Recreation in Long Valley Through the Seasons
Winter is coming! Snow is even forecasted in some of the high elevation areas of the Eastern Sierra for the end of September. While cool weather recreationalists are starting to get antsy for snow as the autumn breezes roll in, warm weather recreationalists are scrambling to get in the last hoorahs in Long Valley in the coming months. While summer, spring, and winter offer much in terms of recreation in Long Valley, fall is a lovely season to get out in Long Valley with cooler temperatures, perfect for working up a sweat.
Likely the most popular recreational option, hiking is ubiquitous in the Eastern Sierra and Long Valley is no exception. Many residents and visitors get out in Long Valley for fresh air, scenic beauty, wildflower viewing, dog walking, etc. While there are not formal trails in this area, a network of dirt roads on Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management lands offer many opportunities to put on one's boots or sneakers and walk the land.
Sometimes a subset of the hikers, sometimes not, birding is certainly popular in Long Valley. While Owens Lake and Mono Lake both have their own birding festivals– the Owens Lake Bird Festival in April put on by Keep Long Valley Green Coalition member Friends of the Inyo and the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua and the Phalarope Festival in June put on by California State Parks and Keep Long Valley Green Coalition member the Mono Lake Committee– Crowley Lake can not be discounted in the birding field trip fun, offering a middle spot for birders traveling up or down the Eastern Sierra. This special area has not one but two of the Audubon Society’s Important Bird Areas or IBAs: the Crowley Lake IBA and the Mono Highlands IBA.
Spring/Early Summer is not the only time you are likely to see folks with binoculars out in Long Valley, however. This area has great birding year round.
Photos by Martin Powell
No discussion of recreation in Long Valley would be complete without mentioning the fishing community. Crowley Lake is an undeniable hot spot for anglers as a major stop for the local holiday known as “fishmas.” The season opener for fishing, or “fishmas,” brings out local enthusiasts and visitors far and wide for the opportunity to get out on the lake and enjoy some springtime recreation. Crowley Lake is stocked by Mono County about two weeks before the opener, the last Saturday of April and continues throughout the summer.
Crowley Lake is far from the only fishing hot spot in Long Valley however, as any fly fisher will tell you. The Upper Owens River, the lifeblood of Long Valley, offers great fly fishing year round, with the particularly popular seasons being summer and, shocking for the non-angler, winter! The brave fly fisherman is not afraid to bundle up and stand on snowy shores to get a bite and they are rewarded with the special beauty of a wintery Long Valley.
Snowshoeing and Skiing
Whether its transportation to a hot spring or just for the love of it, snowshoeing or country/nordic skiing both offer folks the joys of hiking (or gliding) over snow. This last winter, Long Valley saw a significant amount of snow and as a result, even more backountry skiing than usual.
OHV and OSV
Off-Highway Vehicles, or OHVs, can include a lot of different motorized uses, from atvs to side by sides to dirt bikes, they are out there enjoying the network of dirt roads through the meadows of Long Valley and around the backside of Crowley Lake.
In winters with sufficient snow cover in Long Valley, you are also likely to see a different kind of OHV, the OSV or Over-Snow Vehicle. These include any motor vehicle that is designed for use over snow, but the most well known and most popular OSV for recreation in Long Valley are snowmobiles. Motorized use is confined to roads in Long Valley to preserve the meadow ecosystems and recreationalists are encouraged to follow the guidelines set forth by various land management agencies in Long Valley. Maps are available for all recreationalists, whether they are off roading for fun or just to get to a certain location, to stay informed on open locations and potential closures through the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Keep Long Valley Green ourselves have also hosted a bike event in Long Valley in the past and hope to do so again. The Long Valley Bike Tour was originated by Haley Fitzpatrick, a PhD student studying Systems-Oriented Design at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) in Norway, researching how a systemic design approach can be used to co-create resilient and regenerative futures for mountain communities.
While we should be so lucky to have Haley back stateside in the next year, we will likely do the tour again next spring in her stead. Whether that spring date in May will be as wintery as this last year, only time will tell!
Road biking is also not the only option: mountain bikers also enjoy the dirt roads throughout Long Valley.
Above and Right Community members of the Long Valley bike tour
While kayaking/paddleboarding are not allowed on the Upper Owens River, you can find these folks at play on Crowley Lake alongside anglers, boaters, screaming-with-joy rafters, wakeboarders, waterskiers, and even the occasional sailor or windsurfer.
Less discussed recreation in Long Valley includes other watersports off of Crowley Lake. A quick drive down Benton Crossing road will tell you others are there. The bobbing heads of kitesurfers/kiteboarders can be seen enjoying the Alkali Ponds just off the road to the north.
Keep Long Valley Clean
It's that time of the year once again. Before snow flies, or at least before it sticks, join Keep Long Valley Green volunteers for a trash cleanup. Tools, safety gear, and breakfast provided. Meet us at the Green Church (906 Benton Crossing Road) at 10 AM on Sunday October 22nd.