Rainy Day Photos – L.A. River and Ballona Creek

January 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Creek Freak reader Peter Bennet sent us some impressive photographs of the Los Angeles River and Ballona Creek; photos showing the huge differences between everyday flows and during large storms.

This pair was taken on Ballona  looking downstream from the Overland Avenue Bridge in Culver City:

Ballona Creek photos by Peter Bennett

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Photographing Nearly-Demolished Taylor Yard Rail Facilities

October 18, 2009 § 8 Comments

L.A. Creek Freak surveys the remains the 40-railcar roundhouse at Taylor Yard. All photos: Nathan Baird

L.A. Creek Freak surveys the remains the 40-railcar roundhouse at Taylor Yard. All photos: Nathan Baird

My friend Nate and I bicycled out to Taylor Yard to survey and photograph the destruction. The white buildings that I’ve seen there for the last 20 years are no longer standing. It’s an odd moonscape. I still don’t know quite why the demolition is proceeding right now… who is paying for it… and why? I will try to get answers this week. If any readers can shed light on it, please do.

I am a little worried that it could be some mischief afoot… such as when a developer purchased the nearby Taylor Yard parcel where the Los Angeles Unified School District is building a high school. The developer immediately proceeded to pave the site to supposedly increase its value? The whole thing complicated the school district’s acquisition, devolving into a legal eminent domain battle.

Here are a few more of Nate’s photos:

Former train bays at Taylor Yard

Former train bays at Taylor Yard

Ruins at Taylor Yard

Ruins at Taylor Yard

This room looked like it had a dark shiny marbled flood - but it was rainwater mixed with gunk

This room looked like it had a dark shiny marbled flood - but it was rainwater mixed with gunk

Good Housekeeping!


Check out more photos of the destruction that was Taylor Yard at Nate’s photo page.

Current Photos of the Albion Site

September 23, 2009 § 2 Comments

Albion Street Entrance to Ross Swiss Dairy

Albion Street Entrance to Ross Swiss Dairy

Regarding the city’s acquisition of the Albion Dairy site (and just how many separate blog entries L.A. Creek Freak is capable of squeezing out of a good big story), it seems like a lot of folks read the word “dairy” and get this very pastoral image of cows and rolling grassy hills.  So L.A. Creek Freak headed out to Lincoln Heights this morning to bring our readers some photos of the site as it exists today. Don’t let the word dairy fool you. You can see the site is indeed a fully-paved, industrial distribution center. Lots of 18-wheeler trucks, loading docks, basic industrial buildings, cars a-parking… not a blade of grass to be seen.

More distribution center than dairy
More distribution center than dairy

As our readers can see in the photo below, the Los Angeles River in this area is all concrete. Also visible in the photo are the two active railroad tracks that run between the river and the dai… er… distribution center. In the long run, as river-adjacent properties like this one are acquired, possibilities open up for river access above or below the rails, like these possible design renderings (see the four images at the bottom of the link) for the nearby L.A. State Historic Park.

View from the North Main Street Bridge - lots of trucks visible behind the fence

The west fence of the Albion Dairy site, viewed from the North Main Street Bridge - lots of trucks visible behind the fence

New and Events – 14 September 2009

September 14, 2009 § 1 Comment

Lots going on that many L.A. Creek Freaks will be interested in.


>There’s a big buzz on many graf-art websites about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ use of federal stimulus funds to paint out the famous/infamous huge SABER graf-art mural on the west bank walls of the L.A. River downtown. I am not the biggest proponent of graffiti at the L.A. River (I think that some of it is great… but some of it I find kinda frustrating) but this whiting-out project seems pretty pointless to me. There are many greener projects that could have moved forward with those federal monies… which were supposed to create green jobs, no?

>TreePeople has a good-looking new website, including a new blog by their founder Andy Lipkis!

> The Water Wired blog is a great very readable resource for coverage of very fascinating water issues happening all over. Put it in your RSS Reader today! You might want to check out their recent coverage of Mexico City’s water issues from centuries of overpumping and on the New York Time’s coverage of nationwide neglect in enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act. The actual New York Times article by Charles Duhigg Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering is here. Duhigg was interviewed on Demoncracy Now earlier today.

>Mark Gold penned an editorial California’s water reform legislation is all wet that ran in the September 8th 2009 L.A. Times. Gold’s Spouting Off blog is also a great read.

Inglewood Gate - click for article and larger image (Photo: Bill Campbell)

Inglewood Gate - click for article and larger image (Photo: Bill Campbell)

>Bill Campbell at Metblogs shows off Ballona  Creek’s beautiful new Brett Goldstone gate at the bike path entry point at Inglewood Avenue. Bike over and check it out!

>The “eecue” site has posted even more great photos of the downtown Los Angeles L.A. River bridges.

>The L.A. City stormwater program’s blog “L.A. Team Effort” details the city’s plans to use $30M in Proposition O funding to upgrade city Santa Monica Bay stormdrain dry weather diversions. During dry months the city sends the trickle of urban runoff from many stormdrains into its sewage treatment plans. This prevents contaminated runoff from getting into rivers and oceans during the summer – when recreational usage is highest. 

>The Malibu Times reports that officials are investigating an unexplained recent fish die-off at Malibu Creek (via the On Water blog.) 

UPCOMING EVENTS – lots to choose from this Saturday!:

>The Ballona Institute is looking for volunteers at a Ballona Wetlands clean-up and restoration event this Saturday September 19th from 9am to 12noon. For information, send an email to massa30 [at] gmail [dot] com.

>The free Frogtown Art Walk takes place this Saturday September 19th from 4pm to 10pm.

>Lots of great creek, river and beach sites to choose from on Coastal Clean-Up Day this Saturday September 19th from 9am to 12noon at more than 70 locations in Southern California!

>Food and Water Watch hosts a talk by Bolivian water activist Marcela Olivera – Saturday September 19th at 4pm. Details here in our earlier post.

Travels along the L.A. River with Briar

August 26, 2009 § 3 Comments

Tim and Briar on the L.A. River Lario Bike Path under PCH in Long Beach

Briar walking (perhaps napping) on the L.A. River's Lario Bike Trail under the Pacific Coast Highway Bridge in Long Beach

Creek Freak is pleased to share the following emails from Tim Kirk who, with his daughter Briar, has been exploring the Los Angeles River. I really like what he has to say (below) about our waterways giving us some sense of place. He says it better than I’ve summarized it – read below.

I present his words here, though I’ve added a few links and interspersed some of his photos. Click on any of the photos to see larger images at Tim’s river photo gallery. Thanks, Tim for promoting my book, so I don’t have to.

In early August I received this email:

“Hey Joe,

Briar's first L.A. River Trip - in Atwater Village

Briar's first L.A. River Trip - in Atwater Village

I wanted to thank you for your excellent book on the LA River.  My daughter and I are walking the LA River in pieces.  We started when she was 5 months old and she is now 15 months.  Our first treks were in Atwater Village and headed south through Frogtown.  We walk 2-3 miles, looking for a place to pick up our trip next time.  Having completed this, we then headed north and, in this fashion, made our way through all the walkable parts of the river up to Lake Balboa.  We did a few side trips to tributaries along the way.

We just discovered your book.  Our good friend, Dominique Dibbell sugggested it (she interviewed you when she was editing the Sierra Club magazine.) It has been a blast to read about the areas we have already walked.  We are now headed south and have done two of your walks (Chinatown & The Estuary).  We are also exploring the Arroyo Seco.

Here is a link to our flckr site with an ongoing photo essay of our journey.   I hope you get a kick out of it.

Thanks again and if you see us walking along, say hey!

Tim Kirk (and Briar). 

and here’s a second email I received in mid-August:

Hi Joe,

We’ve been busy on the river.  We made that final trek down to the bay in Long Beach, which was a blast, and the reason for this note: to thank you for the excellent description in your book of the parking situation, and the byzantine trek from there to the river — I doubt we would have found it otherwise.

Briar along the Arroyo Seco in Highland Park

Briar along the Arroyo Seco in Highland Park

We had a fun hike today.  We’ve been heading north on the Arroyo Seco, and finally connected with an earlier walk, at the Archery range.  Next, we’re going to see if we can find a spot to continue, above the Rose Bowl.  Here’s the link again, if you want to see some pictures

This continues to be a cool experience to share with my daughter, even more so as she gets older — now nearly 16 months.  I know that traveling the river has changed my head significantly, my geographical sense of LA has shifted and I feel a certain sense of connectivity between the disparate parts of the city that the river links.  I’m excited for Briar to grow up with this awareness, which I hope will be part of her identity as an Angeleno.

All the best,

Tim Kirk

Briar rides the Rattlesnake Wall in Studio City

Briar rides the Rattlesnake Wall in Studio City

News and Events – 16 April 2009

April 16, 2009 § 1 Comment


South East Trees' Latest!

South East Trees' Latest Masterpiece!

> The new Cudahy River Park opens along the southeast stretch of the Los Angeles River!  What will North East Trees think of next?

> L.A. Streetsblog looks at federal stimulus money going to California bicycle projects – looks promising that funds will go to the lower Arroyo Seco Bikeway.

> Friday-tomorrow noon is your deadline for entering L.A. Creek Freak’s first-ever contest.  Win the Audubon Center at Debs Park’s guide to Animals of the Los Angeles River by merely commenting on our blog.  Right now the odds are better than 1 in 10.  No purchase required.  Void where prohibited.  Your results may vary.

>Friends of the Los Angeles River’s 2008 fish study is now on-line!  Creek Freak reviewed it here – one of our most perennially popular posts! Now let me tell about that one that got away…


>Tomorrow, Friday April 17th at 2:30, the City of LA hosts a talk  on the revitalization of Seoul’s  Cheong Gye Cheong river.

>This Sunday afternoon, April 19th, Long Beach’s Wrigley Area Neighborhood Alliance hosts tours of the Dominguez Gap – a restored wetland park along the lower Los Angeles River.    Creek Freak visited the site recently and the wildflowers are blooming beautifully!

>Also this Sunday, April 19th at 3:30pm, Friends of the LA River hosts a walk along the scenic Glendale Narrows stretch of the L.A. River.  Meet at Steelhead Park, on Oros Street in Frogtown.

>Support your local bloggers Joe Linton and Damien Newton as we teach you how to blog like we do – plus mucho other useful free stuff on the web at our Internet Skills Class on Tuesdays April 21st and 28th.  We teach it again May 4th and 11th.

Spring cleaning opportunities abound:
> This Saturday April 18th at Taylor Yard with North East Trees.  Yo! it’s Earth Day!
> Next Saturday April 25th at Taylor Yard with North East Trees and local Obama folk.
>Saturday May 9th at Taylor Yard and many many other sites with Friends of the L.A. River.

>On April 25th and 26th, Urban Photo Adventures leads their Los Angeles River photography tour – see and capture some of the grittiest industrial sites along the mighty Los Angeles.

Bike the Emerald Necklace on the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo with the city of El Monte’s Tour of Two Rivers bike rally on Saturday May 16th.  Then bike the Los Angeles River on the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s River Ride on Sunday June 7th.

News and Upcoming Events – December 3 2008

December 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

Look ma, I’m a consolidator!

Disturbing Photos of Los Cerritos – Viewer Discretion Advised – Long Beach Press Telegram coverage of county maintenance crews vacuuming up tons of debris from the Los Cerritos Wetlands.  Shocking photos by Jeff Gritchen. Perhaps we should send the Green Gorilla out there, or, even better yet, prevent that trash from getting in our rivers by reducing its sources.  Perhaps banning styrofoam would be a good start. (thanks Curbed LA)

The Aquarium of the Pacific new watershed environmental exhibition, classroom, and native garden

At the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach: new watershed environmental exhibition, classroom, and native garden! (click on photo for Aquarium website)

Aquarium of the Pacific’s New Watershed Exhibit – Los Angeles Times blogger Louis Sahagun profiles the Long Beach aquarium’s newest and greenest exhibit with a three-dimensional model of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers.  The content sounds great, and it’s all wrapped up in a LEED-certified green building.  I am hoping to take some neices and nephews down there over the holidays for an on-the-ground review – keep your RSS tuned to LA Creek Freak.

Duarte Approves San Gabriel River Greenway Project – Cities of Duarte and Azusa, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the RMC (Lower Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservancy) are working together to move forward with the El Encanto Nature Trail along the upper San Gabriel. I only wish the Pasadena Star News coverage didn’t use the unfortunate phrase “paving the way.” 

Beginnings of the Verdugo Wash Greenway?City of Glendale approves community garden site along the Arroyo Verdugo.

Piscine Pasadena Project Procures POWER PrizePasadena Now reports that the Central Arroyo Seco Stream Restoration project, which restored habitat for the threatened Arroyo Chub, was honored by Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform (POWER.)  Kudos to the city of Pasadena and the Arroyo Seco Foundation!  They deserve a round of applause.

Upcoming Meetings and Tours:

The city of Los Angeles and the Army Corps of Engineers invite you to a River Update Meeting on Thursday December 4th (that’s tomorrow) from 5:30pm to 8:30pm at the Metropolitan Water District Board Room at 700 North Alameda Street, LA 90012 (easy transit access – next to Union Station.)  First half of the meeting is on LA city projects, second half is on the parallel Army Corps’ Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study.  (Note: Apologies for my previously incorrectly announcing that this meeting would include an EPA navigability hearing.  It won’t.  The navigability stuff is scheduled not for December 16th… I will let you know more details on that meeting when I get them.)

Creak Freek’s Joe Linton will lead a mini-tour of the Los Angeles River this Saturday December 6th.  Departs promptly at 2:30pm (arrive at 2:15pm) at Los Angeles State Historic Park (easy transit access – Metro Gold Line Chinatown Station.)  The car caravan tour will last about 2 1/2 hours, touching down at four sites from lush and scenic Elysian Valley to the concrete Arroyo Seco Confluence to the new state park at the Cornfields.  Costs $10 for Students, $20 for general public.  Organized by Alexis Lantz, UCLA School of Urban Planning.  Space limited – as of right now there are only a few more slots available.  For info and to rsvp email alexislantz [at] gmail.com

Jenny Price leads Friends of the Los Angeles River’s first tour of the Lower Los Angeles River this Sunday December 7th.  Bus departs from the River Center at 9am.

The city of Los Angeles is hosting a couple of public hearings about the River Improvement Overlay zone (called the RIO and reviewed by Creek Freak here.)   These take place on Friday December 12 at 12 noon in Van Nuys, and Monday December 15th at 8am at City Hall.

Urban Photo Adventures Los Angeles River tour December 13 and 14

Urban Photo Adventures Los Angeles River tour December 13th and 14th

Urban Photo Adventures hosts a photo safari through the gritty industrial underbelly of the mighty Los Angeles River on Saturday and Sunday December 13th and 14th. “New Lousy Economy Pricing!” Well organized and highly reccommended and docented by author/illustrator/blogger Joe Linton.  Creek Freak reviewed here and posted more photos here.  Great recent images and rave reviews at Urban Photo Adventures site.

And don’t miss the downtown Los Angeles Library’s ongoing “L.A. Unfolded” historic map exhibit (reviewed here.)  It’s up now and continues through January 22nd 2009.

Urban Photo Adventures Image Gallery

September 28, 2008 § 1 Comment

Urban Photo Adventures Dry Run Crew (Just Downstream from the Olympic Boulevard Bridge)

Urban Photo Adventures Dry Run Crew (Just Downstream from the Olympic Boulevard Bridge)

I’ve received more photos from the LA River Urban Photo Adventures expedition from last weekend. I present them here for your enjoyment. Thanks to the photographers who participated in the dry run (who retain all the rights to all these photos) – Rosemary Brandenburg, Larry Brownstein, Ken Haber, Mark Indig, and Maria Margarita Lopez. Urban Photo Adventures’ next River photo tour is coming up on November 8th and 9th 2008.

Click here for my earlier blog on the tour, here for tour information or here for more of their photos.

Urban Photo Adventures’ Tours on the L.A. River

September 22, 2008 § 4 Comments

I spent much of this weekend touring around the Los Angeles River with Urban Photo Adventures. They’re a start-up business headed by a pair of savvy Hollywood location scouts named Mark Indig and Ken Haber. Urban Photo Adventures is organizing a series of special 2-day Los Angeles River photography tours. Their first full-fledged tour will take place on Saturday/Sunday November 8th and 9th 2008. Conflict of interest note: Urban Photo Adventures are indeed paying me to docent portions of their river tours, so I do have a small financial stake in what I am promoting on this blog entry.

The Urban Photo Adventures tour is a bit different than tours I’ve led in the past. It includes background on history and revitalization efforts, but it’s a bit less focused on the most natural areas, and more on photogenic gritty urban parts of the river, and the neighborhoods around them. Think L.A. Conservancy‘s Cruising Industrial Los Angeles plus some of FoLAR‘s River Revitalization Tours added to the mix. Usually when I lead a tour, we move along relatively quickly from site to site. Urban Photo Adventures’ photo tour gives plenty of time for photographers to explore and capture each site. These extended tours run two full weekend days from 8am-6pm each day.

The past weekend’s dry run went well – Mark and Ken have done a lot of scouting to find excellent unusual and hidden spots. They even showed me a couple nooks and crannies in places that I had never seen before – including some off-the-beaten-track locations at the ports. One of these included a great gaggle of urban sea lions relaxing on a low industrial wharf. It’s just the kind of natural/unnatural juxtaposition that is found in many spots along the L.A. River. Some other photo tour sites include: Sepulveda Dam, Devil’s Gate Dam, downtown historic bridges, the soft-bottomed scenic Glendale Narrows and Lower Arroyo Seco, and neglected rail- and graffiti-strewn areas on and near the river. The photo tour includes a brief wine tasting at the San Antonio Winery (the last of the remaining wineries that once were prevalent in downtown Los Angeles, wineries that grew grapes watered via zanjas from the river) and a 45-minute boat ride at the Los Angeles Harbor (at the mouth of the L.A. River and the Dominguez Channel.) The port views there are monumental and spectacular -huge cranes, tankers, pelicans, sea lions, and the longest bridge in the city.

I was struck today in seeing many of the most concrete parts of the river looking rather green. Over the course of the dry season, sediment settles in places on top of the concrete river bed. Plants begin to grow in these shallow sandbars. The plants attract insects; the insects attract birds. In the “exclusively industrial” city of Vernon, the stretch of the river near the Soto Street Bridge was teeming with dozens of swallows swooping and curving through the air. I like to think of it as instant nature – just add earth and water. Unfortunately a lof of these sandbars will wash out during the rainy season… but they’ll be back.

I’ve interspersed various example photos Ken and Mark have taken at river tour sites. Larger versions and many more photos are viewable at their website gallery.

If you’re interested in photography and in checking out some of the hidden faces of the mighty Los Angeles River, consider signing up for a tour. Full tour information is available at Urban Photo Adventures website.

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