Keeler, on the eastern “shore” of Owens Lake (a mostly dry lake now) has seen more than its fair share of hard times. From the 1880s through early 1900s Keeler‘s fortunes rose and fell with those of the silver and zinc mines at nearby Cerro Gordo. Mining declined in the last century until local services, including the Carson and Colorado Railway, were no longer needed in the late 1950s. The narrow gauge tracks were removed in 1961. Meanwhile, in 1913, the City of Los Angeles began aggressively diverting water from Owens Valley’s streams to slake LA’s insatiable thirst. With the streams diverted, Owens Lake evaporated and shrank to nearly nothing by 1924, leaving the docks at Keeler miles away from the disappearing shoreline. Winds that used to whip up waves instead whipped up toxic dust storms that choked Keeler’s dwindling population. Today, decades later, Keeler is quiet, dusty, forgotten by most, but not yet ready to become a ghost town. Several dozen people live there still. There is a post office, but no services for travelers.
All this makes Keeler an interesting place to photograph — though I feel I’m peering more than I should into private places, gleaning visual amusement from the town’s misfortune. I blew into town with the wind and dust, lingered a while, then drove away with 140 exposures.