April 2, 2012 § 2 Comments
This photo is taken where the LA River abuts South Gate, Lynwood, and Downey. It was a reference photo for the South Gate Riparian Habitat Restoration Project mentioned in an earlier post.
October 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
Ever watch Bones? It’s a crime-detection series filmed in LA, standing in for DC. Bones, a forensic anthropologist, and Booth, her FBI partner, get called out to look at skeletal remains of murder victims. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a lot of them end up dumped on the Rio Hondo. Yes, I watch Bones to play “name that stream.” But Bones also reminds me that running across death and decay, the detritus of predator-prey relationships, is a reality if you hike creeks. It’s the shadow side of our life cycle, essential to recycling nutrients for the ecosystem. But still, gruesome. Thankfully I’ve not run across human remains – smashed cars, santeria offerings…but no remains. Knock wood.
Sometimes creeks are just downright creepy.
[Grim photos follow the jump – don’t follow if you don’t want to see it.]
July 20, 2010 § 5 Comments
I went on a parking lot tour today. Gerry Greene, Water Resources Control Specialist for the city, had offered a tour to me and some folks from the Watershed Council. Having heard about Downey’s progress in the stormwater front from Shelley Luce of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, I was interested in seeing parking lots working to retain and infiltrate stormflows.
Over 2 1/2 hours, we went to small retail developments, shopping centers, gas stations, a dentist’s office, fast food chains, a golf course, a school, building materials and industrial facilities – and each one of these places had a system in place to capture and treat runoff from a (mostly) 3/4″ storm – the infamous “first flush” storm that carries the largest amount of bacteria and other yuck that deteriorates water quality downstream. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 6, 2010 § 10 Comments
This is part two of a posting that describes the Artesian Belt in San Gabriel from West to East. For the introduction to this section, click here.
Grading and Draining: the transformation of the Shorb Ranch
The property we know as the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, was once part of the famed ranch of J. De Barth Shorb, named San Marino. We are fortunate that relatively detailed documentation of the property has been preserved, giving us an intimate view of shifts in land use during the intervening century. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 11, 2009 § Leave a comment
This week’s leaks that pique creek freaks beaks! (eek!)
>Yesterday the Eastsider Blog reported that the Los Angeles City Council passed Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes’ motion directing the city’s Planning Department, General Services Department and River Revitalization Corporation to do the groundwork for a Request for Proposals process for the re-use of the Lincoln Heights Jail. The LA City Historical-Cultural Landmark Lincoln Heights Jail is located on Avenue 19 adjacent to the Los Angeles River – a stone’s throw from its historic confluence with the Arroyo Seco. The initial art deco building was built in 1930 with a less remarkable addition tacked on in 1949. The jail has been closed for many years. Its ground floor has housed a few cultural institutions, including the Bilingual Foundation for the Arts, though it’s best known as a film location.
>On February 24th, Daily News reporter explores home damage attributed to construction on the Moorpark Street Bridge over the Tujunga Wash in Studio City. LAist reports that neighbors fear more of the same with rehabilitation of the nearby Fulton Avenue Bridge over the Los Angeles River.
>Speaking of the river at Fulton Avenue in Sherman Oaks, the Village Gardeners of the Los Angeles River have their own new website which includes an active blog! See below for their Earth Day Clean-Up event.
>Speaking of home damages, On February 7th, the Long Beach Press Telegram reported the latest in a series of local floods damaging homes in West Long Beach (in the Dominguez Slough watershed.) See also the accompanying photo gallery and the follow-up article. Maybe some multi-benefit watershed management strategies could help break this cycle?
Check out recent LA Times blogs coverage of:
> Restoration at Machado Lake in Wilmington (more-or-less at the mouth on the Dominguez Slough Watershed)
> Opening of the new extension of Ralph Dills Park – located on the L.A. River in the city of Paramount
> Replacing of the 1932 Sixth Street Viaduct over the L.A. River. This unfortunate project proposes to put a contemporary 6-lane highway in place of one of our most historic and iconic bridges. The bridge, undermined by internal chemical issues, does need some work, but stay tuned to see if the city can do something that respects its scale and beauty. (Read the comments which include “Who came up with the bland design for the new bridge?”)
>Want to save energy, prevent greenhouse gas emissions and stem the tide of global warming? Worldchanging reports that conserving water is one of the most effective ways to reduce energy use. This is especially true in the city of Los Angeles where our pumping to deliver our water consumes about a quarter of all the energy we generate!
>This Saturday March 14th from 8am to 2pm, North East Trees hosts a day of service to remove invasive plants from the wetlands at Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Cypress Park.
>On Sunday March 15th, Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR) lead their monthly river walk in Atwater Village. Meet at the end of Dover Street at 3:30pm.
>The L.A. City Planning Department hosts two public hearings about the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan – called the “CASP” (or maybe the CASSP?) The same meeting takes place on Monday March 16th at 3pm and 6pm at Goodwill Industries in Lincoln Heights.
>On Tuesday evenings from 7-9pm March 17th and 24th, L.A. Creek Freak‘s Joe Linton and L.A. Streetsblog‘s Damien Newton will teach our highly-informative internet skills class. Learn how to use easy, free internet applications to promote your non-profit and/or business. Start your own blog!
>Bicycle the Rio Hondo at the unfortunately-named-but-actually-really-fun 24th annual Tour de Sewer on Saturday March 21st.
>On Sunday March 22nd from 9am to 3pm, the March for Water will take place. Marchers will walk from Los Angeles State Historic Park to Rio De Los Angeles State Park to raise awareness of bring attention to the present water crisis taking place all over the world, our nation, the state and the city of Los Angeles. Conveners include Urban Semillas, Food and Water Watch, Anahuak Youth Sports Association, Green L.A. Coalition, and many more!
>On Thursday March 26th at 12noon at a Los Angeles Natural History Museum Research and Collections Seminar, L.A. Creak Freek’s Joe Linton will speak on “The Los Angeles River: Its Past, Present and Possible Future.” There’s no cost for the seminar, but if you’re not a member you’ll have to pay to get into the museum.
>On Saturday and Sunday April 17th and 18th from 9am to 12noon, the Village Gardeners of the Los Angeles River invite the public to help clean up, mulch, and plant natives at the Richard Lillard Outdoor Classroom in Sherman Oaks.
>FoLAR’s annual La Gran Limpieza (the Great LA River Clean-Up) will take place on Saturday May 9th.
>The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition hosts their 9th Annual Los Angeles River Ride on Sunday June 7th.
September 23, 2008 § 7 Comments
(This is the first in a “Places to Visit” series. I hope we’ll blog about various parks/streams/places and other noteworthy spots so that you, my faithful readers, can go and visit and enjoy these places!)
I first visited Rio Vista Park as part of last week’s conference on the San Gabriel River. Rio Vista Park is located on the Rio Hondo in the city of El Monte. It’s slightly difficult to find as it’s tucked away in a residential neighborhood, but well worth it. The address is 4275 Ranger Avenue, El Monte CA 91731. It’s on the west bank of the Rio Hondo directly across from the El Monte Airport, and a short walk or bike ride upstream from the El Monte Transit Center. (Note that the park is on the opposite side as the Upper Rio Hondo Bike Trail – to get there from the bike path, go west on Valley, right on Arden, right on Bisby and right on Shasta)
The current Rio Vista Park, which opened June 2008, is a rehabilitation and expansion project of an existing small park – and the site has a good hybrid/palimpsest feel of an older site that has been enriched by recent additions. The project was spearheaded by Amigos de los Rios partnering with the County of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, and the city of El Monte. It’s part of what Amigos de los Rios call the Emerald Necklace – a large string of parks on the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River.
The park celebrates multiple histories of the site, from the Tongva Native Americans to Hick’s Camp. Shade structures (visible in the picture on the left) are designed to resemble Tongva kich (pronunced “keesh”) housing made of thatched willow cuttings. Informational signage details the Tongva names and uses for native plants growing on-site.
Hick’s Camp was a colonia – a longstanding village that housed working class families, mostly immigrant agricultural workers. Hicks Camp occupied the park site and most of the surrounding neighborhood beginning from 1900 until it was demolished in the early 1970’s. Former residents of Hick’s Camp still gather for reunions. The park commemorates this history with a listing of the the names of Hick’s Camp families and a large camp map both etched in the sidewalk at the park entrance at Ranger Avenue. Interpretive signage explains the history of the site with time lines and historic photos. These tell important stories including the 1933 Berry Strike and the 1940’s successes in desegregating El Monte schools. Historic photos show the youth of the camp swimming and playing in the adjacent, still-natural Rio Hondo.
The park features an ample grassy area, picnic tables, a tot lot (with playful child-activated running water features) and an exercise course. The site features bioswales that detain and infiltrate stormwater. The plentiful new vegetation along the Rio Hondo is all native, with plenty of oak trees. Surrounding the park are more great gates by artist Brett Goldstone.
When folks from the conference visited the park last Tuesday night, there were plenty of local families using the park for walking, sitting and exercising. Mothers walked with strollers; kids cruised on the bmx bicycles. The winged residents were at home there, too: A small raptor (which we think was a juvenile Coopers Hawk) flew in and rested a while on a eucalyptus branch. We walked and toured the park, and looked east out over the Rio Hondo running wet in a concrete canyon and imagined what this place was and what it will be again.
August 4, 2008 § 3 Comments
You’ve all probably heard the Mark Twainism, “Whiskey is for drinkin’, water is for fightin’.” Here’s a tale that brings the phrase to life. “Turning” or “throwing” the waters, i.e. the digging of ditches, placement of dams, or other methods to redirect river flows out of one’s property – and onto someone else’s – was apparently not unheard of. In 1867-68, the San Gabriel River took over the Lexington Wash (which joined, or was part of, the Rio Hondo), with serious consequences for some. From the James P. Reagan interviews of 1914, in which George H. Peck sets the stage:
“…(t)he place is still known as the Old Peck place. It was a mistake to have bought the land on the river, but we did not know it at the time.
In 1868 our troubles began with the river. We lost about 150 acres that year, and each succeeding flood took its quota of spoils until there was barely 150 acres left of the original 480 acres which my father bought.
Lexington Wash was commonly known in those days as Lick Skillet Wash. In those days and even now the river bed was higher than the land on each side. When the floods came down it was no difficulty to direct the water to either side of the river bed. The water would flow readily either way if left alone it would usually split and go in each direction. However, it was not left alone.
In our case, the water began washing away our land and we wanted to protect our place and get rid of the water. Many times I have gone up the river, taking a few Indians with me to move a few boulders about and get the water going the way we wanted it to. By placing a double row of boulders across the stream it would raise the river water level enough to throw the water over the other way.
Of course, it brought opposition for people on the other side did not want the water either. It finally became serious, and when a man wanted his work to stand it was necessary to stay with it, armed with a double-barrelled shot gun…
Mr W. R. Dodson complains of his bad neighbors:
In 1889 he had a house washed away and quite a piece of ground. The house stood just above where the bridge is now. He says the principal cause of the big water in 1889 in the west of El Monte branch of the San Gabriel river was on account of the people on the east or Bassett side of the San Gabriel turning the water over into the west branch.
He says sometime in about 1890 himself and others built a rock dam about half a mile above the Peck place, to keep the water over in the old or east channel of the San Gabriel. The dam was some 300 or 400 feet long, and about two to two and one-half feet high. He himself paid about 50 men for 2 or 3 days work, and he claims parties from down Downey way — the Scott people and Jim Durffy – came up and turned the water back into the west branch, and helped the water to tear down their dam. He claims their dam stopped the water from coming down the west side, and would have continued to do so if the other parties had left the water alone.
He says another time he had about twenty men working up there and 3 or 4 from the other side came to turn it back. Says he had a shot gun with him, and told his men to go ahead, and the other parties to beat it, and they beat it.
He says there has been more or less fighting and turning of water for the last thirty years; the people of the east side turning the water to the west side, and the people of the west side building dams and trying to keep it from coming that way.
He says they had more water in the Rio Hondo at El Monte in 1914 than every before. Says Davis, the rock quarry man, was mostly to blame; took all the rocks out of the stream and on this side of the Santa Fe for about a mile, and that naturally made the water run to the westerly, or El Monte side.
Mr. Walter P. Temple recalled the events:
..(t)here were efforts by various parties to turn the river back to its old channel but there were other parties who wished it to continue to the westward and who would undo or help to undo the work of the first parties. It became serious for a time and force was used in the way of shot guns to maintain the levee built…
Mr. Victor Manzanares chimed in:
…(t)here used to be some trouble between the Americans who then were trying to turn the river either to the east or the west. Sometimes some men would go up above El Monte where the river divided, and put a dike or bank across the river to turn all of the river to the east or back to the original bed. Other men would find it out and go up there and tear their work down and turn the water down the west side, which would come down and join the Rio Hondo. There was some bad feeling about turning this water from branch of the river to the other and some times it was necessary to guard the work with a gun to get it to stay there. I know three men who were sent up there at night to break one of these levees…
And Mr. Jose Silva:
I never knew much about the changing of the San Gabriel river to the west of El Monte. We have always known the San Gabriel to pass over to the Bassett side and think that is where a river has always been and where it belongs, although there are a good many people who think that it should go over west of El Monte, and who will object to all of the water being cut off and turned to the Bassett side.
…I have heard that many of the old time Americans have put small levees of sacks and sand to turn the water from one side to the other according to where they wanted the water to go. Mr. Peck used to turn the water to the west while Mr. Dodson wanted the water to go through the east side. There was some strong words about it and sometimes a man would have to stay on his work with a shotgun to insure its staying there. I have heard that Mr. Durfee was interested too, but I do not know any of the men who did the work…When the water was running it was easy to turn the river either way and a man with a pick or shovel could easily turn the water…”
Here’s Mr. Durffy’s side of the story:
Mr. Durffy says that about 1889 the water from San Gabriel Canyon broke out of the old bed just below the Santa Fe tracks, where the steel bridge is, and went westerly toward Duarte, and then down on the westerly side of El Monte. The Santa Fe and some of the people down at El Monte decided to turn it back into the old channel one Sunday, and he, and others interested did not say what the names of the others were, did not get wind of it until Saturday afternoon, and he came to town to get an injunction, but County offices were all closed up and he could not get an injunction out. The Santa Fe (b?)ought out quite a bunch of men and quite a number came up from El Monte early Sunday morning and commenced building a dam to turn the water back into the easterly branch, or where it had run before it broke out. He and some others that were interested in keeping the waters over on the westerly side as it had gone over there from natural causes, and it was the lowest side, found by experimenting with a shovel, and as the other side has all the disadvantage of a direct drop from 2 to 2 ½ feet, that one man with a shovel was worth more than 50 men on the other side building up, and they decided they did not need an injunction. He says part of the water has gone there ever since.
He says he does not know anything about the rock dam Mr. Dodson built about half a mile above the Peck place, and claimed that some people from Downey and the Scott people and himself helped the water tear down. He thinks Mr. Dodson is mistaken; and anyway the dam he built could not have amounted to much in keeping the water from going over El Monte way, as it was too far south to help much; that most of the water went over on the west side before it got down that far.
We know the river was a difficult neighbor – I’m not so sure about some of these people either!