Here you’ll find attractions that tell the stories of discovery, determination, spirit, and survival in Inyo County.
Inyo National Forest
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Independence has been Inyo County’s seat since the county’s formation in 1866. The courthouse is the fourth in Inyo’s history. The first collapsed in the 1872 earthquake, the second burned in 1892, the third was determined to be too small and was replaced in 1922 by the stately building we have today. The original town site was laid out by Thomas Edwards.
In contrast to the other towns in the Owens Valley, Highway 395 is not Main Street but Edwards Street. The Edwards House on West Market Street was built around the 1860s. The adobe portion is the oldest structure still standing in Inyo County. The Eastern California Museum, three blocks west of the courthouse, houses much of the region’s history. The museum displays a large collection of artifacts, historic photographs, quality Native American basketry, extensive mining and farming equipment, the history of Los Angeles in the Owens Valley, a Manzanar artifact and photographic collection, a local history research library, the Mary DeDecker native plant garden, and a bookstore.
The “Commander’s” House built between 1866 and 1869 was moved to its present location from Fort Independence. It is one of the last remaining examples of rural Victorian architecture in the Owens Valley. Dehy Park at the north end of town is a popular gathering place for summer community events. Independence Creek flows through and provides a cool place to relax. Children of all ages love the creek and play areas.
Visitors will also enjoy seeing The Slim Princess Engine No. 18. This narrow gauge locomotive ran on the Carson & Colorado line from Laws to Keeler until 1954. Mary Austin lived in Independence for several years in a home on West Market Street and completed her book, Land of Little Rain, in this house in 1903. A historical marker in front of the private residence (not open to the public) describes her ties to the valley and town.
The Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, a little over 3 miles northwest of Independence, is a wonderful place to visit. It is the favored site for high school graduation, summer weddings, and family picnics. Built in 1916 on land donated by the citizens of Independence, it was the second state hatchery built in California. For many years it has supplied trout eggs to other hatcheries in California and other western states. It is the only hatchery to produce golden trout, California’s state fish.
Adventure awaits you east and west of Independence where camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting abound. Extensive hiking and backpacking trails go throughout the Sierra from trail heads at Onion Valley, Shephard Pass, and Baxter Pass. There are several camp – grounds between town and the trail heads and abundant trout fishing in the local creeks.
East of Independence the Owens River and off-channel lakes, ponds, and ditches offer warm water fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish. Farther east, hiking and exploring opportunities exist in the historic mining areas of the Inyo Mountains. Wherever you go, north or south, east or west, be prepared for sudden weather changes. Let someone know where you are going, have plenty of water, and if your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck, stay with it.