The Owens Valley is located in east-central California, bordered on the west by the Sierra Nevada range and on the east by the Inyo and White Mountains. The valley is about 100 miles long, 10-20 miles wide, and the floor elevation is about 4000 feet MSL. The Sierras rise sharply to 10,000 feet and higher, capped by 14,495 foot Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous United States). The Inyos and Whites have peaks in the 10,000-12,000 foot range as well.

The valley is very interesting geologically, containing faults, diverse minerals, and many volcanic features. There is evidence of quaternary period volcanic events, the Long Valley Caldera, the famous Devils Postpile basalt formation, plus a scattering of cinder cones that have been active in recent times.

Other major points of interest in the Owens are the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains ( Bristlecone Pines are the oldest known individual living plants in the world), the saline Mono Lake at the northern end with its eerie tufa formations, and the vast dry lakebed of the once navigable Owens Lake to the south.

In the late 19th Century the valley held great promise for development and agriculture but rich and powerful people from then tiny Los Angeles managed through various means to acquire near-total control of the water rights in the valley. With the help of the newly formed federal Reclamation Service (soon to become the Bureau of Reclamation) the water was redirected via a 200 mile long aqueduct to allow the phenomenal growth of Los Angeles, at the expense and ruin of the Owens Valley.

The Owens is also somewhat of a Mecca for hang gliding and flying sailplanes. The dry valley floor absorbs sun and produces powerful and plentiful thermals to climb on, and the long, high valley walls allow long flights, hopping from peak to peak. The valley is wide enough that the heating sunlight reaches the bottom, treacherous valley winds aren't the norm, but a hang glider can fairly easily glide from one side of the valley to the other with enough altitude to find lift and climb back to the ridgetops. The first 100 and 200 mile hang glider flights were made in the Owens Valley, and the 1993 Hang Gliding World Championships were held there.

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