About Owens Lake

About Owens Lake and the Bird Festival

Owens Lake is where water, vast open sky, the high rise of the Sierra Nevada, thousands of migratory birds, and the story of human presence come together to define the geography of a special place. Also, Owens Lake’s story is a true story with a happy ending. For thousands of years, migratory birds paused at Owens Lake along their annual migration between the northern and southern hemispheres, however, when water was diverted from the Owens Valley in the early 1900’s, Owens Lake dried, and the birds disappeared. Now, through restoration efforts, habitat has been returned to the lake, attracting birds once more. Owens Lake, designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society, again offers world-class wildlife viewing in the southern Owens Valley.

Restoration Efforts on Owens Lake

Collaboration played a key role in restoration efforts, and to showcase the Owens Lake area, the bird festival proudly partners with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Inyo County, Audubon California, Eastern Sierra Audubon, and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, and Metabolic Studio. Thanks to collective conservation efforts, witness the inspiring return of iconic shorebirds like the American Avocet, Snowy Plover, and California Gull to Owens Lake, a place affectionately called “Owenghetti.”

Return to Glory

Today, Owens Lake stands out because of the staggering numbers of birds that visit. One April day, over 115,000 shorebirds were counted and it’s possible to see up to twenty different shorebird species. Over 20,000 American Avocets may be seen at the right time in spring and fall numbers of the Northern Shoveler have been as high as 30,000. Also, Owens Lake is California’s largest nesting location for the secretive Snowy Plover.

“Incomparable,” says organizer and longtime local expert Mike Prather. “Owens Lake represents the largest wildlife location in Inyo County with world-class numbers of birds during spring and fall migration. You are able to view thousands right out the window of your vehicle.”


Eastern Sierra Audubon Society has a great page about the Important Bird Area designation.

Here’s a great article by Lone Pine local Chris Langley about the art installation on the Owens Lake Recreational Access.

Check out Mike Prather’s piece from Bird Watching Daily about Owens Lake.