This page is a mess! But if you can wade through it, you may find some fun info about where a creek in your neighborhood is or used to be! I promise to make an earnest cleanup effort in the verynear future.
Veteran Creek Freak readers may recall that I’ve expressed the desire to get creek maps up in a more dynamic fashion. Here’s my first attempt, with some clumsiness.
Lower Ballona, Centinela & Compton Creeks
Grrrr to the infuriating inconsistency of the interface! I don’t know if this is WordPress, Google Maps or some subtle, unperceptible-to-me, variation in what I’m doing that results in the map sometimes showing, sometimes being a link. Click “view larger map” to be taken to the Google Maps page where there is more data.
So as you can tell, this is very much a work-in-progress! My lists of caveats so far: I created it by importing waters of la.kmz (a Google Earth file based on my gis-based tracing of streams from historical maps) into GoogleMaps, using the ‘my maps’ feature. In my test run of my Google Maps, it appears to only show the data that is listed in a side panel you see when you are in “my maps” – this means that to see streams you have to scroll through all the pages of data that have been imported – and when the map is embedded as here, that option goes away. I would have to embed a separate map for each “page” of data (which it’s not letting me do, btw) – that would makes 19 maps! And my impression is that Google Maps may have cut off a certain amount of my data anyway. A bit unwieldy! And due to how the data is organized, it means that you see a stream like Ballona on one page, and tributaries on another – but never the two together. So this is less than ideal. There’s also some goofy line weights that probably need to be resolved in Google Earth or GIS prior to importing into a map.
One fix I’m contemplating is to divide up the map into many maps by watershed, or for large areas, subwatershed – so that the data for one area will all appear together. As I imagine this will mean hours of work, it may well be a very long time before I get around to it. There is another way to “hack the map” as I’ve read, but I’m going to need a little more time to focus on the steps before I try that.
Below remains the less sophisticated but still reliable downloads of older versions of these maps. Slowly I am also integrating streams shown on 1920s era 24,000 scale maps into this digital collection – and yes there are streams in those maps that don’t show in the original 62,500 scale 1900-era maps that I originally used!
Find a historical stream or wetland in your neighborhood! If it’s in a pipe, and surrounded by parkland, you may be able to daylight it (dig it up) and make it a stream again. Knowing where the creek was might help you understand your neighborhood better – why some areas tend to be wetter, why some houses are designed the way they are, etc. Old-timers in your neighborhood may delight in telling you what the area was like way-back.
The following maps overlay streams, wetlands, sloughs, ponds etc from approximately 1900 on a contemporary USGS map. These are fairly large files, and I felt it was best to keep them that way so you can actually read street names and figure out what is in your area. Click on images to enlarge or download. These maps are somewhat in draft-mode, but are legible for the average map-reader. The legend for all maps is at right. I’d love someday to make this an interactive, groovy find-a-creek site with hover buttons and linked photographs. But this is the state of my art.
My apologies to the large areas of the basin (San Fernando, San Gabriel Valleys) that I’ve not mapped!
North East Los Angeles
The Arroyo Seco watershed features most strongly in this map, with its many subwatersheds (as determined by GIS) called out in varying shades of green and blue. Other drainages, including part of the LA River through the Elysian Valley, and creeks in North East and East LA are included as well. The Arroyo Seco was a much-loved waterway, with a large greenway – Sycamore Grove – around it, purchased by the citizens as a park commemorating WWI vets. Steelhead trout were known to run up the Arroyo to spawn, and it is likely that the Pasadena Freshwater Shrimp specimens in the Natural History Museum collection were also found here. Teddy Roosevelt called for the Arroyo’s preservation, and artists in the Arts and Crafts movement were inspired by its dramatic vistas and compelling plant life. Caltrans, as we know, took a big chunk of Sycamore Grove Park and the Arroyo itself to create the 110 Freeway. Debs Park was purchased to compensate after the community threatened -or did?- sue.
This map was made as part of the Stream Spirit Rising project at North East Trees. It was done in concert with the National Park Service. It was never published. Rights to photos have not all been granted, and to those institutions I beg your mercy!! This is not a profit-making enterprise and your image is really doing a good public service.
Myriad Unnamed Streams: an intimate history of the suburban landscape from the point of view of water in Northeast Los Angeles includes an interactive map comparing major historical water flows with the current storm drain network under Northeast Los Angeles. This website is a compilation of oral history, research and anecdotes that gives us a sense of what life was like before the many lesser known streams in Northeast Los Angeles were graded and drained. These include smaller tributaries to the Arroyo Seco, as well as the Eagle Rock tributaries that fed into the Los Angeles River.
Lower LA River
This map takes you from downtown and East LA to the ocean, showing the huge coastal wetland that once graced the San Pedro-Long Beach shore. There were waterfowl galore there, and made this area a popular destination for hunters.
The lower LA River channel was most likely the original San Gabriel River channel, although the two frequently flooded into each other, joining and separating with frequency. Compton Creek, more wetlands than creek, is included in this map. Portions of the Rio Hondo are also shown.
Ballona Creek Watershed & some coastal Santa Monica drainages[UPDATE 1.23.12] Ballona’s watershed extends from downtown LA west to the Pacific Ocean. Historically the LA River flowed out through its mouth, but changed courses. Ballona watershed was notable for its springs in its headwaters, its tar seeps in its middle reaches, and its artesian wells and wetlands (“the Cienega Country”) in its lowlands. Groundwater pumping greatly diminished this. Steelhead trout were most likely present while it carried LA River flows; after the disconnection, it is difficult to know – the headwater streams are so highly altered today that it is difficult to ascertain if they would have been good steelhead habitat. Of the remaining streams, Hoag Canyon Creek, Stone Canyon Creek and Franklin Canyon Creeks are the most likely candidates. But there’s these miles-long concrete tunnels (and a dam or two) in the way.
For an awesome interactive map of Ballona, go to Ballona Historical Ecology.
Dominguez & San Pedro/Palo Verdes Coastal WatershedsPobre Dominguez, to riff off of Porfirio Diaz, so far from God, so close to Industry. Probably the most ignored and most singularly industrialized of our watersheds, once home to Dominguez Lake and surrounded by a wetland, the name refers to the original ranchero whose lands included this once very extensive wetlands. The 1900-era image shows approximately 1000 acres of wetlands. Accounts in the LA Times describe it at more like 4000 acres – about the same size as Griffith Park. The name was changed to Dominguez Slough from something shocking, offensive and disturbing, which even the LA Times at the time admitted was “vulgar,” that had been the dominant name(mentioned here if you really need to know)from the late 1800s until about the 1940s. Remaining fragments of this wetland include the Gardena Willows, Albertoni Farms wetlands, Madrona Marsh, and the Devil’s Dip creek (as generations of boys in the West Athens/Hawthorne/Gardena area called it) – also known as Anderson Wash – in the Chester Washington Golf Course. The vast wetland was prone to expansion and contraction with the weather – sometimes leaving multitudes of dying fish, stinking the air for miles around. The mosquitoes were not so popular with health officials either. Mid-century, the wetlands were drained and converted to industrial uses. If you are familiar with the endless carpet of refineries and tanks from Torrance to Carson, then you know the heart of this former wetland.
Also of interest on this map are the many streams descending from the Palos Verdes Peninsula.