Independence is in the Eastern Sierra region of California
Independence is one of several small towns along US highway 395 through the Owens Valley in California. Pretty much the only reasonable way in by car is either from the north or south on US 395.
Independence is small enough that you can reach just about any part of town on foot within a few minutes.
- Eastern California Museum, 155 N. Grant St (three blocks west of the historic courthouse), ☎ +1-760-878-0258 ([email protected]), . daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. The Eastern California Museum features a diverse collection of artifacts that reflect and illuminate the unique history of Inyo County and California’s Eastern Sierra region, from Death Valley to Mammoth Lakes. The museum’s collection of Native American basketry, numbering more than 400 pieces, represents one of the largest, collections of Owens Valley Paiute and Shoshone basketry in the nation. The museum’s Manzanar collection from the World War II Relocation Camp in the Owens Valley contains artifacts and photos that present camp life on a personal level. Extensive photos of the early days in the Eastern Sierra high county are also a popular part of the museum’s collection, as are photos and history files documenting the City of Los Angeles’ purchase of the valley’s water and land, construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the relationship between L.A. and the Owens Valley. Climbers and hikers enjoy the Museum’s exhibit on Norman Clyde, one of the Sierra’s pioneering climbers, who is credited with more than 100 first ascents of Sierra Nevada peaks in the 1920s and ‘30s. The museum bookstore contains fiction from groundbreaking Victorian author and former Independence resident Mary Austin, and history titles related to the Owens Valley, the complex history of water in the Owens Valley, California and the West, Native American life, archeology, geology, native plants, Death Valley, the High Sierra, mining and mining camps. The serene Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden highlights the plants that make their home in the Eastern Sierra. Free, donations appreciated.
On the west side of US 395 four miles south of Independence (ten miles north of Lone Pine). 
Manzanar was the site of an Internment Camp for people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
In time of war, it is normal and accepted practice to imprison or confine citizens of an enemy country who reside in the opposing country. The Japanese Internment of World War II went far beyond these reasonable bounds. During World War II, all people of Japanese descent living on the west coast of the continental United States including American citizens were stripped of property and most belongings and sent into imprisonment at remote locations in the West.
To properly understand why this improper internment happened, one first needs to understand some background: California had a significant history of racism against Asian peoples including preventing Asians from participating in the gold rush, blaming Asians for economic bad times and getting Japan to voluntarily reduce emigration to California, and forbidding Asians from owning land.
The Manzanar Relocation Camp is the best preserved example from this deplorable episode in American History, and is slowly being turned into a National Historic Site.
In some Asian cultures, there is a severe injunction against being a troublemaker or being out of step with good behavior. For such Asians, to be interned or jailed is a mortifying embarrassment. If you should happen to meet someone who may have been interned, keep in mind that this embarrassment may (or may not!) apply.
West of town on Onion Valley Road is access to the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Crest Trail via Kearsarge Pass. Take Onion Valley Road to the trailhead; the pass is some hours' climb farther up. Above 11,000 ft, the air becomes thin. Fall colors along Onion Valley are very nice, for California.
From the Pass, the views are empyrean- to the west, the Sierra, and to the east, the White Mountains, Last Chance Range, and others into the Great Basin.
- Ray's Den Motel. 405 N. Edwards, (760) 878-2122.
- The Winnedumah, on 395, is a historic motel and is charming. Rooms can be a bit small. Some share a bath, some have private baths. There is a prix-fixe dinner some nights, and a "cocktail hour" where your first glass of the house wine is free. Cooking is quite good. There is also breakfast (moderately priced).