On a Kayak in a River in a Valley in Los Angeles

September 4, 2011 § 8 Comments

Kayaking the Los Angeles River in the middle of the San Fernando Valley

I got a chance to kayak the L.A. River yesterday. I’ve been kayaking in the river a few times here and there, and most memorably the incredibly wonderful three-day expedition in 2008. Yesterday was the first time I officially, legally, kayaked with a permit!

It was great.

The program is called Paddle the Los Angeles River. Like their Facebook page here. In case readers want to do participate, I have to warn you that all their slots sold out in 10 minutes. It’s a one-season pilot program, and, hopefully, if all goes well, it’ll come back around again. It’s presented by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, with assists from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), The River Project, Los Angeles River Expeditions, Friends of the L.A. River, and Urban Semillas. It’s been covered all over tv, print and internet media, so I am not going to give a huge amount of background, but kudos to leadership from George Wolfe and Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes. (And my apologies for Creek Freak not getting to cover this sooner.)  « Read the rest of this entry »

News and Events – 19 April 2010

April 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

Round-up of Creek Freak News:

>In an exclusive, dated April 1st 2010, the L.A. Eastside blog reports on a highly secretive plan underway for the Army Corps of Engineers to radically alter the course of the Los Angeles River. The project will once-and-for-all settle the question of whether Echo Park is located in L.A.’s “eastside.”  

>The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports on weed abatement and progress on the new 24-acre San Gabriel River park at the Duck Farm property – along the 605 Freeway between the 10 Freeway and 60 Freeways – across the river from South El Monte.  

>Harvesting rainwater is happening all over. Read accounts by Sherri Akers and Andy Lipkis about their home rainwater harvesting experiences. Did you know that rainwater makes for better homebrew beer, too?

Historic Creeks of San Francisco - via SF Streetsblog and the Oakland Museum of California

>San Francisco Streetsblog ran an excellent three-part series (links: one, two, three) on daylighting urban creeks, focused on quite a bit of the history of what’s been done in the bay area, and throughout the world. It also covers some exciting daylighting projects underway and proposed for San Francisco. Maybe L.A. Streetsblog (one of my favorite local blogs) will do some coverage here too? 

>Los Angeles State Historic Park hosted an Earth Day tree planting last Saturday (s0rry I didn’t get to promoting this event in advance.) The planting plans look extensive – focused at the north end of the park. Overall, though, it seems like we’re enhancing the temporary park and retreating from the bigger master planning process – on hold due to state budget crises. Maybe that’s a good thing, for now?

>Bid for your chance to have lunch with movie star Daphne Zuniga and support the cause of the Los Angeles River Revitalizaion Corportation (RRC.)

> We’ve added two new creeky blogs to our blogroll. Check out Peter Bennet’s photography (which we’ve run before) at Citizen of the Planet, and track the Friends of Ballona Wetlands via their new Ballona Blog

>The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is honoring me, Joe Linton, one-third of L.A. Creek Freak, with its Green Leadership Award. They’re also honoring the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council for work on their Elmer Avenue watershed management project in Sun Valley (which we’ll cover one of these days.) Read the county’s press release, and if you want, come the supervisor’s meeting tomorrow morning where they’ll be giving out the awards.

Upcoming Events of Interest to Creek Freaks:

>Urban Photo Adventures photographer Ken Haber’s L.A. River photos are featured in the Annenberg Space for Photography’s exhbition Water: Our Thirsty World – open now through June 13th.

>The Army Corps of Engineers is hosting a community input workshop this Saturday April 24th for feedback on future plans for habitat and recreation in the Sepulveda Basin. The meeting will be from 10am to 12:30pm at the Sepulveda Garden Center at 16633 Magnolia Blvd. in Encino 91406.

>The L.A. River boating expedition documentary Rock the Boat will screen at Los Angeles Eco-Village on Saturday May 8th 2010. Basic info here, more details coming soon.

>Friends of the Los Angeles River’s annual Great Los Angeles River Clean-up takes place Saturday May 8th!

Where to Get Married on the L.A. River

September 10, 2008 § 4 Comments

So you’re wondering where you and your betrothed can get hitched on the LA River… Well, fret not, for the creek freak has done some advance scouting so you won’t have to. Here are three excellent L.A. River wedding locations, listed from upstream to downstream:

View of the San Fernando Valley's Japanese Garden

The San Fernando Valley's Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden is located on the grounds of the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which is the source for most of the reclaimed water that flows in the Los Angeles River. The “garden of water and fragrance” and sewage treatment plant are safe behind the Seplulveda Dam in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. The address is 6100 Woodley Avenue, Van Nuys, California, 91406 - a short walk or bike ride from the Woodley Avenue Metro Orange Line Station.  Though they’re connected hydrologically, the very pleasant and immaculately manicured garden is a lot unlike the unkempt Los Angeles River. The river and garden do attract a similar mix of birds, including plenty of ducks and herons. Urban Ranger and river nature writer Jenny Price sums up the quirky wonder of the place by quoting the gardens’ promotional materials stating: “Enjoy the beauty of another culture while learning more about wastewater treatment and reuse.” The garden features docent-led tours, a quaint gift shop and a very helpful website, with its own section specifically for weddings.

Courtyard at the Los Angeles River Center

Courtyard at the Los Angeles River Center

The Los Angeles River Center and Gardens is located in Cypress Park right around the corner from the historic confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco – just north of downtown Los Angeles.  The address is 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles CA 90065 – easy access from the Metro Gold Line Lincoln/Cypress station.  It’s a great setting for events and is booked nearly every Saturday all year for weddings.  It’s the former corporate campus for Lawry’s spice company which had a popular restaurant there – called Lawry’s California Center.  Now it’s owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority – a state agency that develops and manages parks along the L.A. River, in the Santa Monica Mountains and elsewhere.  The River Center’s buildings house the offices of various governmental agencies and non-profits that are working on the restoration and revitalization of the Los Angeles River.  They have a river visitor center, lots of bike and car parking, and a helpful wedding planning page.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach (photo by Christophe Finot)

The Queen Mary in Long Beach (photo by Christophe Finot - Creative Commons)

The Queen Mary is probably the only site where you can really say that you were married in the Los Angeles River.  She has been called the toothpick in the mouth of the L.A. River (romantic, no?)  It’s a beautiful setting for weddings with lots of ornate, well-preserved woodwork and ornamentation.  See their wedding information web page.  Their address is 1126 Queen’s Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802 - a long walk, manageable bike ride, or a short shuttle ride from the Metro Blue Line Long Beach Transit Mall station.  I attended the wedding of Jim and Nina Danza there a while back, where Friends of the Los Angeles River founder Lewis MacAdams read his poem ‘Wedding Song on Board the Queen Mary.’ It’s printed in his excellent L.A. River poetry collection The River: Books One, Two & Three (Blue Press 2005).  Jim and Nina Danza, were two great river advocates who, back in the early 1990′s, were instrumental in getting me involved in river advocacy.  Here’s the start of that poem:

The wood’s split and stacked against the night.

We’re having a cool snap. There’s a ring around the

night-before-the-bean-harvest moon. You’ll soon be

roaring over the Atlantic on your honeymoon.

I can see you dozing underneath a thin blanket

in your narrow seats, while a report on the hydrology

on the Los Angeles River slips to the floor unread.

(Note: Lest the rumors start to fly, please don’t get any ideas that this creek freak has plans to get married any time soon. I still have to meet the woman of my dreams first – and she has to get along with me. These wedding locations were something that occurred to me when I was writing my book Down By The Los Angeles River… but I wasn’t able to weave them in there, so I present them for your enjoyment here.)

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.

Kayaking the Los Angeles River: Day 1

July 26, 2008 § 6 Comments

It’s day 1 of a 3-day kayak trip down the Los Angeles River. The trip was organized by George Wolfe of the Lala Times – see his river trip page. Today we did the Sepulveda Basin in the heart of the San Fernando Valley – from the Orange Line Bridge to the Burbank Boulevard Bridge. It’s about 2 miles, and probably the most scenic and easiest-to-kayak stretch of the 52-mile river.

Right away, let me say that kayaking can be a little dangerous – and so can the L.A. River. We did just fine – but I would recommend it only for folks who know how to kayak and who know how to swim. We went in mid-summer, when there’s no real chance of floodwaters. We wore life vests. There were 10+ boats and more than a dozen people. Kayaking is fun and safe, but, if you’re going to try it someday yourself, please be responsible! Wear life vests, go with a partner, and don’t go when it’s raining. The Los Angeles River can be deadly when it’s raining. Please be careful and safe!

I didn’t take or draw pictures today. I’ve added links so you can tell what it looked like… and I will link to other folks photos in a subsequent post. Soon. I promise! The photo above is from a test run we did a week ago.

The group did a ceremonial put-in at the river’s “headwaters” where Arroyo Calabasas and Bell Creek come together behind Canoga Park High School. See this confluence yourself from Owensmouth Avenue just north of Vanowen Street. I put headwaters in quotes because the actual headwaters are the streams way up in the local mountains. The site that folks call headwaters is where the L.A. River proper begins. The group wasn’t actually kayaking from there, but, after convening there, the plan was to drive down to the Sepulveda Basin located ~5 miles downstream. It’s pretty rough kayaking in the West Valley. Portions of it have no central low-flow channel, and little water this time of the year, so we would’ve had to walk much of the way. I had a meeting downtown, so I took the Metro Red Line and Orange Line and met the group at the put-in site, immediately upstream of the Balboa Boulevard Bridge.

There were reporters, TV cameras, and photographers. We put in about 8 bright yellow sit-atop sea kayaks and a couple of bright green canoes. We tooled around and struck poses and positioned for the cameras. This stretch is earthen bottom, so there’s lots of tall trees. The sides are concrete, but from the kayak, you can’t really see the concrete. It was a treat to see night herons, great blue herons, and mallards. While you kayak, you get close to the herons and they fly off. Now and then fish splash away in front of the boat.

After a while, we started upstream. Due to the presence of grade control structures (a fancy name for low stair step dams that the water spills over), so the water stretches out in long flat pools in the Sepulveda Basin with little current and no riffles. These are separated by little waterfalls spilling over rock and concrete steps. Going upstream we had to portage over to a couple of grade control structures to get to the Orange Line Bridge (just downstream from White Oak Avenue) where the vegetation ends and the river becomes three sides trapezoidal concrete. Right before the all-concrete area, there’s a nasty stinky area with lots of what I think is duckweed on the surface.

The approximately two-mile kayak ride down stream was great. It was punctuated by three or four portages over those pesky grade control structures, but the glassy stretches between were calm and pleasant. Herons flying overhead. Carp occasionally jumping. Canoes sometimes jockeying, but mostly meandering slowly downstream.

We took out at the Burbank Boulevard Bridge in view of the Sepulveda Dam. The sun was setting. A dozen thirsty boaters smiled and loaded up our vessels into the Uhaul Truck.

Come see us off as we depart downstream. Join us tomorrow (Saturday July 27) we put in at 9am at the Burbank Boulevard Bridge, just west of Woodley Avenue. The excellent and insightful urban nature writer Jenny Price will be speaking. The kayakers will be traversing the East Valley, Griffith Park area, and ending up at Marsh Park in Frogtown. The day after (Sunday July 28 ) at 9am, we put in at Marsh Park and kayak to the river’s mouth in Long Beach. See you down by the river.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Sepulveda Basin at L.A. Creek Freak.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 764 other followers