A Los Angeles River Christmas Story – 1889

December 20, 2010 § 5 Comments

William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, by Catherine Mulholland, UC Press, 2000

I’ve been enjoying reading Catherine Mulholland’s William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, published by the University of California Press in 2000. It’s a biography of Catherine’s grandfather William Mulholland (1855-1935) who was the engineer responsible for much of Los Angeles’ early water supply engineering and vision, including our securing of water from the Owen’s Valley.

Here’s a Los Angeles River Christmas story from 121 years ago. L.A.’s creek freaks will know to expect some flooding in century-old Los Angeles River winter tales.

From William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, starting on page 49:

[I]n 1890… [William Mulholland] received a gold watch from a grateful water company [the private Los Angeles Water Company that later became the city of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] for services beyond the call of duty when he had braved the torrential rains of Christmas Week, 1889-1890, to save the city’s water supply. « Read the rest of this entry »

News and Events – 12 August 2009

August 12, 2009 § 2 Comments

Some recent coverage of items that might be of interest to our fellow creek freaks – scroll down for events:

>The Los Angeles Times Greenspace Blog entry Trapping the Rain highlights the Natural Resources Defense Council’s new report A Clear Blue Future: How Greening California Cities Can Address Water Resources and Climate Challenges in the 21st Century. The report  is about Low Impact Development “LID” and how we can build smarter to save water and energy.

>Los Angeles westside property owners can trap your own rain if you apply for the city’s new rainwater harvesting program. If you’re looking to set up your own rain harvesting system (like Homegrown Evolution details here) check out creek freak’s favorite water harvesting expert Brad Lancaster‘s recommendations for selecting the least toxic hose

 >Homegrown Evolution reports on the recent approval of California’s smart new greywater law, designed to make it easier to reuse your greywater. Greywater is “used” water from your washing machine, sinks or showers. Mr. Homegrown will  be teaching a greywater workshop this Sunday – see below. Soak in creek freak’s washing machine greywater system here.

>The San Gabriel Valley Tribune covers the new master planning underway for the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area – 1200 acres where the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo squeeze together behind the Whittier Narrows Dam. Also, the Pasadena Star News reports that the Altadena Foothills Conservancy is doing the early planning work to create a new trail system along the Eaton Canyon Wash, which could connect from the foothills above Pasadena all the way down to the Whittier Narrows.

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

Bixby Marshland - photo from LACSD

>The Los Angeles County Sanitation District website profiles the Bixby Marshland – a 17-acre remnant wetlands located near the intersection of Figueroa and Sepulveda in the city of Carson. They’re looking for volunteers to help steward the site.

>The City Project is about to unveil new proposals for Griffith Park on the East Bank of the Los Angeles River – a future Los Angeles River park on the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks 28-acre Central Service Yard, located at the end  of Chevy Chase Drive in North Atwater. The city is already planning to restore a small remnant creek in one corner of the site.

>Federal stimulus money is helping make the Los Angeles River healthier (though creek freak would like to see it do a whole lot more!) Funds are being used to provide trash capture devices that prevent trash from getting into the river (via Spouting Off.) They’ll be installed in about a dozen downstream cities from Vernon to Montebello to Long Beach. There’s also some federal funding planned for reworking the “Shoemaker Bridge” where the 710 Freeway crosses the Los Angeles River near downtown Long Beach. The project includes doubling the size of Cesar Chavez Park. Let’s hope that it doesn’t hasten the expansion of the rest of the 710 Freeway – a huge threat to restoration on the lower river

>An odd little video featuring a homeless man fishing by throwing rocks into the Los Angeles River (thanks Jeff Chapman.) See creek freak’s earlier post on fish in the L.A. River

>And, for bridge geeks, Blogdowntown reports on the city of Los Angeles’ Cultural Heritage Commission instructions for the city’s bridge engineers to consider more preservation options as they plan to demolish (*sob*) and replace the monumental 1932 6th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. The proposal is to widen and straighten the bridge into freeway proportions. Creek freak feels a wave of despair just writing about this wrong-headed project and its “let’s destroy our heritage while bringing way more cars into dense urban areas” mentality. Here’s a grim rendering of the proposed “3-dual tower cable supported viaduct.”

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Proposed 6th Street Bridge Replacement - click for link to larger version - from Blogdowntown via Flickr

Upcoming events to explore and get involved with local creek freaks:

>The excellent documentary movie Tapped shows today and tomorrow at the Arclight theaters in Hollywood. Showtimes hereCreek Freak’s review here.

>This Sunday August 16th at 11am, Homegrown Evolution offers a greywater workshop called “D.I.Y. Greywater: Hack Your Washing Machine

>Friends of the Los Angeles River is hosting a few upcoming Los Angeles River clean-ups. On Saturday August 22nd they’ll be at the Sepulveda Basin, and Saturday August 29th at Taylor Yard. There will also be river sites at this year’s Coastal Clean-Up Day coming up on September 19th.

Byron “Flying Fish” Summers Swims the LA River

December 23, 2008 § 1 Comment

A fun river anecdote – though definitely in the don’t-try-this-at-home category!

I’ve been re-reading Mike Eberts‘ excellent book Griffith Park: A Centennial History (published by the Historical Society of Southern California, 1996) and came across this story:

The deadliest and most destructive flood in the city’s history just encouraged Byron “Flying Fish” Summers. On March 1, 1938, he kissed his sister Betty goodbye and dove into the flood-swollen Los Angeles River at Los Feliz Boulevard, at the southeast end of Griffith Park. A half hour later he pulled himself, bleeding and exhausted, from the river downtown near his destination, the Santa Fe depot. He had made a slight miscalculation, though – the depot was on the other side of the river. No problem. He dove back in and made his way to the other side. Summers, holder of six world distance records, said it was the most hazardous swim he’d ever attempted – but he’d do it again. “That’s my business,” he said. He needed two stitches over his right eye and five in his right side.

(Note: This will be the last 2008 blog for Joe “Bicycling Fish” Linton as he heads more southerly watersheds for holiday celebrations. I hope you’ve had as much fun reading this blog as I’ve had writing it this year. Thanks for your comments, compliments, discussions, encouragement, and assistance. Also, a big thanks to my creek freak co-conspirator Jessica Hall for contributing so much to my understanding of LA’s waterways! Look for more hard-hitting and enjoyable blogging here in the year ahead.)

Kayaking the Los Angeles River: Day 2

July 27, 2008 § 2 Comments

The second day of kayaking, in which the crew puts in at the Sepulveda Dam and takes out in Frogtown, was considerably more exhausting than the first. If this entry is shorter than the last, it’s because the day was longer.

On my bus ride in, I spied a gentleman across from me reading the Daily News. I asked to look and sure enough there were photographs and a very short text about the kayak expedition. The print edition even features this photo of me. Folks have mentioned that the L.A. Times also ran a photo… but I can’t seem to find it on their website.

There was a delay in getting things going at the preordained 9am start time, so Connor Everts and I put in at Burbank Boulevard and cruised our kayaks back upstream into the Sepulveda Basin. We saw ~5 carp, plentiful heron and even a turtle. Urban nature writer extraordinaire Jenny Price gave her talk. I’ve heard it before, but I really like what she says about the river. Take one of her tours if you get the chance. And we were off.

First portage (that’s where you walk, dragging the canoe… not all that fun) was immediately under the Sepulveda Dam. These photos are from my cell phone, which I really did want to keep dry, so I didn’t take too many and only in places where there wasn’t too much water splashing. I like to run more pictures of the greener parts of the river, but I was busy kayaking there, so you’re getting concrete shots today.

We were able to kayak through much of the East Valley – Sherman Oaks and Studio City. Not a great deal of water, so there was some scraping, and occasional brief portaging. We encountered a truck of county maintenance workers in the channel. I showed them my saran-wrapped sign stating “FILM PERMIT”, with the permit number, and they let us continue unmolested. We stopped for lunch at the ramp at Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Folks were in good spirits. The channel hadn’t been easy, but not too difficult.

Just east of Radford Avenue in Studio City (at CBS Studio Center), the flat bottom channel that we had been traversing gives way to what’s called a low flow channel. It’s basically a notch in the middle of the flat concrete channel, especially designed for fast, easy kayaking… er… I mean… designed to keep the flow in one place to make for easy maintenance. The initial lip of the low flow channel can be a little tricky, potentially dangerous – sort of a stair-step waterfall rapid. We took our kayaks out before it, lowered them in after and were on our way. At the east end of CBS, the Tujunga Wash meets the L.A. River. Visible from the Colfax Avenue Bridge, it’s a sort of wye made of notches, easy to shoot though on a kayak.

The low flow channel water moves fast, and it’s actually plenty deep, so it was certainly the most pleasurable and fastest moving part of today’s leg, though I found myself paddling quickly and sometimes bouncing off the sides, until I got the hang of it. The things you can do in a rental canoe! All good things must end… and the low flow channel peters out in the area around Forest Lawn. The picture at the left is looking back (west) upstream, with the Griffith Park hillside on the left and Burbank on the right. We then walked about a mile, canoes in tow, until we arrived at the soft-bottom stretch alongside Bette Davis Picnic Area. We were greeted there by supporters who buoyed our spirits with ice cream and cold drinks (thanks Ramona of Friends of the LA River!).

And this is where our troubles began… Most of the folks were smart and decided to portage (via truck) down to Atwater River Walk. But a few intrepid (or perhaps foolhardy) souls continued in the channel. The next couple miles either contain lots of rocks positioned perfectly to immobilize foolhardy (or perhaps intrepid) kayakers, or, like the photo on the left, have expansive flat areas with only a few inches of sheet flow. The picture shows Jeff Tipton portaging before the 134 Freeway. The shot is downstream, where you make a right turn and can actually start to see the downtown skyscrapers in the distance (though you need a better camera than my cell phone to prove this… you’ll just have to take my word for it.) Griffith Park is on his right and the Arroyo Verdugo (which runs through Glendale) is on his left. Just downstream (a mere 15-minute walk), there’s a rocky area that looks like it should be kayakable… but I kept going for about 20 seconds before getting caught on rocks. I ended up pulling out and towing my boat on the east side of the river. I would see an area that looked good, put back in, then get stuck again. Perhaps a lighter and/or more experienced kayaker could navigate it better. I found it pretty frustrating.

Just downstream of Colorado Street, the Los Angeles-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant pumps out about 3 million gallon a day of tertiary treated water… and the kayakers are back in business… albeit exhausted by this point. We continued downstream, under the Los Feliz Bridge (another brief portage) then met up with the rest of the group. A police helicopter was circling overhead, and two uniformed LAPD officers greeted us at the Sunnynook Footbridge. They had received a call. I showed them the magic aumulet… er… film permit and they looked it over and over and asked to see it again and conferred and looked again… and told us we could proceed. (One of them told us that he’s a kayaker.)

The stretches below the LA-Glendale Plant are very pleasant. There are areas where you get trees and other vegetation on both sides and it feels like you’re not in L.A. anymore. Once we passed under the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, we were greeted by a tribe of mudpeople (surreal tribal L.A. performance troupe) and another group of dancers (a group I don’t have the name for) all dressed in flowing white dresses. We lingered and spectated, then continued downstream.

We crossed under the Fletcher Drive Bridge. In the deeper (comparatively) water area under and downstream of the 2 Freeway, we encountered families, couples and individuals sitting on the sloped concrete wall with their fishing lines in, waiting. We asked and it sounded like folks hadn’t caught much that day, but they appeared to be having fun – hanging out, pointing at the nutty gabacho kayakers scaring off their carp.

We took out at Marsh Park where Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority staff were telling stories with a dozen kids around a campfire. I am sore and tired… but I will be back out on the Mighty Los Angeles at 9am with my prow pointed toward Long Beach.

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