Places to Visit: Lower Arroyo Seco in Pasadena
November 22, 2009 § 7 Comments
When some of the Swedish visitors were here for their The Fifth Ecology: Los Angeles Beyond Desire exhibit, we planned to go for a hike to Millard Canyon Falls, above Pasadena. Unfortunately the area was closed, likely due to the recent fires. We instead ended up taking a hike along the Lower Arroyo Seco in Pasadena. The lower Arroyo is a very popular, very pleasant site.
We parked the Swedes’ rental car at the southern end of the massive Rose Bowl parking lots, near the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. A portion of the parking area was recently retrofitted to detain and infiltrate stormwater. A handful of parking spaces were removed to create a few oases of native plants. Here’s what it looks like:
and here’s a helpful sign explaining the project:
(It’s all pretty nice… for a parking lot… but loyal readers can probably guess that this creek freak is not all that into parking lots. What I would like to see in this area is enhanced Rose Bowl access via bike and transit… allowing for much less parking needed… then ripping out some big chunks of that parking to make way for a re-naturalized Arroyo Seco streambed. Someday.)
We crossed Arroyo Boulevard, turned left, and walked downstream. We crossed below the Holly Street bridge and entered the Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park. The park has a very pleasant walking paths with plenty of mature sycamores trees overhanging. This time of year, the site is particularly green and lush. Note that the park can also have poison oak. We didn’t encounter any this trip, but I’ve seen it there before. If you’re unfamiliar with poison oak, I recommend that you stick to the established trails.
For a short stretch here, about a quarter mile upstream from Colorado Boulevard, the bed of the Arroyo Seco is not channelized in concrete. It’s a nice meandering streambed.
We continued walking downstream. Below the magnificent historic Colorado Street Bridge, the Arroyo Seco is again channelized in concrete. In this area there’s a wetlands restoration project that was built in 1997. Water from the main stem of the Arroyo is shunted into parallel side streams, now dense with vegetation. These side-streams continue for about a half-mile below the Colorado Bridge.
There are plenty of wonderful historic bridges on this walk. I am pretty sure it’s the largest local concentration of historic bridges other than in Downtown Los Angeles. These include: the Linda Vista Bridge (now Holly Street) – 1925, the Colorado Street Bridge (now Colorado Boulevard) – 1913, the Loma Road Bridge – 1914, and the San Rafael Avenue Bridge – 1922.
We walked along the channel for about two miles. Though the stream is contained in the concrete channel, the surrounding area is a nice deep canyon – which is a bit unusual for Southern California creeks which tended to spread out into broad alluvial washes. The area is very popular for hikers, joggers, and folks walking their dogs.
We crossed to the opposite bank at the pedestrian bridge just below San Rafael Avenue – right where San Rafael Creek enters from the west. Locals there told us about the remains of Busch Gardens – an early amusement park that was located on the east bank of the Arroyo above and below San Rafael. Stonework adorned pathway remnants of the park are still visible on the hillsides.
The lower Arroyo Seco is an excellent site to visit and explore today… and a site that shows a lot of potential for greater restoration in the future.
(Notes: Another version of this walk appears on pages 160-163 in my book Down by the Los Angeles River published in 2005 by Wilderness Press and available at bookstores, libraries and on-line. Thanks to My Wårhagen for taking the photos.)