Merced Wild & Scenic River

Fact Sheet: Owens Headwaters Wild & Scenic River

Glass and Deadman Creeks flow east from San Joaquin Peak on the Sierra Nevada crest and join just upstream of Highway 395. Downstream of the Glass/Deadman confluence, flows are significantly boosted by Big Springs and the stream becomes the Owens River. Congress added these streams to the federal system in 2009, as part of an omnibus bill signed by President Obama that protected 105 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers and 750,000 acres of wilderness in California.

The Owens River Headwaters possesses outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreation, fish, wildlife, geological, hydrological, and ecological values. The stream system drains a low point in the Sierra crest where western moisture flows into the Great Basin Desert. This moisture plume supports the largest Jeffrey pine forest in the world, an old growth red fir forest unique to the eastern Sierra, and numerous springs and wetlands that ultimately flow into the Owens River Headwaters. Endangered Yosemite toad and several butterfly species are found in Glass Meadows along the river. Below Big Springs, the Owens River is renowned for its wild trout fishery. The river flows through volcanic ash fields and tumbles over volcanic bedrock, forming numerous cascades and waterfalls. Campgrounds and backcountry trails along the protected segments provide a wide variety of recreational opportunities.

Quick Facts

  • Protected Segment 19.1 miles (including Glass Creek, Deadman Creek, Big Springs, and the Owens River)
  • Management Agency: U.S. Forest Service, Inyo National Forest