As part of a pilot program this summer, a section of the long-lost Los Angeles River coursing through Elysian Valley was reopened to the public for use as a recreational resource, an opportunity angelenos have not had since the 1930s when the river’s channelization was begun to prevent flooding.
As a boy I accidentally discovered the river, and from that single experience I have never stopped being enamored with and zealously protective of what so many others have dismissed as our city’s woeful waterway — little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though I’ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day I’d see such a sea change in perception so that the river would made accessible and embraced not as a prohibited place but as public parkland to be explored and experienced and as something to connect with after so long a disconnect.
So for me, thanks to L.A. River Expeditions (Facebook), to be among the first wave during this historic first season and doing what you see in these clips at the top and after the jump: putting a kayak into its waters and putting my butt into that kayak and paddling — however awkwardly — downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, it’s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.
There’s about eight miles of Los Angeles River separating its bikeways in Elysian Valley and the city of Maywood. Like most normal people you probably haven’t troubled yourself wondering if that entire stretch of riverbed between those two points is navigable by bike. But if you’re like me and my friend Andrew it was time yesterday to see if we could connect those two dots. We did.
A selection of stills from the trek are viewable here on Flickr, most notable among them is the Bicycle Monument installed below the Olympic Boulevard Bridge, the in-water river chair (full functionality proven by Andrew) south of the 10 Freeway overpass, and best of all: the fellow south of the Washington Boulevard Bridge sitting on a utility cable spool reading a newspaper who looked at us as funny as we looked at him. A map of the entire 22-mile-route we rode is here.
After readingZach Behrens’ poston LAist last week about the man seen fishing in the L.A. River, I began to consider how little I know about the often hidden natural habitat of our city. Living in such urban surroundings, dwarfed by skyscrapers and barricaded by strip malls, it’s easy to forget that the City of Los Angeles is also a thriving and abundant ecosystem with actual wildlife and everything.
In an effort to learn more, I decided to check out the following books, “The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Re-birth” by Blake Gumprecht and “Down by the Los Angeles River: Friends of the Los Angeles River’s Official Guide” by Joe Linton. Both are available on Amazon, but I’m first going to see if our brand new Silver Lake Library has them.
I’m certain that there are also many blogs dedicated to this subject, so if you have a particular one that you recommend, please leave a comment here and let me know. I’d love to check it out.