Monday, June 20, 2011

Bend City

Inyo County – July 29, 1998

This is another one of those state landmarks that if you go to it, will leave anyone you’re with that’s not particularly interested in the endeavor scratching their heads and wondering if you’ve lost sense of reason. A nine mile detour from 395 on Mazourka Road, stopping halfway to take pictures of an unchanged landscape from any other point along the way, may not be your companion’s recipe for braking the fun meter. But it’s Bend City and you’re the chairman of the ‘find it’ committee.

They had built a bridge over the Owens River they were quite proud of and it was going to be the county seat for proposed Coso County but it didn’t happen. Today, Bend City is just another member of the ghost town committee.

On Thursday, July 28, 1864, William H. Brewer, working for the State Geologist Josiah Whitney, reached Bend City on part of a state tour that lasted over four years. He had this to say about his visit in his journal:

"The Inyo Mountains skirt this valley on the east. They, too, are desert. A little rain falls on them in winter, but too little to support much vegetation or to give birth to springs or streams. They look utterly bare and desolate, but they are covered with scattered trees of the little scrubby nut pine, Pinus fremontiana [actually Pinus monophylla, or the single leaf piñon pine], and some other desert shrubs, but no timber, nor meadows, nor green herbage. There are a few springs, however. These mountains were the strongholds of the Indians during hostilities a year ago. They are destitute of feed, and the water is so scarce and in such obscure places that the soldiers could not penetrate them without suffering for want of water. Camp Independence was located in the valley, and for a year fighting went on, when at last the Indians were conquered -- more were starved out than killed. they came in, made treaties, and became peaceful. One chief, however, Joaquin Jim, never gave up. He retreated into the Sierra with a small band, but he has attempted no hostilities since last fall. These Indians are in a region where we are now, and it was against them that we took the escort of soldiers as a guard. There are a number yet, however, in the valley, living as they can -- a miserable, cruel, and treacherous set.
"Mines of silver and gold were discovered in the Inyo Mountains some two or three years ago. They made some excitement, a few mills were erected, and three villages started -- Owensville, San Carlos, and Bend City. The last two are rivals, being only 2½ miles apart; the first is 50 miles up the river. We camped on the river near Bend City and went into town for fresh meat and to get the horses shod. It is a miserable hole, of perhaps twenty or twenty-five adobe houses, built on the sand in the midst of the sagebrush, but there is a large city laid out -- on paper. It was intensely hot, there appeared to be nothing done, times dull, and everybody talking about the probable uprising of the Indians -- some though that mischief was brewing, others not."

Bend City was totally deserted when the terrible earthquake of 1872 tore asunder Owens Valley and was felt as far away as Salt Lake City, Utah. It is estimated to be near a magnitude 9.5 quake by today's standards. Due to Owens Valley's sparse population, deaths were kept to a minimum. But the Owens River course was changed to the point that the bridge still straddling Bend City was no longer necessary, for the river course changed to a half mile to the west. The quake helped to bury the bleached bones of Bend City. – Ghost Towns USA

A June '66 shot of Owens Valley on a trip in the '58 Renault Dauphine (on road). Hmmm, this might be closer to Olancha.

If there was a plaque, it would read: NO. 209 SITE OF BEND CITY - Bend City, a population center in the middle 1860s, was designated as the seat of Coso County, but the county was never formed. It was here that the first county bridge across Owens River was constructed. The 1872 earthquake changed the course of Owens River, so the site of Bend City was near an empty ravine instead of on a river bank.
Location: On Mazourka Canyon Rd, 4.6 mi W of Independence
Google: 37.360897,-118.454665

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