Woodburied Creek

June 29, 2009 § 19 Comments

There’s been a lot of interest in the past few years in restoring the former stream through Washington Park.  Yesterday, LA Creekfreak got a specific request about this creek, the poster, Stanley, said it is believed that the creek’s name was Woodbury Creek.  I believe this may have also been the area of interest to my mystery emailer, “Chris” whose email I had lost.  So here goes….

Scroll through the gallery above for reference, click to enlarge the images.  The 1900 USGS map shows a little swale topography but doesn’t indicate a stream, however they defined it at that time.  The swale signature, however, means that rain water was concentrating along this alignment, and it is likely that stream habitats coexisted – we see examples of that all the time in our dwindling but still-present riparian areas.  The 1928 Altadena USGS quadrangle shows a more tightly defined “swale” that was likely the stream – or could be the “stream” was the result of an effort by farmers to concentrate and ditch the water running off their property.  In the next image, I’ve traced in the line of stream flow indicated by the swale, and in the 4th image, I’ve overlaid the contemporary street grid and County stormdrains, which don’t overlay much of the creek – I suspect the City of Pasadena may also have stormdrains over the creek, as we all know it is encased in concrete today.  This last image was also overlaid in GoogleEarth, and the .kmz file can be downloaded from the GoogleEarth community forum if you want to view it against aerial imagery (download the attachment that I have posted there).

You will note the stream tapers off without physically connecting to anything downstream.  There could be lots of reasons for that.  Given the alluvial fan soils, it may have just all seeped into the shallow groundwater table, eventually flowing from the groundwater out to one of several surface streams downstream (in the general vicinity of the Huntington Gardens).  That and other creeks in Pasadena will be in other posts.

Good luck, ye of Washington Park – let me know if you need some help with restoration design!

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§ 19 Responses to Woodburied Creek

  • Tim says:

    Holy Mackerel. That stream practically went through what is now my backyard.

  • Petrea says:

    Stan told me about this post. Thanks, it’s informative and really, really interesting. I went down and took a couple of pictures of an area he mentioned at Mountain Avenue and Gladys Court. (It shows up on your bottom right map.) I’m posting them on my blog tomorrow, with links to your post (thankyouverymuch). I’m sure you must be right about the stormdrains over the creek. I hadn’t thought about it before I read your post, but of course now I’m seeing them (or manhole covers) just where your blue line says they’ll be.

  • Petrea says:

    Thank you Joe, you did my work for me. I hope the post brings people to LA Creek Freak. It’s a great blog.

    • Jessica Hall says:

      Glad the story is relevant to Pasadenans! And it’s great to go to your blog and see the photos – gives life to a map and supposition. The watershed that drains into the creek is pretty small – it would be interesting to see engineering calculations for flows and capacity of the drain, to see if partial restoration were feasible.

  • Petrea says:

    Thanks, Jessica. Your research is amazing. I agree the creek is small and there is some “supposition” involved. One of my commenters, Trish, has memories that could fill a history book and she tells a story of the creek. As for restoration, anything’s possible with money and politics. I look forward to an upturn in the economy for that, of course. Then, of course, someone to champion Woodbury Creek.

    Love your blog.

  • Steve R. says:

    Below is a post I made to Petrea’s Pasadena Daily Photo blog, where she brought up the subject of Woodbury Creek and this posting (I’ve since added some more comments in this post):


    As a teenagers (back in the 70’s), us kids would play in the “storm drain” as we called it.

    It was open mid block on Elizabeth Street and we would walk it all the way up to Woodbury, where it turned into a 2ft diameter hole with a metal grate that none of us wanted to go into. Thinking back, it probably went under Woodbury to collect the runoff from Santa Rosa, which has quite a bit of downward slope to it. It also has these water runoff collection ditches that run parallel to the street.

    At Atchison or Highland, there was an opening that was near a horse
    corral that (illegally?) emptied into this drain/creek. I remember we’d always have to hop over it. That was about the only real “dirty” section.
    Also in this area, a tunnel branches off to the northeast. As kids, we called this the “dark” tunnel and no of us had the courage to explore it.

    The Elizabeth opening was covered with concrete several years ago and the homeowner next door got the land (and added grass on top so there’s
    no trace of what’s below).

    Going south, it became a long tunnel somewhere around Rio Grande and didn’t open to the outside again until the an opening down on Mountain.

    The tunnels we were in were about 6-7 feet high. About half way through this tunnel, another section joined this one coming from the east. This other section was only 4 feet high and a much wetter so we’d stayed out.

    Mountain Ave is always where we hopped out- that’s as far south as we ever went, although you could go further.

    During the dry months, there was only a trickle of water down the middle and, despite what our parents at the time believed, we never saw a single rat, mouse, or other rodents. (We did run into some other kids down there once in the tunnel which gave us a good scare!).

    You can find more maps about this on the LA County Tax Assessor’s web site by looking at the Assesor’s maps, which still show some of the old above-ground easements.

    As for re-opening it, I’m all for it. I remember a couple of times during heavy rains running down to check out the water level in the storm drain and only once did I see water come close to the top of the 7 ft walls. I would watch this for quite awhile, noticing the water level changing slightly as the minutes ticked past and the intensity of the rain changed.

    – Steve

    • Jessica Hall says:

      Thanks for the first-person account! You’ve also just proved one of my favorite reasons for restoring these urban streams – kids will get in them no matter what we’ve done to them, wouldn’t it be better for them to experience nature while they’re doing it? (is probably safer as well)

  • Petrea says:

    The first-person stuff is the best. I hope Stan sees this.

  • Stan E says:

    Steve’s account is excellent. I remember a picture of the natural stream as it ran through Washington Park from my Washington Jr. High days in the mid 1960’s. The photograph must have been taken in the 1920’s. I don’t recall if the picture was in the school library or at the near by La Pintoresca public library. If I find any of the old photos I’ll post them here at LACREEKFREAK and on Petrea’s blog.

  • Petrea says:

    Stan, if you find them, and if you’re open to it, Jessica, maybe we could do a link-up. We could post the old shots here and I could shoot from the same POV today, and post the new shots on my blog. Post them on the same day and link to each other’s blogs. Might be kind of fun.

  • Petrea says:

    Okay, Stan, you’re on. Let us know.

  • Petrea says:

    Hi Jessica and Joe,
    More interesting information about Woodbury Creek was sent to me today. I’d like to email it to you but can’t find your email address here. If you click on my blog you’ll see a link to email me on the left side of the main page. Thank you!

  • Christian says:

    Hi, Link #1 below has many interesting Altadena-Pasadena natural history maps on their site. Re: Woodbury Creek, one (? watershed ?) seems to show that the Raymond Groundwater Basin was the end-zone for all water flowing down between Arroyo Seco and Eaton Wash – the Raymond watershed. The earthquake fault that formed the ‘San Marino – South Pasadena hills’ and runs along their southern base separated Raymond Basin (a cienega above ground too?) from the San Gabriel Basin-River and S.Gab. watershed. Many interesting maps on that site.
    Link #2 is great for local news and other links.
    There is a third blog I didn’t bookmark on/for the Washington Heights neighborhood – now & history, excellent – found via surfing several blogrolls’ links from link #2. Woodbury Creek could get support here perhaps?

    #1 http://www.altadenawatershed.org
    #2 http://www.altadenablog.com/

    Thanks for your great postings.

  • Please take a look at my blog in reference to Woodbury Creek in Pasadena. I’ve also incorporated some of the memories on this blog into my search for Pasadena’s lost creek. On my blog there are several entries regarding Woodbury/Mill/Wilson’s Creek, so please look for them.
    I welcome any comments and/or memories anyone has about our lost creek, as I and others are very interested having it daylighted in our historic neighborhood.

  • Thal Armathura says:

    The other two locations on my blog to find the history of Woodbury Creek may be hard to find so here are the URL’s to go to the posts direct


    and in reference to Woodbury Creek’s (Mill/Wilson’s Creek) contribution to Kewen/Wilson’s Lake (now Lacey Park).

    Again, I welcome any comments anyone may have about our lost creek.

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