Sunday, October 16, 2011

Keeler: The Town that Time Passed By

We just spent a week traveling in the Eastern Sierras and the old mining towns around Ridgecrest, seeing many new places and revisiting some old favorites.

On the way to Lone Pine, we decided to take Rte. 190 around Owens Dry Lake to Keeler. Thanks to plaques placed by E. Clampus Vitus, we learned that Keeler had been a bustling place in the mid-19th century due to the Cerro Gordo mines in the hills above town. Mostly known for silver, these Mexican mines shipped ore across Owens Lake and on to the pueblo of Los Angeles via Remi Nadeau's wagon trains.

Here's the old train station. Keeler was the "end of the line" for a major railroad. There were plans to extend the line in the 1880s--but then the mines played out, and Keeler was left out. Another blow came to Keeler when the Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power infamously managed to drain Owens Lake and take the water for Los Angeles.

Today Keeler is a wreck of a place with few inhabitants and clouds of blowing sand and dust. There's a strange, toxic smell in the air. We had heard about the swimming pool at the edge of town from other photographers--managed to find it and take our own pictures of it.

The wrecked trailer and sign here say it all: "Safe Beach! Please! Wear your Hazmat suits at all times!" and, "This beautiful setting provided by LA Water Dept."