Indian Wells Canyon, Southern Sierra

Indian Wells Canyon Kern CountyA view of the ridgeline running down from Owens Peak, which was named by Major General John C. Fremont after Richard Owens, a captain who served in his California Battalion during the Mexican-American War.

During the war Fremont captured the city of Santa Barbara in 1846 after a treacherous night-time crossing over the Santa Ynez Mountains in a rainstorm. Today there is a public campground adjacent the Santa Ynez River named in Fremont’s honor and hikers can follow Fremont Ridge Trail which follows the battalion commander’s historic route over the mountains.

—Walker A. Tompkins, Santa Barbara, Past and Present. [1975]

Named for by John C. Fremont for Richard Owens (1812-1902), an Ohio born explorer (aka “Owings”), who accompanied him on his third expedition to California (1845–46). Fremont also named a valley, river and lake for Owens, whom he considered “cool, brave and of good judgment”. Owens served as Captain in Fremont’s California Battalion during the Mexican-American War, and was California’s Secretary of State during Fremont’s brief tenure as Governor (1847).

—Sierra Club

We put in a cursory effort to try and locate Native American rock art in Indian Wells Canyon, but came up empty, which isn’t a hard achievement to attain when looking for small stains of faded paint hidden along a monstrous mountainside stubbled with a million rocks and looming ridges and peaks.

We were rewarded, however, with awesome views of the Sierran landscape. Leaving the stark flatness of Mojave Desert, we climbed by four wheels up the long canyon ’til we reached high slopes covered in knobby granite and conifers and accented with the color of spring wildflowers.

Perhaps a few images may inspire readers to get out and explore places they’ve never seen, because you just never know what you may find even if you don’t find what you were looking for.

Indian Wells Canyon wildflowers and peaksIndian Wells Canyon hikes

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4 Responses to Indian Wells Canyon, Southern Sierra

  1. Pat Bean says:

    This blog earned a Bean’s Pat as blog pick of the day. Check it out at:

  2. richard woolsey says:

    Thank you Jack, for sharing all your adventures; they are very enjoyable, historical and inspiring. Richard

  3. Pat says:

    Sometimes just the beauty of a place is all we need. Thanks for the historical info and posting the great photos.

  4. I love the way you have those sudden huge areas of colourful flowers in your hills. We do have a few little Alpine-type flowers but they’re very thinly scattered and you only see individual ones when you get up close to them.

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