Photo from resting point along Owens Lake trail, looking towards trail

LADWP, in association with a group of partners, has created the Owens Lake Trails, designed for public access, recreation, and education.

The Owens Lake Trails are part of the LADWP’s Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program and offer three trailheads – Plaza, Boulder Creek, and Dirty Socks – where visitors can start a trek or enjoy the viewing area. The area around Owens Lake where the four miles of trails are located is rich in natural beauty. It is an especially attractive locale for bird watchers, as over 100 different species of birds have been spotted there. In a single day, during peak migration, over 75,000 birds have been observed using Owens Lake.

The trailheads feature a land art installation designed by Perry Cardoza of Nuvis Landscape Architecture and engineered by CDM Smith. The land art installation includes a central plaza, surrounding paths, and natural art and architectural elements.

The Owens Lake Trails project could not have happened without the collaboration and cooperation of our partners, including the California State Lands Commission, Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, the Paiute-Shoshone Tribes, and the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society as well as community stakeholders and other interested parties.

Owens Lake Trails Information

    Plaza Trailhead

    The Plaza Trailhead’s most noticeable feature is the Plover Wing Plaza, inspired by the Snowy Plover, a bird that appears in the Owens Lake area during spring and summer. The curved columns of the structure are patterned after the bird’s curved wing while in flight. The eye-catching plaza serves as a gathering place for visitors and a starting point for hikers and explorers.

    Because the Snowy Plover is known to nest in gravel on the ground, the Plaza’s designers placed a large boulder in the center of smaller rocks in the middle of the plaza to resemble a nest.

    The designers also created 14 mound-like structures to resemble whitecaps, rolling white water formations on the surface of a big active lake. These small structures help in dust control by keeping particles from being gathered up by wind. The rocks used for the whitecaps also help to provide habitat for reptiles, insects, and mammals.

    Around the plaza are gravel paths and roads that lead visitors to marshes, habitat islands, reflecting ponds, and local fauna. The entire project creates public access opportunities for bird watchers, artists, scientists, and researchers as well as casual observers and visitors.

    There are three visitor overlook areas along with two trash receptacles and three parking areas.  Access to the plaza route, which measures 3.06 miles, can be gained off of Highway 136, where an Information Kiosk is available.

    Map location of the Plaza Trailhead

    Boulder Creek Trailhead

    The Boulder Creek trailhead are distinguished by round, metal shade structures with benches that resemble a cross section of the L.A. Aqueduct.

    The Boulder Creek trailhead can be accessed from Highway 395, where there is also an information kiosk. The trail measures 0.58 miles and meanders through managed vegetation designed to mitigate dust on the once barren playa by mimicking native alkali meadow. There are birds visible in the nearby mudflats and a large shallow flooding pond to the south.

    Map location of the Boulder Creek Trailhead

    Dirty Socks Trailhead

    The Dirty Socks Trailhead can be accessed from Highway 190 via the Dirty Socks T1A-2 access route. The trail is about 0.36 miles in length and features a viewpoint overlooking managed vegetation. Dirty Socks took on its name because a nearby natural spring with a high sulfur content offers an aroma that may remind some of dirty socks. There is also a parking area there as well as another information kiosk.

    Map location of the Dirty Socks Trailhead

    Dust Mitigation Efforts

    LADWP is using native vegetation, shallow flooding, and methods like tilling and gravel to mitigate dust emissions on Owens Lake. Since implementing the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program in 2001, the LADWP has achieved 96% of its dust mitigation goals on approximately 48.6 square miles of Owens Lake.

    Approximately 80,000 acre feet of water are used on an annual basis to control dust. In addition, water-based dust-control measures help provide a habitat for wildlife, providing a key stopover location for migratory birds.

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    LADWP’s dust mitigation efforts have created a productive habitat for birds and other wildlife in the Owens Lake area.

    In spring and fall, tens of thousands of shorebirds, waterfowl, and other migratory bird species stop in the area to feed on various bird delicacies like alkali flies and brine shrimp. Some of the birds travel from as far away as Canada and South America. Among the species spotted in the area are the Peregrine Falcon, Horned Lark, Ruddy Duck, Snowy Plover, Western Sandpiper, California Gull, and many more.

    The Owens Lake Trails could not have happened without the cooperation and support of community stakeholders, other interested parties and our partners, including the California State Lands Commission, Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, the Paiute-Shoshone Tribes, and the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society.

    Map Overview of Owens Lake

    Public Access and Safety Guideline

    LADWP wants you to enjoy your visit to the Owens Lake Trails. To ensure a safe and pleasurable experience, we ask that you follow these public access guidelines:

    1. Please drive only on maintenance berm roads and park only in designated parking areas. Maintenance berm roads are not paved, may be narrow, and are used by heavy construction vehicles.
    2. Please don’t stop or exit your vehicle on a maintenance berm road unless you are in a designated parking area.
    3. Please slow down and yield to construction vehicles and heavy equipment.
    4. Please do not drive on muddy surfaces or in unauthorized areas. You will be responsible if your vehicle gets stuck and needs to be extricated.
    5. Please do not enter areas where construction or maintenance is taking place.
    6. Please walk only on designated walkways and paths.
    7. Please do not consume water from any part of the lake. It is not safe for consumption.
    8. Make sure to bring ample amounts of drinking water with you.
    9. For your safety, please do not enter any irrigated or flooded areas.
    10. Please deposit all trash into designated waste bins.
    11. Please do not drive in excess of 25 mph for safety reasons and to prevent the circulation of dust.
    12. Please keep dogs and other pets leashed at all times.
    13. Please call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Be aware that cell phone reception might not be available in all areas of Owens Lake.
    14. Please do not start any fires.
    15. Camping is prohibited at Owens Lake.
    16. For questions on public access or safety call (760) 876-4109.