The Lower Owens River flows through the eastern edge of Bishop and is becoming well known for kayak fishing. The river meanders through a flat valley with undercut banks, where riffles and aquatic vegetation provide plentiful cover for trout. Because the water is alkaline-rich, insect life is abundant, capable of overloading the angler with hatches. Brown trout dominate, although there are wild and stocked rainbows, with trout on the whole averaging 10 to 12 inches. Due to the rural nature of Lower Owens River’s location and miles of shoreline that the river encompasses, anglers often have the place to themselves. That works out well for the fish and the preservation of the area. Lower Owens River offers great fishing and is best known for its outstanding brown trout fishing opportunities.
In the sections of the Lower Owens River that are not restricted to artificial lures, you can use standbys such as salmon eggs and night crawlers to take home a limit of tasty trout. Flows in these stretches of the river can fluctuate often due to the water needs of Los Angeles.
The Lower Owens River begins below Pleasant Valley Lake just north of Bishop and continues for about 45 miles to the Tinnemaha Reservoir south of Big Pine. It resembles a spring creek as it flows through a valley flanked by high mountains. The river cuts through the valley, and you can follow it easily with your eyes, because the area all around is quite dry, and the water is usually clear and flat. The banks provide a few trees for shade when you want to pull out and grab a bite to eat.
Bishop is in the central part of California near the Nevada border in Inyo County, where Highway 6 and Interstate 395 intersect. It is located in the Owens Valley at an elevation of 4,147 feet, at the eastern base of the towering Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Bishop is located 266 miles north of Los Angeles, and 270 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. The roads are well maintained and the views are spectacular. Lower Owens River is a bit of a drive no matter where you come from, but one well worth making.
The Lower Owens River is accessible from both sides, but vehicle access is easier from the west side. Access is generally easy and is achieved via turnoffs from 395, which parallels the river. The river is accessible year round. However, rainfall can make the dirt roads a bit challenging to drive on.
You can launch from E. Line Street to Warm Springs Bridge, and take out on the Lower Owen River or Bishop. Moto Sports provides shuttle service for a reasonable fee. They will pick you up and drop you off at various river locations.
The Upper Owens River is a high plains spring creek, the Middle is canyon tailwater, and the Lower is valley tailwater. The water, which comes from the Upper Owens River, began its journey high in the Sierra Nevada. Most water from the Upper Owens continues to enter into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, but water now flows into the Lower Owens and travels 62 miles to Owens Lake, which was left dry after the aqueduct opened in 1913.
Camping is available on the banks of the Lower Owens River. Brown's Millpond, Brown's Owens River and Four Jeffrey campgrounds are located either on the river or stream. Bishop has a significant American Indian population and a local reservation and casino. If you like to gamble, you can stay at the Paiute Palace campground where you can walk to the casino.
The Lower Owens River has come back to life. The river is narrow, but deep relative to its width. The landscape is dotted with scrubs, scrawny trees and underbrush, all except for the narrow green strip on the sides of the river that cuts through the center of the valley. In the coming years the entire topography and ecosystem will begin to thrive again, which will be quite a sight to see and an experience to enjoy.
Whether you come to kayak, fish or observe nature's beauty and enjoy a relaxed way of life where time slows and worries vanish, Lower Owens River is a great choice for your next fishing trip and a beautiful place to canoe or kayak. With fishing, kayaking, hiking, and the spectacular scenery surrounding the river, there is something to please any outdoor lover. This destination is far enough away from civilization to rejuvenate, but close enough that you don't spend the entire trip getting there.
USE CAUTION WHEN PADDLING ON
As fun and exciting as it may be to kayak on a river, don’t forget that paddling on a river entails an amount of risk due to the elements of nature. Rivers have different behaviors throughout the year. River flows can be impacted by runoff from storms, snow melt and by the daily ebb and flow of the ocean tides. What once was flat water can quickly become Class I to Class III rapids after a recent storm, which is best left to paddlers who have the skills to maneuver around rocks, and strainers and who know how to read water. The drought in California has also affected the water level on many rivers in California. Paddlers should stay up-to-date on the conditions that affect paddling a river, such as river height and discharge, tidal schedules, river flows and current weather activity. Call before departing for current water level conditions. When paddling on a river, always go with two people who are familiar with the river. Why two? In case something happens to one of them, you won’t be left paddling down a river alone.