Olancha, Cartago: ‘The Gateway to the Sierra Nevadas’

By Deb Murphy

A four-lane version of U.S. Hwy. 395 may by-pass Olancha and Cartago some time in the future, but CalTrans won’t leave the little communities in the lurch.


The future of both was outlined at Tuesday’s Inyo Board of Supervisors’ meeting by James Powell of Alta Planning and Design. Olancha/Cartago will be re-branded as “The Gateway to the Sierra Nevadas” with tourists intentionally cruising through the community instead of driving blindly past it.

The planning process, funded through a CalTrans California Sustainable Planning Grant, included community outreach sessions.

The by-pass will identify the eight miles of the original 395, from Cartago to Summit Creek, as a destination as well as the turn-off point to Death Valley. Residents and visitors will actually be able to walk or bike through the communities without fear of turning into road kill.

When the by-pass was first proposed, there was a fear Olancha/Cartago would wither on the vine. But, the goal of the corridor study is to increase tourism and promote economic growth, identifying the area as both the way to Death Valley and a place to be in its own right.

Plans include walking, biking and horse-back riding trails along the corridor as well as way-finding signs to local attractions and recreational opportunities.

Powell told the Supervisors he’d be back in the fall for a final workshop.

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12 Responses to Olancha, Cartago: ‘The Gateway to the Sierra Nevadas’

  1. Emma May 7, 2021 at 8:15 pm #

    It’s a shame cal trans screw the people up there! Every year I would stop at the ranch house for a good meal and enjoy the staff that work there. The views in the little town was beautiful! I also sign to help stop the cal trans for messing up that nice town but when ca what ever start planning they will not let you have a voice because it was sign and sealed before you even knew
    About it. Love to all the towns people and keep your head high!

  2. Deb September 4, 2019 at 10:12 am #

    I have lived in Lone Pine and Olancha since 1960. Concerned Citizen, I was at all the CalTrans meetings, the Cannabis meetings ( where I explained that you will NEVER see fields of marijuana growing here. Too much wind!) There is no optimism here at the south end of the valley! The Ranch House and bridge plant are closed. Travelers are killed. Newbies move here because they “ love” our tiny town and then try to change it. “Well, the way we did it in so&so…” Guess what! We old timers don’t care how you use to do it.
    Look at the new dude, who wrote a letter to the editor, complaining about the batch plant that will be 3-4 miles away from him. He isn’t impacted at all. My husband and I live at the top of Fall Road and will gladly deal with everything that entails the new four lanes going in West of us. As traffic increases so do traffic deaths. Times and traffic have changed and our highway needs to change to keep up and help make 395 safer. Stop being selfish and think about what is best for the children who travel up and down this dangerous part of 395. My husband and I think the Olancha bypass should have been started in 2008 when it was first planned to begin. Many deaths would have been prevented in the 12 year delay.
    Also, why would anyone want to walk, bike or ride along a Hwy395 business loop? We have wide open spaces and quiet streets already.

  3. Earl Duran September 4, 2019 at 8:24 am #

    Where are all the Semi-Trucks from the Crystal Geyser hauling Owens Valley water going to route? are they going to use present 395 route? or will they go around Olancha? hopefully we will not have to put up with them anymore.

  4. Average Citizen September 3, 2019 at 9:29 am #

    The greater Owens Valley is almost always referred to as the Eastern Sierra, so if any pointless ‘re’branding’ is to be done, that would be the obvious location name. And every place that is nicknamed ‘Gateway’ to somewhere else, implies it is nowhere itself. Further, Olancha and Cartago also serve as beginning/ending points to/from Death Valley, The Inyo and Coso Ranges, and of course, Owens Valley, so why restrict the name to the Sierra? The local residents were given no voice against the bypass, so why should they have a say in how their community is re-branded? Bad marketing to polish up a crime committed by Caltrans.

  5. Deb Reese September 3, 2019 at 9:02 am #

    It is ridiculous to put in biking trails, walking trails or horse back riding trails through Olancha. I have lived here for many years because I like it just the way it is. The RANCH HOUSE CAFE is closed! And from what I hear won’t be reopening.
    Do any of you have an idea of what 395 and Hwy 190 looked like yesterday, Monday Sept. 2 ? Bumper to bumper crawling traffic and some adventurous drivers taking rough dirt roads trying to bypass the two lanes…it’s crazy!
    Personally, I don’t want anything done here except the bypass to begin as quickly as possible. My husband and I didn’t bother going to the meetings here any more because in our experience it does nothing. BLM, Crystal Geyer, CalTrans, Cannabis growing, keeping Olancha school open, these local meetings are all for “show” and everything has already been decided before these public input meetings are held.
    Don’t waste the money!

    • Inyo Citizen September 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm #

      Actually, Deb, a number of folks from the area came out to a couple public meetings and convinced the Board of Supervisors to not allow cannabis in that zone – in spite of the voting public being a slight majority in favor of it in the 2016 general election. That’s just one example. Let’s bring back some optimism in our communities.

  6. Charles O. Jones September 2, 2019 at 11:29 am #

    As much as I get a chuckle at the self-appointed Sierra Word Police who are constantly correcting the commonly misused words, “Sierras” or “Sierra Nevadas”, I must admit, they should use the correct name if they intend “re-branding” for this area. (I never realized there was brand to re-brand? Sounds like marketing mumbo-jumbo to me)

    Word Police and branding aside, this stretch of highway is dangerous and improvements are desperately needed before more tragedies occur.

    • Charlie September 4, 2019 at 6:17 am #

      Remember how Narrow Gauge Road in Lone Pine was Narrow “Guage” Road for a while? They finally took down the sign and corrected it. You’re right, and we will lose our minds if we continue to worry about folks’ spelling and grammar in the Valley. Instead, we can place bets and perhaps just have a drink and laugh when the newly branded “Gateway to the Sierra Nevadas” makes it to print.

  7. Lynne September 1, 2019 at 6:40 am #

    Can it please be called “The Gateway to the Sierra Nevada”?

    • BishopShady September 1, 2019 at 12:10 pm #

      Right!! ????????

  8. Trouble August 31, 2019 at 7:11 pm #

    I’ve lost two many friends to this Highway. Please stop delaying this over one restaurant!

  9. BishopShady August 31, 2019 at 6:56 am #

    Sierra Nevada is always singular when referring to the mountain range on the west side of the Owens Valley. It isn’t “the Sierras,” it isn’t “the Sierra Nevadas.” It is a mountain range and there is only one of them.


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