Bishop, California - Almost Paradise
Bishop, California is my favorite place on the planet. It's located at the north end of the Owens Valley between the Sierra and Inyo mountains, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. Even though Bishop is a small town, there are lots of things to see and do. In fact, Bishop attracts tourists from around the world. Instead of boring you with all the statistical data you can find on Wikipedia or the marketing type of information you can get from the Bishop Chamber of Commerce, I'm going to talk about the things that make Bishop such a wonderful place. There are many cool things about Bishop that the average tourist probably doesn't know about, and I'd like to share them.
Growing Up In Bishop
An awesome place to raise a family...
My parents to Bishop in 1968. I was 4 years old so almost all my memories of growing up are centered on Bishop. It was only supposed to be a temporary move. My Dad worked for Caltrans, and "doing your time" in a small District (Caltrans District 9 is headquartered in Bishop) was considered a good career move. After living in Bishop for a few years though, my parents liked it so much they decided to make it their permanent home. I remember years later my Dad turning down a big promotion because it would have meant moving away from Bishop. I'm glad they decided to stay, because I cannot imaging a better place to go through childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood than Bishop, California.
Seasons and Weather in Bishop
I love a town with 4 distinct seasons...
The weather in Bishop is fairly mild - winters aren't too cold and summers aren't too hot. There is enough variation throughout the year that Bishop does have 4 distinct seasons, though. Unlike some places, none of the seasons in Bishop are unbearable, but some are more enjoyable than others. Also, the seasons in Bishop don't follow the official dates.
Spring in Bishop runs from March through May and is my least favorite season. The days are still short and it's windy almost all the time (I hate wind because it interferes with my model airplane flying). Also, it's the one time of year in Bishop when there's not a lot of things to do. The highlight of Spring in Bishop is the last Saturday in April which is opening day of Fishing Season in the Owens Valley (except for the Owens River which is open all year). The other big Spring event in Bishop is Mule Days, which happens on Memorial Day weekend.
Summer in Bishop runs from June through August. When I was a kid in Bishop, summer was my favorite season. I'd spend all week playing with my friends, riding bikes, building and flying model airplanes and rockets, exploring the fields near our house, stringing home made CB antennas across the roof... well, you can kind of get the idea. On Saturdays my dad would take us fishing, and on Sundays we went to church, did our grocery shopping, then I would help my dad take the garbage to the dump. For the 4th of July, my friends and I would ride to the "res" and buy (illegal) firecrackers and bottle rockets. We would also celebrate at home with (legal) fireworks and sometimes go to the Volunteer Fire Dept. sponsored fireworks show at the airport.
Fall in Bishop runs from September through November. When I got older, it became my favorite season as my dad started taking me hunting. Also, the subjects in school got a lot more interesting as I got older, and I played basketball when I got to high school.
Winter in Bishop runs from December through February. The winters in Bishop are actually pretty mild, though it does get snow - maybe about twice a year. The first year we moved there was a record snowfall year. I remember the snow was above my head.
The fight between LA and the Owens Valley over water
We moved to Bishop at the height of the water war between the City of Los Angeles and the Owens Valley. Many people in Bishop at the time hated the City and its Dept. of Water and Power for pumping water out of the Owens Valley and sending it south to LA. I remember one year in the Mule Days parade there was a float that consisted of nothing more than a large billboard proclaiming "DWP SUCKS" in large letters with "Owens Valley Dry" in small letters. Local stores sold T-Shirts with an image of a man drinking a beer and urinating in the Aqueduct, with the slogan "Drink Up, LA Needs the Water." Occasionally someone would dynamite the Alabama Gates or one of DWP's ground water pumping stations.
This is still a controversial subject in the Bishop area, but at least people aren't bombing the aqueduct any more, and DWP has worked to restore a fishery along the lower Owens River. However one feels about the water issue, I'll say one thing for DWP. If they hadn't bought up all the land around Bishop (and the rest of the Owens Valley), the area could have turned into just another urban sprawl. In that sense, I am happy and grateful that they own most of the land around Bishop.
Want to Know More? - For more info on the water wars, take a look at this book
Did you know?
The movie China Town, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, uses the water war between L.A. and the Owens Valley as part of its plot line.
China Town on Amazon - Owen's Valley water wars on the silver screen
A Sense of Community
Small towns have a stronger sense of community than big cities
One of the things I liked best about growing up in Bishop was the strong sense of community.
Going to School in Bishop, California
I liked going to the same school as all the other kids
4-H Clubs in Bishop, California
Bishop has a very active 4-H community
One of my favorite things in Bishop was going to 4-H. I was in the Bristlecone 4-H Club, one of 3 4-H clubs in Bishop. Just the fact that a town as small as Bishop could host 3 different 4-H clubs gives you some idea about the kind of atmosphere that exists in small towns like Bishop.
Things to Do In Bishop, California - Small towns have more fun things to do than large cities
When I was growing up in Bishop, a common complaint was "there's nothing to do here." This was especially true in high school. Everyone wanted to get out of "boring" Bishop and go to the city where there was supposedly all sorts of wonderful things to do. Even today I find people have this misconception about small towns. Whenever I mention the idea of living in Bishop to my wife her response is "but there's nothing to do there." Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of things to do in Bishop, you just have to know where to look. Here is a small list of some of the things I used to enjoy while living in Bishop, things that are much more difficult to enjoy now that I live in a city.
- Hunting Yes, I can still hunt where I live now, only I have to drive at least an hour instead of just taking a 5 minute walk up the street.
- Fishing I can also fish in Reno, but again it involves much more than a 5 or 10 minute walk up the street. Also, all the close fishing spots in Reno are usually occupied by seemingly 2 million other people who want to kayak, swim, skip rocks, or otherwise ruin the fishing experience.
- Hiking Bishop is surrounded by beautiful scenery with lots of really cool places to hike. If you like mountain scenery and lots of fall colors, you should check out Bishop Creek canyon or the Buttermilk area.
- Cruising Main Unlike larger towns and cities, Bishop has a true Main Street running right through the middle of town. It's a little slow and maybe boring most of the time, but the Owens Valley Cruisers host a car show the first weekend in October, and I've heard the Indian community hosts an annual car show as well. Other occasions that make for fun cruising are Mule Days, Home Coming, and the Tri County Fair.
- Local Culture
- Tri County Fair
- Flying Model Rockets I loved flying model rockets when I was growing up. My friends and I would ride our bikes to Black Top (off of Reata Road) to launch them or my parents would take my to the flying field on Ed Powers Road. A couple times we launched them out of our front yards - until our parents found out and put a stop to it.
- Driving There are many beautiful places around Bishop to go for a drive. Some of my favorites are going up Bishop Creek Canyon, driving to June Lake, around the June Lake loop and back to Bishop. My absolute favorite though is driving what I call the Benton Loop. Take Highway 6 to Benton, cut across on Highway 168 to the junction with 395, then take 395 back to Bishop, stopping for lunch in Mammoth on the way. The scenery along 168 is incredible.
- Rock Hounding
- Just Plain Relaxing
Places to See in Bishop, California - There are lots of cool places to see in and around Bishop
There are lots of interesting places to visit while you're in Bishop. Some of them, like Schatt's Dutch Bakery or the Bristlecone Pine Forrest, are world famous. Others, like the East Line Street canal or the Tungsten City Hills are not so well known, and you may have never even heard of them unless you've spent quite a bit of time in Bishop. Here are some of my favorite places to see while visiting Bishop.
- Tungsten City Hills
- Flying Field
- Laws Railroad Museum
- The Ropes
Walking around Bishop, Calirornia
If nothing else, I always make time for a walk when I'm in Bishop
Laws Railroad Museum
Southern Pacific's Slim Princess
Businesses to Visit in Bishop, California - I visit these every chance I get
One of the nice things about living in a small town is the large number of locally owned businesses. There is just something, uhmmm, "neat" about seeing the owner of the grocery store stocking shelves and being able to talk with them. In Bishop, many owners of local businesses are avid supporters of the Junior Livestock Show and Auction that is held every year at the Tri County Fair Grounds. They also sell quality stuff. When you're in Bishop, be sure to stop by some of the local businesses. They are a treat you won't often find in a big city.
- Schatt's Dutch Bakery
- Meadow Farms
- Mountain Light Gallery
- Joseph's Bi-Rite Market
- Manor Market
The best jerky in the known universe
Events to Attend in Bishop, California - Bishop has its fair share of cultural events
For such a small town, Bishop has more than its share of cultural events to attend. Some of them (Mule Days) attract tourists from all over the world. Others, like the Tri County Fair and Junior Livestock Auction, are geared mainly towards the locals. Some, like opening weekend of fishing season, are in between. All of them are fun though, and unique to Bishop. If you get a chance to check out some of these you won't be disappointed.
- Mule Days The biggest event in Bishop each year is Mule Days. It runs every Memorial Day weekend. Mule Days draws over 700 mules competing in 181 different events. People from all over the world come to Bishop to celebrate Mule Days.
- Tri County Fair
- Junior Livestock Show and Sale
- Opening of Fishing Season
- Fall Color Classic
Notable Residents of Bishop, California - Maybe someone you've heard about has called Bishop home
- Jill Kinmont Booth
- Bill Evans
- Galen and Barbara Rowell
- Erick Schatt
- Richard Eyer
Getting to Bishop, California
The drive to Bishop is half the fun
Bishop has no commercial air service, so the best way to get there is to drive. Bishop is located on U.S. Highway 395, about 266 miles north of Los Angeles and 200 miles south of Reno. If you don't live close enough to drive all the way to Bishop, your best bet is to fly into either Los Angeles or Reno and rent a car for the remainder of the trip to Bishop. The drive to Bishop from Los Angeles is mostly smooth and straight on a 4 lane divided highway, so it takes about the same amount of time as the drive from Reno even though it's about 65 miles longer. The highway between Reno and Bishop has lots of 2 lane sections and it goes through many towns. Just getting through Carson City adds about 30 minutes to the drive.
I have made both drives many times, and I think the drive from Reno to Bishop is much more enjoyable than the drive from Los Angeles. The scenery is beautiful, and if you're not in a hurry there are many interesting places to stop and look around. The drive from Los Angeles on the other hand is pretty boring. The scenery is mostly flat desert and there's not a whole lot to see.
Bishop, California on the Map - It's easy to find, about halfway between Reno and LA on U.S. 395
Exploring the Sierras - The most beautiful country on earth...