The L.A. River Up Close and Personal

Kayaking down the LA River with LA Conservation Corps

I don’t get a ton of opportunity to get out from behind my desk to romp in the creeks and watersheds that we protect. But this Friday afternoon was going to be the exception, as I was joining our Education Department for a kayaking tour of the Los Angeles River

The night before I cringed at all the work I had to finish to be able leave the office for four hours, but I knew it would be worth it.  And it was! What an excellent way to see the L.A. River up close.  And this time I was not armed with gloves and a trash bag but rather a kayak and a paddle.

We weren’t even in the kayaks yet and our Education staff was spouting off information on this bird or that plant -- I’m a hobby gardener so I could add a few names here and there as we meandered down the wide calm river for an hour-and-a-half tour.  Birds and dragonflies were everywhere.  We saw Black-Necked Stilts, Snowy Egrets, a Great Blue Heron and Great Egret fishing in a rocky outcropping – it caught two fish while we snapped pictures. 

The river was not at all what one thinks of when they conjure up images of the L.A. River. Most think of the Hollywood version of a high speed car chase down a solid concrete storm drain.  The banks were filled with Sycamores and Willow trees that touched the water’s edge.  The air smelled like sage – the same scent you get while hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains.  The temperature was hot, but the water was cool to the touch.  We quickly unwound from work mode and started joking and laughing and enjoying the exercise. What a great way to end a busy week – or better yet, start the weekend. 

The tours sold out very quickly, so be sure to put this on your list for next summer. There’s an exciting possibility that the tours will expand to the Glendale Narrows, the soft-bottomed stretch of the river that runs from the Los Angeles Equestrian Center to the 5 Freeway overpass.

Thanks to LA Conservation Corps for taking us out on this day. And big thanks and congratulations to the Friends of the L.A. River, who recently succeeded in getting Governor Jerry Brown to sign the Los Angeles River Expanded Public Access Bill, which will allow more residents can experience this little known treasure. The new law takes effect January 2013 and will broaden the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works' 100-year-old mission of flood control and stormwater management to include, for the first time, education and recreation.

--Alix Hobbs

Associate Director, Heal the Bay

View photos from Heal the Bay's L.A. River expedition.

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