Creekside wedding sites for the wild at heart

November 27, 2008 § 1 Comment

A Part II follow on to “Where to get married on the LA River”

Joe started us Creekfreaks off with good ideas of where to get married along the LA River.  There are wonderful, developed venues for gatherings large and small, that he pointed out.  They have different characters to suit different tastes, and all are beautiful locations. But what if your idea of a wedding falls a little more along the lines of a RenFaire, Robin & Marian under the oaks with Friar Tuck officiating?  Perhaps you want to know that the background trickle of water comes from a natural stream, and be miles away from the electronic whir of a pump?  If the idea of your bridesmaids in hiking boots(or at least tennies) and a reception in a camp or picnic resonates, here’s some good destinations to consider.  Obviously, seasonal conditions are consideration.  Permits or RSVPs may also be needed.  These sites are pretty much for day-use, unless noted otherwise.  Cleanup and respect for the environment is essential (no rice-tossing!).

Large groups

These sites have the capacity to hold relatively larger groups of people, but also work well for small groups.

Hahamongna scene after rains.

Hahamongna scene after rains.

Hahamongna.  Hahamongna watershed park in the City of Pasadena offers a range of backdrops.  There’s a willow-dominant wetland area, especially where Flint Wash enters the park, and there’s a large oak woodland picnic ground area.  You can accommodate a hundred or more people in the picnic area, and there’s public parking on the grounds.  Trails abound, so your guests can sneak off into the…er, never mind.

How to get there:  210 Fwy to Berkshire. Go east on Berkshire to Oak Grove. Turn left. Entrance to the park will be on your right.

Link to Hahamongna.

oak tree with wooden platform (dancefloor?)

Oak tree with wooden platform (dancefloor?) at Temescal Cyn

Temescal Canyon Park.  This well-known and used park in Pacific Palisades offers several picnic areas.  It is easily accessible for older folks, with parking near the picnic areas.  One long picnic area with mature old oak trees runs along Temescal Creek, another is a grassy plain in a filled-in basin above the creek, lined with sycamore trees for shade.  There is also a pretty straightforward meeting room facility that can be rented, as well as public facilities such as restrooms on the grounds.

How to get there:  PCH to Temescal Cyn Road.  Follow the road past Sunset into the park.

Link to Temescal.

Chantry Flats (aka Big Santa Anita Canyon).  A wonderful outdoor destination, although not for the feeble.  If your party is up for hiking in 4 miles, you can rent the services of pack animals to transport your wedding gear, and really get married away from it all at Sturtevant Camp (and here’s another link), a private group camp for retreats and gatherings. They even have a “honeymoon cabin” for the lucky couple!  The rest of your guests can stay in other cabins at the Camp, or rent tent spots at the regular USFS campground a few yards away.  You will be in the midst of a Big Spruce pine forest, with Big Leaf Maples, California Bay, and Sycamores towering overhead.  Tributaries of Santa Anita Wash trickle by.  Your guests can take day hikes to Mt. Wilson and the West Fork of the San Gabriel River.  To present all sides of the story here, being way up in the mountains, you can be beset with unexpected excitement.  All the same, just writing about Sturtevant makes me want to go hang out there tomorrow!

How to get there:  210 Fwy to Santa Anita Avenue.  Keep going north til you can’t go any further.  Park at Adams Packing Station/USFS parking.  

Link to USFS who manages Chantry Flats (but do follow Sturtevant Camp link for cabin rentals). Link to general Big Santa Anita Canyon page.

Small groups

Arroyo Seco, below Colorado Street bridge.  When talking about marriage, furtive really isn’t a good adjective to use.  However, there may be something a tad furtive about staking out a spot along this natural reach of the Arroyo Seco – although Arroyo Blvd runs along it, access is not super easy.  You may feel like you’re getting away with something, hiking down the trail to be married creekside.  Given the confined feeling of the trails and the relatively small open areas along the stream, this is definitely a small-wedding site.  Like you, your beloved, a couple of friends or family, and the officiating officiator.  I guess this is more like an elopement destination…worth it for the views and bubbling stream!  Anyway, you can have your reception/picnic downstream at Lower Arroyo Park, or upstream at Hahamongna.  Or, of course, any of the many restaurants and gathering places in Pasadena.  (By the way there is also a campground a short way up the Arroyo Seco trailhead near JPL that could make for a nice reception – just more of a hike than this site)

How to get there:  for the romantics –  110 to Ave 64/Marmion.  Right onto Marmion, left onto Arroyo Drive – drive along the arroyo for a while, til beneath the Colorado Street Bridge (or turn into Lower Arroyo Park and walk up the channel trail til you get there).  For the pragmatic (although I can’t imagine someone pragmatic getting married here!) – take the 134 to San Rafael Ave, south to Colorado.  Take the fork of Colorado that goes down to the Arroyo/Arroyo Blvd (sign says “Rose Bowl”). Park where legal.  

Link to Lower Arroyo Park


El Bosque del Rio Hondo

El Bosque del Rio Hondo.  Also amusingly called Marrano (Pig) Beach by many locals (I doubt there are pigs there).  El Bosque is a very beautiful reach of the Rio Hondo, with white sandy beaches and picnic facilities and parking for small groups.  This is a gorgeous spot!

How to get there: 60 Fwy to south on Rosemead Blvd. Turn right at Durfee.  There will be a sign near the corner on your right, leading to a parking lot.

Link to El Bosque

Walnut Creek Park.  Situated in a steep canyon in the San Gabriel Valley, this 2-mile long County park provides a mature oak woodland canopy with views of meadows.  Small groups can create comfortable picnic grounds, and the creek provides a scenic backdrop for the actual ceremony.  This is a popular area for equestrians, so don’t be surprised if you have visitors on horseback.

How to get there:  10 Fwy to Grand Ave, go north.  Right on Badillo St., right on Cypress, and right on Valley Center Ave.  Follow it all the way down into the canyon.  There is parking in the middle of a stand of oaks.

No link Walnut Creek!


No doubt, with a little research and field exploration, you’ll find that there are even more wonderful creekside campsites and picnic grounds within the LA area that would accommodate your wedding!  These are just a few among many favorite sites.  Good luck!


Where to Get Married on the L.A. River

September 10, 2008 § 4 Comments

So you’re wondering where you and your betrothed can get hitched on the LA River… Well, fret not, for the creek freak has done some advance scouting so you won’t have to. Here are three excellent L.A. River wedding locations, listed from upstream to downstream:

View of the San Fernando Valley's Japanese Garden

The San Fernando Valley's Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden is located on the grounds of the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which is the source for most of the reclaimed water that flows in the Los Angeles River. The “garden of water and fragrance” and sewage treatment plant are safe behind the Seplulveda Dam in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. The address is 6100 Woodley Avenue, Van Nuys, California, 91406 – a short walk or bike ride from the Woodley Avenue Metro Orange Line Station.  Though they’re connected hydrologically, the very pleasant and immaculately manicured garden is a lot unlike the unkempt Los Angeles River. The river and garden do attract a similar mix of birds, including plenty of ducks and herons. Urban Ranger and river nature writer Jenny Price sums up the quirky wonder of the place by quoting the gardens’ promotional materials stating: “Enjoy the beauty of another culture while learning more about wastewater treatment and reuse.” The garden features docent-led tours, a quaint gift shop and a very helpful website, with its own section specifically for weddings.

Courtyard at the Los Angeles River Center

Courtyard at the Los Angeles River Center

The Los Angeles River Center and Gardens is located in Cypress Park right around the corner from the historic confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco – just north of downtown Los Angeles.  The address is 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles CA 90065 – easy access from the Metro Gold Line Lincoln/Cypress station.  It’s a great setting for events and is booked nearly every Saturday all year for weddings.  It’s the former corporate campus for Lawry’s spice company which had a popular restaurant there – called Lawry’s California Center.  Now it’s owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority – a state agency that develops and manages parks along the L.A. River, in the Santa Monica Mountains and elsewhere.  The River Center’s buildings house the offices of various governmental agencies and non-profits that are working on the restoration and revitalization of the Los Angeles River.  They have a river visitor center, lots of bike and car parking, and a helpful wedding planning page.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach (photo by Christophe Finot)

The Queen Mary in Long Beach (photo by Christophe Finot - Creative Commons)

The Queen Mary is probably the only site where you can really say that you were married in the Los Angeles River.  She has been called the toothpick in the mouth of the L.A. River (romantic, no?)  It’s a beautiful setting for weddings with lots of ornate, well-preserved woodwork and ornamentation.  See their wedding information web page.  Their address is 1126 Queen’s Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802 – a long walk, manageable bike ride, or a short shuttle ride from the Metro Blue Line Long Beach Transit Mall station.  I attended the wedding of Jim and Nina Danza there a while back, where Friends of the Los Angeles River founder Lewis MacAdams read his poem ‘Wedding Song on Board the Queen Mary.’ It’s printed in his excellent L.A. River poetry collection The River: Books One, Two & Three (Blue Press 2005).  Jim and Nina Danza, were two great river advocates who, back in the early 1990’s, were instrumental in getting me involved in river advocacy.  Here’s the start of that poem:

The wood’s split and stacked against the night.

We’re having a cool snap. There’s a ring around the

night-before-the-bean-harvest moon. You’ll soon be

roaring over the Atlantic on your honeymoon.

I can see you dozing underneath a thin blanket

in your narrow seats, while a report on the hydrology

on the Los Angeles River slips to the floor unread.

(Note: Lest the rumors start to fly, please don’t get any ideas that this creek freak has plans to get married any time soon. I still have to meet the woman of my dreams first – and she has to get along with me. These wedding locations were something that occurred to me when I was writing my book Down By The Los Angeles River… but I wasn’t able to weave them in there, so I present them for your enjoyment here.)

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