SPIRIT OF LANDSCAPE:
California’s Lower Owens River Valley
Annual Conference of the California Garden and Landscape History Society
September 26-28, 2008, Lone Pine, California
Lectures and tours featuring:
• The Alabama Hills in Western film
• The gardens of Manzanar
• Mary Austin, voice of the landscape
• Local gardens: native, vernacular, historic
• The re-watering of the Lower Owens River
The National Park Service/Manzanar National Historic Site
The Garden Conservancy
Beverly & Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History
Independence Civic Club
Owens Valley Committee
Manzanar History Association
The 2008 Annual Conference of the California Garden & Landscape History Society will celebrate the beauty and diversity of California’s Eastern Sierra region landscape. Through talks and tours, we will explore art forms inspired by this dramatic mountain, desert, and river valley landscape. The conference will focus on the literature of Mary Austin (among the first to realize that landscapes don’t have to be green to be beautiful), western films, local native plant gardens, and gardens created by Japanese Americans who were interned at Manzanar during World War II. We will also learn about significant changes wrought on the land both by the diversion of water from the Owens River into Los Angeles aqueducts, and by the current re-watering of the Lower Owens River.
Conference attendees will discover a dramatic natural and cultural landscape. The Owens Valley is bordered by the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west and the White and Inyo Ranges to the east and was originally inhabited by the Southern Paiute Indians of the Mono Tribe, who occupied the cooler mountain slopes in the summer and retreated to the warmer valley floor during the winter. The picturesque western town of Lone Pine was founded during the 1860s to provide supplies to local gold and silver mines in the area and later became a ranching center. Lone Pine is the gateway to Mount Whitney, tallest point in the contiguous United States. A drive to Mount Whitney portal takes you through the complex rock formations of the dun-colored Alabama Hills, the setting for numerous western films and the Lone Ranger television series. In the early 1900s, the City of Los Angeles acquired water rights for the construction of its Owens Valley Aqueduct, putting an end to many farms and ranches when the river disappeared in 1913. Today the ecosystem is recovering along a 62-mile portion of the Lower Owens River that is once again flowing.
The Eastern Sierra from Yosemite National Park south to Death Valley National Park, has long been enjoyed by vacationers, naturalists, anglers, and artists. The drive to the Owens Valley from northern California is one of the most spectacular anywhere, crossing Yosemite and dropping down through the Tioga Pass to salty Mono Lake, with its dramatic tufa formations and migrating birds. In the hills above Mono Lake, north of Lone Pine, is Bodie State Historic Park, an amazingly well-preserved ghost town that once was home to a gold mining population of 10,000. Other extracurricular activities in the area extend from climbing Mount Whitney to visiting Death Valley National Park east of Lone Pine (the lowest point in the United States and one of the hottest places in the world.) The world’s oldest living trees, bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva), are found in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains near the town of Bishop. Bridgeport, the Mono County seat, is noted for its stately courthouse, the second oldest continuously occupied courthouse in California. Architecture buffs will also enjoy the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery near Independence, designed in 1916 in Arts and Crafts style and landscaped by a gardener from Golden Gate Park. Hikers should visit the Lone Pine Ranger Station of the Inyo National Forest for advice on trails.
For more specific conference information or to volunteer to assist with the conference please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Aaron Landworth at (310) 453-1180.
Friday, September 26
Tour of the Alabama Hills with Chris Langley (gather in Dow Villa parking lot to caravan)
Casual Outdoor Dinner
Beverly & Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History Museum Orientation Film
Chris Langley introduction to Lone Pine
View a movie shot in the Lone Pine area
Saturday, September 27
Manzanar National Historic Site
Check-in at Manzanar; Continental Breakfast
Lectures, film, museum, driving tour; Picnic Lunch
Richard Potashin, Manzanar Landscape Specialist
Keynote talk by Kenneth Helphand, author of Defiant Gardens
Gather at Eastern California Museum & Bookstore in Independence
Walking tour of Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden & other local gardens and sites with Nancy Masters of the Independence Civic Club
Gather at Legion Hall for a talk by Paula Panich on Mary Austin followed by the CGLHS Annual Meeting
Optional Dinner in Lone Pine with our Speakers
Sunday, September 28
8:30 am – noon
Tour with naturalist Mike Prather of two large projects currently underway in the Owens Valley: shallow flooding at Owens Lake and the re-watering of 62 miles of the Lower Owens River above Owens Lake.
Lower Owens River Valley Background
“(Still) The Land of Little Rain: Mary Austin and the Eastern Sierra”
Download Paula Panich’s recent article.
Reprinted, with permission, from Pacific Horticulture, July 2008 (www.pacifichorticulture.org)
Kenneth Helphand is a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon, where he has taught courses in landscape history, theory, and design since 1974. He is a graduate of Brandeis University (1968) and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (MLA, 1972). His award-winning book, Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime, was published in 2006, and he is the author of Colorado: Visions of an American Landscape (1991), Yard Street Park: The Design of Suburban Open Space (with Cynthia Girling, 1994), and Dreaming Gardens: Landscape Architecture & the Making of Modern Israel (2002) as well as numerous articles and reviews on topics in landscape history and theory.
Chris Langley is a native New Yorker, born on Long Island. He graduated from Dartmouth College, served as a Peace Corp Volunteer in Iran, and was a teacher for 35 years. He now serves as Inyo County Film Commissioner, Executive Director of the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History, and Director of the Lone Pine Film Festival—celebrating its 19th annual event this October. He recently published a history of Lone Pine for the Arcadia Images of America series and has finished writing An Epic and Intimate Landscape: the Film History of Lone Pine, Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra.
Paula Panich is a writer and teacher. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers in Swannoa, North Carolina and a degree in history from Arizona State University. She has a particular passion for the landscapes of New England and the American West and is a contributing writer to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as well as to travel, horticultural, and consumer magazines. Her book Cultivating Words: The Guide to Writing about the Plants and Gardens You Love was published by Tryphon Press in 2005. She has taught writing at many locations around the country including the Getty Center and the Huntington Library here in California. In 2006, Paula was a speaker at the “Edith Wharton and the American Garden” conference at The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. She fell under the spell of Mary Austin about a decade ago upon reading The Land of Little Rain.
Richard Potashin has been a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site since 2002. In addition to heading up the oral history, docent, and I.D. cards programs, he specializes in landscape interpretation. He believes “the heart and soul of Manzanar is the gardens and their transformational stories.” Richard has a wide range of experiences in the Owens Valley, having lived in various parts beginning with the Mono Lake region. He now lives and gardens in Independence with his wife, Nancy, (a ranger at Death Valley National Park) and their dog, Sunshine. Richard studied ornamental horticulture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After graduating he lived in the San Luis Obispo area for ten years, where he had a landscape gardening business specializing in native and drought tolerant landscape design using recycled materials for hardscapes.
Mike Prather has lived in Inyo County since 1972, when he and his wife Nancy moved to Death Valley to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. Mike has actively been working on land and water issues in the Owens Valley since 1980 with the Owens Valley Committee (he is a past president), the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society (past president) and the Sierra Club (past chapter chair). The enhancement and protection of the Owens River and Owens Lake Important Bird Area attract most of his current efforts.