kids encyclopedia robot

Inyo County, California facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
County of Inyo
Wildflowers blooming in Death Valley after an unusually wet winter
Wildflowers blooming in Death Valley after an unusually wet winter
Official seal of County of Inyo
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
California's location in the United States
California's location in the United States
Country  United States
State  California
Region Eastern California
Established March 22, 1866
Named for "dwelling place of the great spirit" in Mono language
County seat Independence
Largest city Bishop
 • Total 10,227 sq mi (26,490 km2)
 • Land 10,181 sq mi (26,370 km2)
 • Water 46 sq mi (120 km2)
Highest elevation
14,505 ft (4,421 m)
Lowest elevation
-279 ft (−85.0 m)
 • Total 18,546
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1.81344/sq mi (0.70017/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area codes 442/760
FIPS code 06-027
GNIS feature ID 1804637

Inyo County is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 18,546. The county seat is Independence.

Inyo County is on the east side of the Sierra Nevada and southeast of Yosemite National Park in Central California. It contains the Owens River Valley; it is flanked to the west by the Sierra Mountains and to the east by the White Mountains and the Inyo Mountains.

Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Contiguous United States, is on Inyo County's western border (with Tulare County). The Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, the lowest place in North America, is in eastern Inyo County. The two points are not visible from each other, but both can be observed from the Panamint Range on the west side of Death Valley, above the Panamint Valley. It has the biggest elevation difference of all of the counties and county-equivalents in the contiguous United States.

With an area of 10,192 square miles (26,397 km2), Inyo County is the second-largest county by area in California, after San Bernardino County. Almost one-half of that area is within Death Valley National Park. However, with a population density of 1.8 people per square mile, it has the lowest population density of any county in California.


See also (related category): Native American history of California
Mount Whitney (top) is less than 90 miles (140 km) away from Badwater Basin in Death Valley (bottom)

Present day Inyo county has been the historic homeland for thousands of years of the Mono tribe, Coso people, Timbisha, and Kawaiisu Native Americans. They spoke the Timbisha language and the Mono language with Mono traditional narratives. The descendants of these ancestors continue to live in their traditional homelands in the Owens River Valley and in Death Valley National Park.

Further information: History of California through 1899

Inyo County was formed in 1866 from the territory of the unorganized Coso County created on April 4, 1864 from parts of Mono and Tulare Counties. It acquired more territory from Mono County in 1870 and Kern County and San Bernardino County in 1872.

For many years it has been commonly believed that the county derived its name from the Mono tribe of Native Americans name for the mountains in its former homeland. Actually the name came to be thought of, mistakenly, as the name of the mountains to the east of the Owens Valley when the first whites there asked the local Paiutes what the name of the mountains to the east was.

The local Paiutes responded that that was the land of Inyo. They meant by this that those lands belonged to the Shoshone tribe headed by a man whose name was Inyo. Inyo was the name of the headman of the Panamint band of Paiute-Shoshone people at the time of contact when the first whites, the Manly expedition of 1849, wandered, lost, into Death Valley on their expedition to the gold fields of western California. The Owens Valley whites misunderstood the local Paiute and thought that Inyo was the name of the mountains when actually it was the name of the chief, or headman, of the tribe that had those mountains as part of their homeland.

"Indian George", a fixture of many of the stories of early Death Valley days, was Inyo's son. Indian George's Shoshone name was "Bah-Vanda-Sa-Va-Nu-Kee", which means "The Boy Who Ran Away", a name he was given when he became terrified of the whites and their wheeled wagons and huge buffalo, none of which the Shoshone had ever seen before when they came wandering down Furnace Creek Wash in December 1849. In 1940, when Bah-vanda was around 100 years old, JC Boyles, a Panamint Shoshone who had become educated, came back to the Panamint Valley and interviewed Bah-Vanda at length about the early days of his life, including the events of 1849, and it is in this interview (which can be found in the February 1940 issue of The Desert Magazine) that Bah-vanda refers to his father, Inyo.

In order to provide water needs for the growing City of Los Angeles, water was diverted from the Owens River into the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. The Owens River Valley cultures and environments changed substantially. From the 1910s to 1930s the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power purchased much of the valley for water rights and control. In 1941 the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power extended the Los Angeles Aqueduct system further upriver into the Mono Basin.

Natural history

Inyo County is host to a number of natural superlatives. Among them are:

Owens Valley and the Sierra Escarpment.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 10,227 square miles (26,490 km2), of which 10,181 square miles (26,370 km2) is land and 46 square miles (120 km2) (0.5%) is water. It is the second-largest county by area in California and the ninth-largest in the United States (excluding boroughs and census areas in Alaska).


National protected areas

There are 22 official wilderness areas in Inyo County that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. This is the second-largest number of any county, exceeded only by San Bernardino County's 35 wilderness areas. Most of these are managed solely by the Bureau of Land Management, but four are integral components of Death Valley National Park or Inyo National Forest and are thus managed by either the National Park Service or the Forest Service. Some of these wilderness areas also extend into neighboring counties.

Except as noted, the wilderness areas are managed solely by the Bureau of Land Management, and lie entirely within Inyo County:

  • Argus Range Wilderness
  • Coso Range Wilderness
  • Darwin Falls Wilderness
  • Death Valley Wilderness (part)
  • Funeral Mountains Wilderness
  • Golden Trout Wilderness (part)
  • Ibex Wilderness
  • Inyo Mountains Wilderness (part)
  • John Muir Wilderness (part)
  • Malpais Mesa Wilderness
  • Manly Peak Wilderness
  • Nopah Range Wilderness
  • Owens Peak Wilderness (part)
  • Pahrump Valley Wilderness (part)
  • Piper Mountain Wilderness
  • Resting Spring Range Wilderness
  • Sacatar Trail Wilderness (part)
  • Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness (part)
  • South Nopah Range Wilderness
  • South Sierra Wilderness (part)
  • Surprise Canyon Wilderness
  • Sylvania Mountains Wilderness

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is a mostly arid United States National Park located east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in southern Inyo County and northern San Bernardino County in California, with a small extension into southwestern Nye County and extreme southern Esmeralda County in Nevada. In addition, there is an exclave (Devil's Hole) in southern Nye County. The park covers 5,262 square miles (13,630 km2), encompassing Saline Valley, a large part of Panamint Valley, almost all of Death Valley, and parts of several mountain ranges. Death Valley National Monument was proclaimed in 1933, placing the area under federal protection. In 1994, the monument was redesignated a national park, as well as being substantially expanded to include Saline and Eureka Valleys.

It is the hottest and driest of the national parks in the United States. It also features the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and the lowest point in North America at the Badwater Basin, which is 279 feet (85 m) below sea level. It is home to many species of plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh desert environment. Some examples include Creosote Bush, Bighorn Sheep, Coyote, and the Death Valley Pupfish, a survivor of much wetter times. Approximately 95% of the park is designated as wilderness. Death Valley National Park is visited annually by more than 770,000 visitors who come to enjoy its diverse geologic features, desert wildlife, historic sites, scenery, clear night skies, and the solitude of the extreme desert environment.

Other parks



Places by population, race, and income


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 1,956
1880 2,928 49.7%
1890 3,544 21.0%
1900 4,377 23.5%
1910 6,974 59.3%
1920 7,031 0.8%
1930 6,555 −6.8%
1940 7,625 16.3%
1950 11,658 52.9%
1960 11,684 0.2%
1970 15,571 33.3%
1980 17,895 14.9%
1990 18,281 2.2%
2000 17,945 −1.8%
2010 18,546 3.3%
Est. 2015 18,260 −1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2015

The 2010 United States Census reported that Inyo County had a population of 18,546. The racial makeup of Inyo County was 13,741 (74.1%) White, 109 (0.6%) African American, 2,121 (11.4%) Native American, 243 (1.3%) Asian, 16 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 1,676 (9.0%) from other races, and 640 (3.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3,597 persons (19.4%).


At the 2000 census, there were 17,945 people, 7,703 households and 4,937 families residing in the county. The population density was 2 per square mile (1/km²). There were 9,042 housing units at an average density of 1 per square mile (0/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 80.1% White, 0.2% Black or African American, 10.0% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.6% from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. 12.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 16.4% were of German, 12.2% English, 10.6% Irish and 5.0% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 89.2% spoke English and 9.3% Spanish as their first language.

There were 7,703 households of which 27.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.8% were married couples living together, 9.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.9% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.88.

24.4% of the population were under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 23.4% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 19.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.9 males.

The median household income was $35,006 and the median family income was $44,970. Males had a median income of $37,270 versus $25,549 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,639. About 9.3% of families and 12.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.0% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.

Notable locations

  • Mushroom Rock
  • Five Bridges


Major highways

Public transportation

Eastern Sierra Transit Authority operates intercity bus service along US 395, as well as local services in Bishop. Service extends south to Ridgecrest (Kern County) and north to Reno, Nevada.


Bishop Airport, Independence Airport, Lone Pine Airport and Shoshone Airport are general aviation airports located near their respective cities. Stovepipe Wells Airport and Furnace Creek Airport are located in Death Valley National Park.


Inyo County Court House
The Inyo County Court House in Independence


Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Inyo County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Bishop City 3,879
2 Dixon Lane-Meadow Creek CDP 2,645
3 West Bishop CDP 2,607
4 Lone Pine CDP 2,035
5 Big Pine CDP 1,756
6 Bishop Reservation AIAN 1,588
7 Independence CDP 669
8 Wilkerson CDP 563
9 Big Pine Reservation AIAN 499
10 Round Valley CDP 435
11 Mesa CDP 251
12 Lone Pine Reservation AIAN 212
13 Olancha CDP 192
14 Tecopa CDP 150
15 Fort Independence Reservation AIAN 93
16 Cartago CDP 92
17 Keeler CDP 66
18 Homewood Canyon CDP 44
19 Darwin CDP 43
20 Shoshone CDP 31
t-21 Furnace Creek CDP 24
t-21 Timbi-Sha Shoshone Reservation AIAN 24
22 Trona CDP 18
23 Pearsonville CDP 17
24 Valley Wells CDP 0
kids search engine
Inyo County, California Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.