History of Bishop, California

Bishop, California is a city of 3,500 residents on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Owens Valley. The Paiute Indians originally inhabited the Bishop area until European-American settlers arrived in the mid 19th century. Despite being originally shown on maps as part of Mexico, the Eastern Sierra Nevada region was not inhabited by Mexicans. The city of Bishop takes its name from one its first western settlers, Samuel A. Bishop. It was originally started as a cattle ranching settlement, due to the need for beef to feed the mining boom in surrounding areas at that time. Settlers found the northern Owens Valley was perfect for raising livestock.

In 1861, Samuel Bishop settled in the area and owned a ranch along a creek, known as Bishop Creek. He set up a market to sell beef to the miners and business owners of mining communities. In 1862, the frontier settlement known as Bishop Creek was established and in 1870 a post office opened. In 1903, the city of Bishop was incorporated.

Between 1905 and 1907, William Mulholland, superintendent of the Water Department for the City of Los Angeles, purchased much of the land in the Owens Valley under the guise of a local irrigation project. Water from the Owens River began being diverted south to the city of Los Angeles. The siphoning of water from the Owens River caused the lower Owens River and Owens Lake to dry up completely. In 1913, construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed, creating an efficient, reliable means of water delivery to the city.

Today, the City of Los Angeles receives 70% of its water from the Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) own much of the land in and around Bishop. The LADWP offers visitors and locals alike many recreational opportunities including fishing, hunting and camping (in designated areas) on city owned property. Bishop is now the largest city in the Owens Valley and Inyo County.