Bishop’s History and Migrating Lifestyle

Who were the first non-Native Americans to roam the northern end of Owens Valley?

The one BOF lifestyle to say goodbye to Bishop, said hello to three Colorado and three California mountain resort towns.


An excerpt from Book Five in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Sierra Mountain resorts.

Bishop: Part One

What do we already know about Bishop?

Having driven through Owens Valley on this trip we know it’s at the northern end of the valley.

And we know that the Sierra Nevada range is west while the White Mountains lie east of town.

Rock climbers gravitate to Bishop for the over 2,000 volcanic tuff and granite challenges.

Wikipedia fills in the main hiking and climbing attractions.

“Numerous peaks are within a short distance of Bishop, including Mount Humphreys (13,986 ft.), to the west, White Mountain Peak (14,242 ft.) in the northeast, and pyramidal Mount Tom (13,658 ft.) northwest of town.

Basin Mountain (13,187 ft.) is viewed to the west from Bishop as it rises above the Buttermilks.”

Bishop promotes itself “The Gateway to Eastern Sierras” and as the “Mule Capital of the World.”

For almost half a century Bishop Mule Days celebrate the contributions that pack mules made to settling the area every week leading up to Memorial Day.

“More than 700 mules compete in 181 events and the largest non-motorized parade in the United States.”

But, mules aren’t the only draw.

Tourists come for an arts and crafts show and a country and western concert.

And maybe, Bishop should celebrate cattle too.

First of all, the town’s named after a creek that’s named after Samuel Addison Bishop.

Was Sam the first to inhabit the northern Owens Valley location?

Of course not.

Maybe on maps.

But, not in fact.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) may control much of the upstream and surrounding area but, the Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony control land just west of the town.

Bishop Paiute women’s Labor Day parade float, 1940

Here’s how Wikipedia sheds light on Bishop’s Native American heritage.

“The Bishop Paiute Tribe, formerly known as the Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community of the Bishop Colony is a federally recognized tribe of Mono and Timbisha Indians of the Owens Valley, in Inyo County of eastern California.”

As of the 2010 Census the population was 1,588.

More recently, the tribe counts 2000 enrolled tribal members making it the fifth largest in California.

Five elected members govern via a tribal council.

“The tribe has its own tribal court and many programs for its members.

For economic development, the Bishop Community created the Paiute Palace Casino and Tu-Kah Novie restaurant in Bishop.”

In the winter of 2013 the Los Angeles Times reported that stolen petroglyphs were recovered.

“Thieves stole from an Eastern Sierra site sacred to Native Americans about 15 miles north of Bishop. 

Vandals used ladders, chisels and power saws connected to electric generators to remove the panels from cliffs know as the volcanic tableland.” 

The sheered slabs measured 15 feet above ground and many were two feet high and wide.

“Native Americans had carved hundreds of lava boulders and cliffs with spiritual renderings: concentric circles, deer, rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep and hunters with bows and arrows”.

Covered by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the site supports sacred ceremonies local Paiute Native Americans, so …

“they are priceless to Native Americans, who regard the massive tableaux as a window into the souls of their ancestors.”

Who were the first non-Native Americans to roam the northern end of Owens Valley?

The Bishop visitor center named Kit Carson, Ed Kern and Richard Owens, as well as, Samuel Bishop as early explorers and settlers arriving in the middle 1800s.

Kit Carson had become a celebrated “Indian fighter” by then.

Carson, Kern and Owens mapped the Eastern Sierra territory.

Kern County and Owens Lake and Valley drew their names from Ed and Richard.

But, what about the core founding story of Bishop?

Ghost Town of Aurora, Nevada

Bishop came into being due to the need for beef in a booming mining camp some eighty miles to the north, Aurora, Nevada, (Aurora was believed to be on the California side of the border at that time and was the county seat of Mono County, California).

“In 1861 cattlemen drove herds of cattle some three hundred miles from the great San Joaquin Valley of California, through the southern Sierra at Walker Pass, up the Owens Valley, and then through Adobe Meadows to Aurora.”

When Bishop and his wife, and a few trail hands drove 600 cattle and 50 horses on that long journey from Fort Tejon in the Tehachapi Mountains into the valley they experience an epiphany.

Why not just settle there instead, raise the cattle and sell their beef to the miners and businesses selling to miners in Aurora?

The McGee brothers joined them as the first white settlers in the valley.

“Remnants of these early settler’s stone corrals and fences can still be seen north of Bishop along Highway 395 in Round Valley (barbed wire fencing was not invented until 1873).”

Enough of that.

What about present day?

What happened to the lifestyle that took flight?

The one BOF lifestyle to say goodbye to Bishop, said hello to three Colorado and three California mountain resort towns.

The 11Y1T1 30-44, Midlife Couples, ditched Bishop’s Wireless Resort, Maturing Resort community and possibly migrated to:

  • Mammoth Lakes, California
  • Truckee, California
  • Tahoe City – Sunnyside, California
  • Durango, Colorado
  • Telluride, Colorado or
  • Frisco – Copper Mountain, Colorado.

So keeping things local, let’s now turn to Mammoth.


20) Pivot. Maybe the lists of best places don’t appeal to you. Where can you go to make a fresh, new start? Don’t limit your imagination. Think anywhere — across the globe. Where do you really, really want to live, work and play?  Why not live where it’s a vacation all year round?

26) If you know the zip code you can discover the lifestyles living in the community. You can compare your profile with theirs to estimate your degree of fit.

27) Estimate how well suited you are for the resorts. Refer to “Profiles-at-a-Glance” comparing 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 for changes in Life Stages – Singles, Couples, Families, Midlife, Empty Nests, Baby Boomers and Seniors; Ages – 20-29, 25-54, 30-44, 45+ 45-65, 55+ and 65+; and mix of Lifestyles in neighborhoods. Does the resort still offer the age, life stage and lifestyle profiles you prefer?

28) Which lifestyles profiled in the western resort towns during 2008 – 2009 remained five years later in 2013-2014?  Which disappeared entirely? Why? Which new lifestyles emerged, grew or moved in to shift the neighborhood mix? Have longtime locals been forced out by escalating property valuations and sky high property taxes?

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