Owen River Sunrise


Owens River Sunrise - the Owens River Valley runs north of the town of Bishop, CA, and then south toward Lone Pine, CA. It provides a wealth of great photographic opportunities. Numerous iconic images have been taken along this little river, including many from the incomparable Galen Rowell. The colorful shrubs, yellow flowers, and many S curves in the river are perfect complements to the majestic Sierra and Buttermilk Mountains in the background. 

When in Bishop, CA make sure you visit the Mountain Light Gallery which is home to Galen and Barbara Rowell's great works. 

Trail Difficulty (2 out of 5)

I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 2 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The location of this shoot is a simple 100yd. walk from the parking lot, but the road to this location is a little bumpy. 

GPS Coordinates & Elevation

Google Maps Birds-Eye-View

Click on image to enlarge


CLICK HERE to get driving directions Owens River Sunrise location parking area. 

Directions from Bishop, CA: Travel west on US 365 for approximately 5 miles until you reach Pleasant Valley Dam Rd. Take a right here and travel 1.8 miles and take a right on Chalk Bluff Rd. (you will pass a campsite on the right). Continue on Chalk Bluff Rd. and when you cross over the cattle guard drive on this dirt road for 2.2 miles to a fenced parking lot.

At the right side of the parking lot, go through the fence turn-style and then walk approximately 100yds. to the right (south) to the river. This is the spot. 

Best Time of Day to Shoot

This location is mainly a pre-dawn or sunrise shot, but can also be taken in the early morning before the sun gets too high. 

Best Time of Year to Shoot

I love shooting here in the winter months when the Sierra and Buttermilk Mountains in the background are covered with snow. If possible, find the day when the moon will be setting (before sunrise) over the mountains.

What Lens(es) Do You Need

The above image was taken with a 24mm lens.


There are no permits required.

Direction of the Shot

The direction of the shot above is southwest @ 230°.

Special Nuances of Shot

This shot is all about the bend in the river, the pink sunrise clouds, and the snow-covered mountains. In my opinion, the shot is best right before or just as the sun hits the tips of the mountains. I would scout this location before getting here for sunrise, as the shot lasts for only a few moments. 

Special Equipment Needed

You will need a tripod, a polarizer (to potentially remove the glare from the river), and potentially a neutral density filter to reduce your shutter speed to 2-3 seconds to create the silky water flow. 

Number of Other Photographers to Expect

This spot is off of the beaten path for most photographers and it would be rare to see anyone else at this location. 


Current Weather

The weather in Bishop is modest with lows in the winter reaching the low 20s. 

Cell Service

I use Verizon, and there is cell service at this location and around most of Bishop, CA. 

Overnight Lodging/Camping

This location is only about 20 minutes from Bishop, CA, which has an abundance of lodging. There are several campgrounds around Bishop, including the Pleasant Valley Campground, which is just 2.5 miles south of this location. 

Nearby camping and lodging

Camping - click on the campground below for directions

Pleasant Valley Campground (2.5 miles south)
Browns Millpond Campground (6 miles south)
Horton Creek Campground (10 miles south and then west)


Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review

Creekside Inn
(760) 872-3044
725 N Main St, Bishop, CA

Best Western Bishop Lodge
(760) 873-3543
1025 N Main St, Bishop, CA

Vagabond Inn Bishop
(760) 873-6351
1030 N Main St, Bishop, CA

Nearby Restaurants

I love the little town of Bishop, but there are very few restaurants that I could suggest. When in town, you should visit Schat’s Bakery for a nice sandwich and baked goods. Here are a few others I have tried. 

Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review

Erick Schat's Bakery
(760) 873-7156
763 N Main St, Bishop, CA

Back Alley
(760) 873-5777
649 N Main St, Bishop, CA

Sage Restaurant
(760) 258-1344
621 W Line St, Bishop, CA 

Laundry Mat

There are two coin-operated laundry mats in Bishop:

Bishop Cleaners @ 163 Academy Ave., Bishop, CA

Wash Tub Coin-Op Laundry @ 236 N Warren St., Bishop, CA 

Other Photography Opportunities Around

Click on an image below to move to that location

Airport Options

The closest major airports to Bishop, CA are: 1) Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) which is 200 miles north and 2) McCarran International Airport (LAS) is in Las Vegas, NV, which is 270 miles south and then east through Death Valley. 

Area Guides and Workshops


Other Resources

The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location. 

Visit Bishop, CA

Mountain Light Photography | Galen and Barbara Rowell | Fine Art ..