Like June Lake, Crowley Lake is the name of both a lake and the community adjacent to it. And like Mammoth Lakes, the community is often referred to without the Lake(s) portion.
Crowley is truly a “bedroom community” for Mammoth. The 2010 Census reports almost 900 permanent residents and 85% of the population lives in owner-occupied residences. When Highway 395 is clear the drive takes 15 to 20 minutes. Crowley has become the bedroom community in the past three decades for several reasons; simple economics, larger lots and open space, less snow accumulation, and a generally warmer climate.
The lake known as Crowley Lake was created in the early 1940’s when a dam was constructed on the Upper Owens River by LADWP. It is essentially the second reservoir of the Los Angeles Aqueduct system. The lake is named after Father Crowley, a popular Catholic priest who traveled up and down the Owens Valley in the 1920’s and 30’s but was killed in an auto accident in 1940. (A cross and monument is located along Hwy. 395 north of Red Rock Canyon. Interestingly enough, he was a critic of the LADWP water diversions in the Owens Valley.)
The elevation of the lake is ~6781’. The main portion of the community’s residential base is just under 7,000’. The private land mass is less than a couple of square miles and is bordered by LADWP owned land on the lake side and National Forest on the uphill side. There are historic motels along Crowley Lake Drive dating back to the 1940’s and 50’s. Hilton Creek is the major creek drainage flowing into Crowley Lake and it flows through most of the community. This area of dense aspens with spectacular mountain and lake views is where most of the original residential development occurred in the 1940’s and 50’s.
As Mammoth real estate values escalated over time, the affordability of homes in Crowley Lake became more attractive to local residents. Lot sizes were typically bigger than Mammoth’s, so having room to spread out was also appealing. And the lower elevation also reduces the overall snow accumulation (compared to Mammoth) by some 50-75% or more. The summers are warmer and as many residents are known to say, “summer starts a month earlier and lasts a month longer” than Mammoth. However, the area can experience winter inversions that can create episodes of colder temperatures than Mammoth.
In the 1990’s two major subdivisions were created; Sierra Springs built by Dempsey Construction (Snowcreek) and Rocking R built by the Ross family of Mammoth and Crowley. These provided modern larger lots perfect for the bedroom community. Today, these subdivisions are full of large homes and they have even become popular with second homeowners. In the 2000’s, an additional subdivision, LakeRidge Bluffs, was created. These lots remain mostly undeveloped. There are two small condominium developments. And there is a store and gas station and a community center on South Landing Drive.
While Crowley is home to many who work and play in Mammoth, the lake is quite famous in the freshwater fishing world. The trout fishing opener in late April is a significant event for many southern California fisherman and the media. The lake has been stocked for decades and is a major fishery and recreational lake. The Sacramento perch that also live in the lake are prized for eating. The business enterprise at the lake catering to fisherman is significant in the local economy.
Crowley Lake is also home to the Church on the Mountain, a non-denominational Christian based church founded in the 1970’s by Albie Pearson, a former Angel’s baseball player. The church has significant presence in Crowley but also in Mammoth and the eastern Sierra. The church and expanded facilities are located on South Landing Drive.
Crowley also has smaller outlying areas including Aspen Springs which is a subdivision of large equestrian lots ranging from 4 to 12 acres, the Long Valley and McGee Creek areas along Hwy. 395 to the west, and Tom’s Place and Sunny Slopes along Hwy. 395 to the east.