 200 feet (61 m). The increased inflow from the Owens River, from melting glaciers of the post-Ice Age Sierra Nevada, caused Owens Lake to overflow south through Rose Valley into another now-dry lakebed, China Lake, in the Indian Wells Valley near Ridgecrest, California. After the glaciers melted, the lake waters receded, and this accelerated with human exploitation of the lake even before the Los Angeles Aqueduct was built, due to Owens Valley farmers who had already appropriated most of the Owens River's tributaries' flow, causing the lake level to drop slightly each year.
Starting in 1913, the river and streams that fed Owens Lake were diverted by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and the lake level started to drop quickly. As the lake dried, soda processing at Keeler switched from relatively cheap chemical methods to more expensive physical ones. The Natural Soda Products Company sued the city of Los Angeles and built a new plant with a $15,000 settlement. A fire destroyed this plant shortly after it was built but the company rebuilt it on the dry lakebed in the 1920s.
During the unusually wet winter of 1937, LADWP diverted water from the aqueduct into the lakebed, flooding the soda plant. Because of this the courts ordered the city to pay $154,000. After an unsuccessful appeal attempt to the state supreme court in 1941, LADWP built the Long Valley Dam, which impounded Lake Crowley for flood control.
The lake is currently a large salt flat whose surface is made of a mixture of clay, sand, and a variety of minerals including halite, mirabilite, thenardite, and trona. In wet years, these minerals form a chemical soup in the form of a small brine pond within the dry lake. When conditions are right, bright pink halophilic (salt-loving) archaea spread across the salty lakebed. Also, on especially hot summer days when ground temperatures exceed 150° F (66 °C), water is driven out of the hydrates on the lakebed creating a muddy brine. More commonly, periodic winds stir up noxious alkali dust storms that carry away as much as four million tons (3.6 million metric tons) of dust from the lakebed each year, causing respiratory problems in nearby residents.
As part of an air quality mitigation settlement, LADWP is currently shallow flooding 27 square miles (69.9 km2) of the salt pan to try and help minimize alkali dust storms and further adverse health effects. There is also about 3.5 square miles (9.1 km2) of managed vegetation being used as a dust control measure. The vegetation consists of saltgrass, which is a native perennial grass highly tolerant of the salt and boron levels in the lake sediments.
Above from Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owens_Lake