Lone Pine is a census designated place (CDP) in Inyo County, California, United States. Lone Pine is located 16 miles (26 km) south-southeast of Independence
, at an elevation of 3727 feet (1136 m). The population was 2,035 at the 2010 census, up from 1,655 at the 2000 census. The town is located in the Owens Valley, near the Alabama Hills. From possible choices of urban, rural, and frontier, the Census Bureau identifies this area as “frontier”. The local hospital, Southern Inyo Hospital, offers standby emergency services. On March 26, 1872, the very large Lone Pine earthquake destroyed most of the town and killed 27 of its 250 to 300 residents.
The Paiute people inhabited the Owens Valley area from prehistoric times. These early inhabitants are known to have established trading routes which extended to the Pacific Central Coast, delivering materials originating in the Owens Valley to such tribes as the Chumash.
A cabin was built here during the winter of 1861–62. A settlement developed over the following two years. The Lone Pine post office opened in 1870.
In 1864, a geological survey team from California discovered Mt. Whitney and named the peak after the team’s leader, Josiah Whitney. One member of the survey team, Clarence King, made two unsuccessful attempts at climbing the mountain. Returning in 1871, he summited what was then believed to be Mt. Whitney, but turned out to be Mt. Langley. Two years later, he returned and summited Mt. Whitney on September 19, 1873, only one month after the actual first ascent was made by three local fishermen, Charley Begole, Johnny Lucas, and Al Johnson, who reached the summit at noon on August 18, 1873.
John Muir made his first ascent on October 21, 1873, becoming the first person to climb the mountain from the east via the Mountaineers Route. Seeing the demand for an eastern trail to the summit, the residents of Lone Pine raised the necessary funds to finance a pack-train route up the east side, which was completed on July 22, 1904. The trail was engineered by Lone Pine resident Gustave F. Marsh—much of the trail is still in use today. The lower portion of the trail from Lone Pine to Whitney Portal was named a National Historic Trail by the Smithsonian Institution.
On March 16, 1872 at 2:30 am, Lone Pine experienced a violent earthquake that destroyed most of the town. At the time, the town consisted of 80 buildings made of mud and adobe; only 20 structures were left standing. As a result of the quake, which formed Diaz Lake, a total of 26 people lost their lives. A mass grave located just north of town commemorates the site of the main fault. One of the few remaining structures predating the earthquake is the 21-inch thick “Old Adobe Wall” located in the alley behind La Florista, a local flower shop.
During the 1870s, Lone Pine was an important supply town for several nearby mining communities, including Kearsarge, Cerro Gordo, Keeler, Swansea, and Darwin. The Cerro Gordo mine situated high in the Inyo Mountains was one of the most productive silver mines in California. The silver was carried in ore buckets on a strong cable to Keeler, and then transported four miles northwest to smelter oven at Swanseas. To supply the necessary building materials and fuel for these operations, a sawmill was constructed near Horseshoe Meadows by Colonel Sherman Stevens that produced wood for the smelters and the mines. The wood was moved by flume to the valley, where it was burned in adobe kilns to make charcoal, which was then transported by steamships across Owens Lake to the smelters at Swansea, located about 12 miles south of Lone Pine.
Railroads played a major role in the development of Lone Pine and the Owens Valley. In 1883, the Carson and Colorado Railway line was constructed from Belleville, Nevada, across the White Mountains to Benton, and then down into the Owens Valley where it ended in Keeler. The arrival of the C&C rail line, with its engine “The Slim Princess”, and the stagecoach in Keller had a major economic impact on the area. Twice a week, passengers arrived on the evening train, spent the night at the Lake View Hotel (later renamed the Hotel Keeler), and then took the stage the following morning to Mojave. A short line to the north connected with the Virginia and Truckee Railroad line at Mound House, Nevada.
In 1920, the history of Lone Pine was dramatically altered when a movie production company came to the Alabama Hills to make the silent film The Roundup. Other companies soon discovered the scenic location, and in the coming decades, over 400 films, 100 television episodes, and countless commercials have used Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills as a film location. Some of the notable films shot here in the 1920s and 1930s include Riders of the Purple Sage (1925) with Tom Mix, The Enchanted Hill (1926) with Jack Holt, Somewhere in Sonora (1927) with Ken Maynard, Blue Steel (1934) with John Wayne, Hop-Along Cassidy (1935) with William Boyd, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) with Errol Flynn, Oh, Susanna! (1936) with Gene Autry, Rhythm on the Range (1936) with Bing Crosby, The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) with Gary Cooper, Under Western Stars (1938) with Roy Rogers, and Gunga Din (1939) with Cary Grant.
In the coming decades, Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills continued to be used as the setting for Western films, including West of the Pecos (1945) with Robert Mitchum, Thunder Mountain (1947) with Tim Holt, The Gunfighter (1950) with Gregory Peck, The Nevadan (1950) with Randolph Scott, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) with Spencer Tracy, Hell Bent for Leather (1960) with Audie Murphy, How the West Was Won (1962) with James Stewart, Nevada Smith (1966) with Steve McQueen, Joe Kidd (1972) with Clint Eastwood, Maverick (1994) with Mel Gibson, and The Lone Ranger (2013) with Johnny Depp. Through the years, non-Western films also used the unique landscape of the area, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) with Robert Cummings, Samson and Delilah (1949) with Hedy Lamarr, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) with William Shatner, Tremors (1990) with Kevin Bacon, The Postman (1997) with Kevin Costner, and Gladiator (2000) with Russell Crowe.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that required people of Japanese ancestry living along the Pacific coast to be placed into relocation camps. One of these camps, Manzanar, was built 7 miles north of Lone Pine. Initially constructed as a temporary center, it soon became the first permanent relocation center in the United States. Set on 6,000 acres of land, the Manzanar detention facility consisted of 36 blocks of wooden barracks confined within a one-square mile area. The facility included agricultural use areas, a reservoir, an airport, a cemetery, and a sewage treatment plant. The camp was enclosed by barbed wire fences and secured by guard towers.
The ten thousand Japanese American internees tried to establish some type of normal life, transforming the barracks by creating beautiful gardens and ponds and orchards. Manzanar was the only relocation camp with an orphanage, caring for 101 children. At the conclusion of the war in 1945, the camp was closed and many of the structures were sold at auction and removed. Some of the structures survived, however, and these, along with significant collections of photos, drawings, painting, and artifacts associated with Manzanar, became part of the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center.
Lone Pine is situated in the Owens Valley with the picturesque Alabama Hills lying to the west. Their unique appearance has attracted many film companies over the years. The hills were named in 1862 by Southern sympathizers, commemorating the victories of the Confederate ship CSS Alabama.
As the crow flies, Lone Pine is 80 miles due east of Fresno. However, there is no road crossing the Sierra Nevada to provide access from Lone Pine to Fresno. As a result, the closest accessible large city is Bakersfield, 160 miles away.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 19.2 square miles (49.8 km²), of which 19.0 square miles (49.3 km²) is land and 0.2 square mile (0.5 km²) (0.94%) is water.
Lone Pine and most of the Owens Valley have a high desert climate characterized by hot summers and cold winters. January temperatures range from the middle fifties to upper twenties. July temperatures range from the upper nineties to lower sixties. Low humidity is prevalent, with average annual precipitation averaging less than six inches (152 mm). Snowfall varies greatly from year to year, averaging only five inches annually. The nearest official National Weather Service cooperative weather station is in Independence where records date back to 1893. The National Weather Service has added an automated weather station in Lone Pine, which provides observations on its website, weather.gov.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Lone Pine had a population of 2,035. The population density was 105.9 people per square mile (40.9/km²). The racial makeup of Lone Pine was 1,334 (65.6%) White, 6 (0.3%) Black, 205 (10.1%) Native American, 17 (0.8%) Asian, 1 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 376 (18.5%) from other races, and 96 (4.7%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 694 persons (34.1%).
The Census reported that 1,972 people (96.9% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 63 (3.1%) were institutionalized.
There were 831 households, out of which 254 (30.6%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 374 (45.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 95 (11.4%) had a female householder with no husband present, 46 (5.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 53 (6.4%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 5 (0.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 276 households (33.2%) were made up of individuals and 107 (12.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37. There were 515 families (62.0% of all households); the average family size was 3.04.
The population was spread out with 492 people (24.2%) under the age of 18, 136 people (6.7%) aged 18 to 24, 442 people (21.7%) aged 25 to 44, 580 people (28.5%) aged 45 to 64, and 385 people (18.9%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.9 years. For every 100 females there were 98.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.1 males.
There were 1,004 housing units at an average density of 52.3 per square mile (20.2/km²), of which 452 (54.4%) were owner-occupied, and 379 (45.6%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 7.1%. 1,030 people (50.6% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 942 people (46.3%) lived in rental housing units.
|Named after a solitary pine tree that once stood at the mouth of Lone Pine Canyon, this small California town’s roots stretch back into the Old West — and Hollywood’s Wild West, too.
Back in the mid-1800’s, the town of Lone Pine was founded to supply local miners with provisions. Farmer and ranchers followed soon after, and after that, the Carson Colorado Railroad pulled into town. Today, the only part of pre-1870 Lone Pine that’s still standing is a portion of an old adobe wall that stands behind the local flower store, “La Florista”. A few miles to the east, you can also wander among the decaying ghost-town ruins of Cerro Gordo, accessible by dirt road off Hwy 136 (to Death Valley).
Even as the days of the Wild West were coming to an end, the Hollywood Western was just beginning. And since the ’20s, Lone Pine’s unique scenery has been the backdrop of more than 250 films. One glance at the Alabama Hills, and you’ll remember a host of immortal movie scenes: The first “Lone Ranger” ambush was filmed here, and it was here that Roy Rogers found Trigger and Tom Mix found Tony.
To walk on the dirty concrete sidewalk of Hollywood Blvd is one thing. To come out here, and cover the same ground as John Wayne, Hoot Gibson, and Buck Jones — well, that’s another. It’s a lot prettier, and it’s a lot more inspiring. Grab a horse from a local pack outfit, and you’ll feel like the Duke himself.
Lone Pine’s Hollwood connections are still alive and well — mostly because the Lone Pine area remains pristine and unspoiled. Come and visit, and you’ll recognize the backdrop to Mel Gibson’s “Maverick” and Alec Baldwin’s “The Shadow”. And thanks to the stunningly successful Lone Pine Film Festival — which has drawn such distinguished guests of honor as Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Tim Holt — this town’s matinee-Western roots are reason to celebrate, year after year.
Curious about what movies were made in Lone Pine? Here’s a very comprehensive list!
Lone Pine is also the town nearest the National Historic Site of Manzanar. During World War II, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were forcefully deported to various relocation camps throughout the nation. The bleak skeletal remains of Manzanar are a reminder of a shameful chapter in our nation’s history.
The History of the Hills
The Alabama Hills got their current name in 1864, when some Southern sympathizers in Lone Pine decided that the Confederate cruiser “The Alabama” (which had destroyed or captured 60 Union ships in 2 years) ought to be celebrated — so they named their mining claims after her. The name stuck, and eventually referred to the whole area. Interestingly enough, as these Southern miners were digging (and naming things) around Lone Pine, a group of Union sympathizers settled themselves 15 miles north, near Independence. When the Alabama was sunk off the coast of France by the U.S.S. Kearsage, the folks in Independence gleefully named their mining claims “Kearsage”, along with a local mountan peak, pass, and an entire town as well!
||For a while, the Alabama Hills were incorrectly touted as “the earth’s oldest hills.” We now know the Alabamas to be pretty young, like the Sierra— just a few million years old. Although they’re identical in composition to the Sierra, the Alabamas’ strange appearance comes from a different weathering process. The high and low temperatures of the Sierra, and the freezing, expanding, and thawing of rain and snowmelt created the “chiseled” splintering of their granite. But down in the relatively moist and soil-covered region of the Alabamas, this process did not occur. Instead, the soil gradually eroded away, exposing the oddly-shaped piles of boulders that stand here today. The weird, mottled coloring of the rocks is the result of the iron in the rocks oxidizing over millions of years.