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Bishop Visitor's Center

Protect. Preserve. Participate. Perpetuate.

Protect. Preserve. Participate. Perpetuate.

Welcome!

Do you know that spending time in nature improves your overall health? We all know that being in nature makes us feel good, but does it actually make us better? Numerous studies show that the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Each time we visit a natural environment we benefit as individuals. We have fun. We learn. We relax and de-stress. We get exercise. We get solitude and we can make positive social connections.

And … study after study is showing that contact with nature actually improves our physical and mental health. Read more about some of the research here.

It’s proven. Nature is flat out good medicine!

Take Bishops Big Backyard Pledge hereNow that’s really great news. We can each feel better and perhaps get better. But how could one person’s individual contact with nature benefit others?

First, just by making us feel better, we might perform better. We might go back to families, friends, and jobs and participate in those socioeconomic settings in a more meaningful way.

Second, if we engage respectfully in nature with others – our family, friends, or colleagues – we learn good behaviors and we pass these on to others.

Third, and the one which we feel is most important within this context, our active and considerate participation in the natural world helps to sustain the availability of these accessible resources. By taking care of how we interact with nature we are helping to take care of it. Visiting parks, outdoor recreation facilities, public lands, and publicly accessible lands in a courteous and considerate manner we support the landowners, land managers, and local communities that facilitate continued access to these properties.

In simple terms, if we:

  • experience,
  • learn,
  • teach, and
  • practice good sustainable habits in the outdoors, and
  • share this caring message with others,

who in turn do the same, then together we can:

  • keep our lands public and accessible,
  • protect fauna, flora, and natural resources – especially threatened and endangered species, and
  • create sustainable natural landscapes for everyone to enjoy for the future – near and far.

We have a wonderful, wild, big backyard here in the Eastern Sierra and we’re committed to caring for it. We believe you’re here, on this page, because you also care. Thank you! So, join us and be part of protecting and preserving our public lands.

They are a great benefit to us all and together we can;

  • Protect our public lands like those who came before us,
  • Preserve our public lands for those who will come after us,
  • Participate in taking good care of our public lands for all of us to enjoy right now, and
  • Perpetuate the benefits by taking the pledge.

Honestly, it’s easy! There are many fun and practical ways to get out into nature and use good habits that will protect and preserve our natural world. Let’s all participate together in learning, doing, and sharing good behaviors.

Let’s do good, be good, and feel good.

Read more about each of the 5 habits of good outdoor conduct here.

Everything you NEED TO KNOW about our public lands

Click each toggle bar below to read more about protection, preservation, conservation, and participation in safeguarding our natural resources.

Why & Who

Why is nature so good for us?

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and young boy. Bishop. CA

A young one among the old ones – Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Photo: @drbrookejune

There is a growing body of evidence from past and ongoing research that tells us that being in nature is essential to our physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Studies have shown that children who do not have access to parks, or ‘green’ or natural settings risk being overweight, have respiratory issues, suffer mood disorders, and reduced general health. Adults are also at risk and there is a greater incidence of depression and anxiety in urbanized populations worldwide.

Extensive research being conducted currently is focused on how and why contact and interaction with nature is highly beneficial. Many studies show that exposure to nature reduces the symptoms of depression or anxiety among adults and improved cognition and increased self-esteem in children, as well as many other positive influences. A 13-year study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that children who spend time outdoors showed improvement in respiratory health.

Another study completed by researchers in Australia illustrated how, “‘active’, ‘social’ and ‘adventurous’ contact with nature may be combined within a treatment intervention to protect and enhance the health of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.” The report concluded that, “‘contact with nature’ constitutes a health promotion strategy with potential application in prevention, early intervention, treatment and care.”

More than half of the world’s population currently lives in urbanized areas. It is predicted that this figure could exceed 70 percent in the next few decades. Proximity and access to greenspace, natural environments, and wilderness is becoming increasingly more valuable and necessary to the overall health and wellbeing of individuals and society as a whole.

This means we all share the responsibility of protecting and preserving our natural world so that we can access it, maintain it, and restore it when and where necessary.

Who can benefit from nature and participate in protecting our public lands?

Ranger and hikers on a wilderness trail. Bishop. CA

Learning the ways of the wild. Photo: Friends of the Inyo.

Everyone. Everywhere. Every time.

The Eastern Sierra offers opportunity for outdoor adventure and nature experiences throughout the year. It has long been known as one of the world’s best fishing areas. More recently it has become a mecca for rock climbers. The world renown Pacific Crest Trail passes through the upper elevations of the region and many lower elevation trailheads provide access to this major hiking route. The area offers some of the best hiking in the country – from a short hour-long hike to a multi-day trip, locals and guests can immerse themselves in a natural environment that has been pristine for eons. If we all participate wisely, we can keep it that way.

Whenever we visit and wherever we go there are some easy, practical steps to take to ensure we have an excellent experience and leave behind no trace. If we all share this simple responsibility, we could guarantee that each and every person could have a great experience, AND we would be protecting and preserving of our public lands for the future.

Take a look at the list of great Eastern Sierra activities in the section What & How below. 

 

What & How

What can you see and do on our public lands in the Eastern Sierra?

Fishing in the High Sierra. Bishop. CA

Fishing in the High Sierra. Photo: Gigi de Jong

We have a wild, wonderful big backyard. Here are some of the many things you can do here:

  • hiking,
  • cycling,
  • fishing,
  • trail running,
  • climbing,
  • camping,
  • horseback riding,
  • OHV driving,
  • fall color spotting,
  • wildflower spotting
  • wildlife viewing
  • birdwatching,
  • kayaking,
  • standup paddle boarding,
  • river rafting & floating,
  • waterfall finding,
  • snowshoeing,
  • backcountry skiing & snowboarding,
  • cross country skiing,
  • hang gliding & paragliding,
  • photography,
  • painting, and
  • just simply resting and relaxing.

How to get the greatest benefit from your outdoor experience?

Mountain Biking down Lower Rock Creek. Bishop. CA

Mountain Biking down Lower Rock Creek. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Before you head off into the great outdoors know what it is you want to do and plan the experience accordingly. Is it the right season for it? How difficult or easy is the activity going to be and is it suitable for you and/or everyone in your group? How long will it take and do you have all the right gear and provisions? Where will you go to find your adventure and what are the rules of that area? How will you stay safe and what will you do in case of an emergency?

We can help. Reach out the folks at the Bishop Visitor Center. Tell our friendly, knowledgeable staff about your intended visit and ask questions. We have experience and can help you plan a great escape – one that will leave you wanting to come back for more and one that will leave the area in as good or better condition than you found it.

Be our guest. Be your best.

Click here for all our contact details.

When & Where

When did it all start?

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” ~ John Muir, 1901.

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and nature preservationist John Muir. Yosemite National Park.

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and nature preservationist John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, on Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. In the background: Upper and lower Yosemite Falls.

Those words were penned by John Muir over 100 years ago and they are perhaps even more significant today. Much of his exploration of the wilds of western America was right here in the Eastern Sierra and high Sierra Nevada.

Protection and preservation of land in what is now the United States of America began as early as 1832, well before California became the 31st state in 1850. In 1832 Hot Springs, in what was then the territory of Arkansas, became the nation’s first national preservation. Almost 100 years later, in 1921, it was designated as a national park. But before that could happen many early environmentalists and conservationists worked tirelessly to create the framework which now supports the protection of our public lands.

Soon after California achieved statehood, the early preservationists in the region, Mrs. Jessie Benton Fremont, Captain Israel Ward Raymond and California Senator John Conness, formulated the theory that land should be set aside purely for the purpose of preservation and enjoyment by the public. On March 28, 1864, Conness introduced a bill into the Senate of United States to preserve the “Yosemite Valley and the Big Tree Grove … for the benefit of all mankind.” It was passed by the 38th Congress and was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864. The Yosemite Valley Grant Act was the beginning of the California State Park system. It also laid the foundation for the national parks as we know them today.

In 1872 the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act was signed into law. Much of the language in this act was taken from the earlier Yosemite Act, but due to territorial disputes at that time the land was entrusted to the federal government and the first National Park came into being. It was, in fact, the world’s first national park, and the concept spread around the planet. Today over 100 countries have lands designated as national parks.

Not all protected lands are designated as National Parks. Many other designations for protected lands fall under the jurisdiction of our National Park Service (NPS) such as: National Monuments, National Historic Sites, National Recreation Areas, and many more. In addition to these, there are many more areas that enjoy national protection under the auspices of the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and still more are protected by the states.

In 1876, Congress created a Special Agent within the US Department of Agriculture to “assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States.” This was the auspicious beginning of the US Forest Service. The office of the Special Agent was expanded to the Division of Forestry in 1881 and, a decade later in 1891, Congress authorized the President to designate public lands in the West, called “forest reserves.” These reserves were initially placed under the supervision of the Department of the Interior, but in 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt returned their care to the Department of Agriculture within its new division, the United States Forest Service. The newly appointed USFS Chief, Gifford Pinchot, with the approval of President Roosevelt, restructured and professionalized the management of these newly renamed National Forests. He also increased their number and area extensively.

Pinchot is credited as being the ‘father’ of land conservation. He stated that, “Unless we practice conservation, those who come after us will have to pay the price of misery, degradation, and failure for the progress and prosperity of our day.”

In 1964 The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was created, but its roots date back further than any of the other federally managed land agencies. Fairly soon after America’s independence, in 1812, the General Land Office (GLO) was established to survey, map, and then later to administer the Homestead Acts. These acts, beginning with the first in 1862, succeeded in granting 1.6 million homesteads, covering 270 million acres (420,000 sq mi) of federal land into private ownership by 1934. As attitudes regarding public lands changed over time, the US government, consolidated the GLO and another agency, the US Grazing Service, in 1964 to form the Bureau of Land Management.

Where are our public lands today?

Our public lands are held in trust for us to use and enjoy by the many agencies that were created by those who came before us. They fought to preserve these precious natural environments and conserve resources for future generations.

State Parks encompass almost 19 million acres within 8,565 parks throughout the country. In 2018 over 807 million people visited America’s State Parks. That’s more than twice the entire population of the USA. California has the largest share of natural, cultural, and recreational state park lands in the nation. California also ranks first for the number of National Parks within the state’s boundaries.

Map of California Federal Lands

Map of California Federal Lands. Image: Sacramento Bee

The Eastern Sierra is a loosely defined area that lies east of, and encompassing, the crest of the massive Sierra Nevada mountain range. The region spans about 200 miles south to north and about 40 miles east to west and includes most of Inyo and Mono counties. It covers alpine mountains, sub-alpine foothills, riparian valleys, high desert scrubland, and some of the basin and range that make up the Great Basin of the USA.

Today the USFS manages 193 million acres of forest and grassland nationwide, of which 20 million acres are in California. Of those, almost 2 million acres make up the Inyo National Forest, which includes all or part of nine designated wilderness areas, and is located in the Eastern Sierra. The region borders four major National Parks: Death Valley NP to the southeast, Yosemite NP to the northwest, Kings Canyon and Sequoia NP to the west.

Today the BLM is responsible for administering the remaining lands from America’s original “public domain.” As well as being one of our country’s oldest public lands managers it also holds the distinction of having the most land, 245 million acres – which is equal to one-tenth of America’s land base, within its care. The responsibility of the BLM today is to administer public lands “on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield” of resources. The agency holds large tracts of land in the lower elevation valleys and foothills of the Eastern Sierra.

Do Good. Be Good. Feel Good.

These are the 5 habits of good outdoor conduct.

This Bishop’s Big Backyard Pledge.

1.  Camp in Designated Campgrounds

For many of us camping is a way to escape the urbanized world and get close, really close, to nature. It’s what many of us seek as a way to experience solitude in a remote setting. We are very fortunate here in the Eastern Sierra that there are many excellently situated campgrounds that can satisfy all those desires. There are campgrounds on the outskirts of our rural towns, more in the vastness of our high desert tablelands and in the riparian areas alongside rivers and streams, and still more at the higher elevations of our canyons and mountains. Our public lands are big and untamed, and these campgrounds have been well established and are well maintained. They create minimal impacts to the natural environment yet provide appropriate resources and abundant opportunity for intimate contact with nature.

Unless you are hiking into the backcountry, camping in designated campgrounds is the most respectful and least intrusive use of our public lands. This may ensure sustainable access for generations to come.

2.  Practice good outdoor etiquette:

  • Leave No Trace.

Responsible land users and those of us who live in or near the wild, wide open spaces of the Eastern Sierra are committed to leaving no trace when we venture into our big backyard. Practice these seven principles and participate with us in teaching and creating good, sustainable habits in others too. 9 out of 10 people in the outdoors are uninformed about their impacts. Let’s change that. We believe most people are eager to be part of the solution. Let’s pass this on. Take a look at the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace here.

  • Tread lightly and stay on trails

Feet, hooves, and wheels can cause damage to landscapes. All outdoor adventurers should plan trips knowing the rules and regulations of the areas they plan to visit. There is no shortage of great trails and exciting opportunities for exploring our big backyard. In order to keep these trails in good condition and accessible to all, it is necessary to keep impacts to a minimum. Always hike, bike, or drive on approved trails and never cut switchbacks.

If we all think, “Tread lightly,” it will guide our actions as we move across our delicate landscape and help to safeguard it for years to come.

The treadlightly! program is specifically designed to educate and guide OHV recreationalists using 5 fundamental principles. These excellent principles are applicable to all public land users and by following these standards we can all enjoy our chosen activities in perfect harmony with one another.

  • Pack it in and pack it out.

There are numerous activities and experiences that can be done and had in the backcountry and wilderness for a few hours, a day, or multiple days. Whether you hike in, bike in, drive in, or ride in, it is vital that we pack out everything we take in. It is obvious, and yet not always done, that we take care of our gear and equipment and not leave any of it behind. Occasionally parts break or pieces get lost. Let’s do our best to find, pick up, and pack these out. Every bit makes a difference. Every bit we leave has a negative impact so every bit we remove ensures the possibility of a healthy environment.

Trash has three basic categories, 1) packaging of all types – which most of us know to bag and remove, 2) biodegradable food waste – which many believe is acceptable to toss into the natural landscape, and 3) human waste – which has long been thought a natural byproduct that all animals, including us, produce and drop for assimilation into the landscape.

None of this trash should ever be left or thrown on the land!

Always bag packaging and food waste and pack it out for disposal in an approved receptacle. Whenever possible and wherever required, solid human waste must be bagged and removed. Know where to go when you go. Most trailheads and campgrounds provide adequate garbage collection and removal, but sometimes these can be overflowing. So do a good deed and take it to another bin or all the way home.

  • Do not feed wild animals.

Wild animals remain wild and safe when we respect their habits and habitats. Human food is unhealthy for wild animals and discarded food waste upsets the balance of nature of both fauna and flora. It is absolutely imperative that we never give or throw food to a wild animal – even if we believe it to be their natural food. A person offering food to a wild animal creates an immediate risk to the person and a long-term risk to the animal. Repeated contact with humans offering food of any kind habituates an animal to people and inhibits their ability to forage or hunt. And sooner or later a fed animal becomes an aggressive animal. This puts both humans and animals at risk. Dangerously aggressive animals may need to be killed by wildlife authorities. It’s a sad end that is entirely avoidable.

Keep wild animals wild!

  • Take pictures not things.

Every image we take can last a lifetime and longer. Our pictures preserve our experiences and the places where these moments are made. Every visitor who takes a souvenir takes something from each of us. It robs us all of the benefits of our natural world and reduces our ability to preserve it. When we take only pictures and disturb nothing, we preserve both the memories and the places for those who are with us and those who come after us.

  • Commit to the Climbers Pact

The Eastern Sierra continues to inspire and attract climbers from around the world. There is an extensive variety of challenging rock-climbing options that offer easily accessible year-round climbing opportunities, combined with stunning scenery and a supportive social atmosphere. In order to conserve this excellent resource and provide autonomous access for climbers, the newly established Bishop Area Climbers Coalition, in association with the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, and the Friends of the Inyo is creating two seasonal Climbing Ranger positions. These positions will be held by climbers, for climbers, with a strong focus on land stewardship, climber education, climbing area conservation, and community relations. We are proud to be at the forefront of ensuring climbing conservation in Bishop and we call all climbers to be proactive in leading the way for generations of climbers to come.

The Climbers Pact is a commitment to the sustainable growth of this sport. It is a call-to-action by the Access Fund, an organization dedicated to representing climbers and finding solutions to climber access problems since 1985. “Today, the Access Fund is actively working at hundreds of climbing areas around the country — working to reverse or prevent closures, reduce climbers’ environmental impacts, buy threatened climbing areas, help landowners manage risk and liability concerns, and educate the next generation of climbers on responsible climbing practices that protect access.” Be a responsible climber, like so many out there, and sign your name on the Climbers Pact here.

3.  Teach children and others the value of nature and our protected lands.

Your own backyard is a great place to start teaching kids about good outdoor habits. Watch the small wild animals that visit and talk about their natural behaviors. Pitch a tent and play games that encourage ‘leave no trace’ habits. Go for a walk in your local park and learn to tread lightly. Visit our big backyard and translate these good practices into great outdoor habits that will get children on the path to long-term, sustainable land usage and love of the outdoors. The earlier it starts the longer it lasts.

4.  Give Back:

  • Participate in events.

Start the habit of learning and caring young. Attend interpretive and educational presentations at national and state parks. Join guided hikes and stewardship outings. Participate in habitat restoration and trail maintenance projects. Be part of the solution to our ever growing need for preserved and conserved land and its resources.

  • Donate

Time. Skills. Services. Money.

When we join a trail crew or help plant trees or clear a waterway, the time and skills we donate to these projects benefit us all in so many ways. Working cooperatively outdoors in a natural setting is immensely beneficial to our physical and mental health. And the result of a project well done may provide positive results for many years. Donating practical services and money to reputable land agencies and stewards may tip the balance of land management in favor of long-term sustainability of land preservation and conservation.

  • Pay it forward.

Whenever and wherever we go, especially in the wilds of our public lands, we should be aware of the state of the environment. Whereas most of us will leave no trace and tread lightly, there are those who don’t. Pick up trash and pack it out. Report a problem. Help someone in trouble. Leave the land in better condition than you found it.

5.  Use technology wisely.

Stay up to date with the state of technology and carry the most suitable devices with you for your chosen outdoor adventure. Technology can save lives when we know when and how to use it. It can also detract from our, and others, enjoyment of the outdoors. Don’t rely solely on electronic communication and route finding. Plan ahead and carry paper maps into the backcountry. Limit electronic sounds and unnecessary noise when using devices. Maintain a safe distance from animals when attempting wildlife photography.

Be informed. Be wise.

  • Tag responsibly.

Sharing images and stories with care and consideration for the places we visit by limiting geo-tagging can save a landscape for generations to come. Exploration and experience are very personal, so let’s all care when we share. Create your personal story to inspire and appeal and leave a little to the imagination. Use generic tags to limit exposure and allow others to explore and find their own adventures.

We love Bishop. We love the Eastern Sierra. Let’s keep it wild and free.

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