Description - The rugged Sierra Nevada Mountain Range dominates the landscape through which this California state scenic highway travels. Peaks stretch more than 13,000 feet into the clear alpine skies while rivers plunge over falls and cut canyons deep into the earth. Clear mountain lakes dot the landscape, providing wonderful recreational opportunities for anyone who enjoys water. Wildflowers bloom in the spring and the leaves change color in the fall, while snow blankets much of the area during the winter and the sun warms the air in the summer. This area is full of breathtaking scenery year round.
- Route 395--Inyo County includes the Owens River Valley with mountains rising 8,000 to 10,000 feet for a backdrop. Much of the Sierra Crest along the west side of the valley is included in wilderness areas. The lands adjacent to the highway include the home of several small herds of Tule Elk. The Department of Fish and Game has constructed several "overlooks" where the public may observe these animals. Hiking opportunities are plentiful in the region, and there are also biking trails.
At the foot of the imposing Sierra Nevada in eastern California's Owens Valley, lies the site called "Manzanar." The Manzanar area was used by Paiute and Shoshone people for centuries. American Indian archeological sites are important parts of the Manzanar story. Between approximately 1910 and 1935, an agricultural village here known as "Manzanar" was a thriving pear and apple growing center. As you stroll through the area today, you are likely to see remnant trees of those early orchards.
Manzanar's best-known history is one of it's most recent. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps at which Japanese-American citizens and Japanese aliens were interned during World War II. Two months after the bombing of Pear Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which called for all people of Japanese ancestry residing on the west coast, most of whom were American citizens, to be placed in relocation camps.
Construction of the camp, originally used as a temporary detention center, began in March, 1942. Soon Manzanar became the first permanent camp, remaining in operation until the last resident left late in 1945. At full operation, Manzanar had a population of approximately 10,000 people.
The entire Manzanar detention facility encompassed some 6,000 acres. The facility consisted of the detention camp, adjacent agricultural use areas, a reservoir, airport, cemetery, and sewage treatment plant. Of this area, a rectangle of approximately 550 acres, containing the living area for the internees and various administrative facilities, was enclosed by barbed wire fences and secured by guard towers. This is the area preserved in Manzanar National Historic Site. Few of the camp's buildings remain today.
After the camp was closed, the wooden barracks and administration buildings were sold at auction and removed from the site. Among the visible remains is the camp auditorium, a large wood-frame building. In addition, the stonework shells of the pagoda-like police post and sentry house and portions of other buildings in the administrative complex remain, as do concrete foundations, and portions of the water and sewer systems throughout the camp.
Recreation - The Route 395--Inyo County is known for it's historical, recreational and scenic attractions.
Climate - The High Sierra generally experiences warm, dry summers and cold, snowy and wet winters. Weather can change rapidly during all seasons of the year. Elevation plays a major role in temperature and precipitation. This precipitation falls mainly from October through April. At higher elevations, it comes mostly in the form of snow. A snowpack from 5-10 feet or more is usually present from December to May at elevations above 6,500 feet. Winter temperatures below zero and summer temperatures above 100 degrees indicate the normal seasonal spread. Clouds can build up during the summer to produce spectacular thunderstorm activity. It is wise to pack for any season with clothing that can be "layered," ready to peel off or add on as the thermometer dictates. Always include some kind of rain gear.
This byway is located in Inyo County, in the southern portion of the High Sierra Region extending from Fort Independence to Fish Springs Road. The byway can be found to the east of Kings Canyon National Park.
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