Loving the Los Angeles River

This summer, a few hardy souls “owned” the LA River by kayaking a 1.5 mile stretch in the Sepulveda Basin. Tickets were available for about six minutes on an early July morning for the trips in August and September. I had the good fortune to go in early September and two of the Council’s staff, Kristy and Derek, paddled on the last weekend, courtesy of the Conservation Corps’ Paddle the LA River program.

Derek has been working for the Council this summer, so I was especially glad he was able to go on one of the last trips this year. Here is his account:

“It was a busy day on the Sepulveda Dam Recreation area. Parking lots were full, soccer fields bellowed with the cheers of family and teammates, and cyclists raced around the numerous bike paths. The atmosphere was the perfect setting as I and a handful of others were about to embark on the last kayak tour of the LA River for the year. With Ranger Tim and his contagious energy, we set off to our launch point under the Balboa Blvd Bridge.  As we climbed into our vessels, aided by members of the LA Conservation Corps, a rush of exhilaration set over the group. We were on the LA River, a privilege few citizens have experienced.

George, leader of Paddle the River, guided the first segment of the trip upstream in order to make sure everyone was comfortable in their kayak or canoe. I, as representative of the Council for Watershed Health, explained the importance of watershed wide approach to improving our rivers.  After this, we soaked in the sights, sounds, and allure of the river for the next 1.5 miles. The banks were lined with willows, castor bean, sycamore, and cattails. A gentle breeze swayed the vegetation as the sun began to break through the clouds. I was on the lookout for birds when I spotted a snowy egret resting a branch. It barely noticed me and posed, but only for a moment as I managed to snap a few shots before it flew off. It was only until I saw a shopping cart poking out of the water that I had a realization: I was in Los Angeles, in an urban setting with the 101 freeway nearby, and I completely forgot. It was amazing how quickly the river can consume your thoughts, even though it is far from revitalized.

As we finished our trip in the shallow waters close to the dam, we all looked back at the river as if to ingrain the river expedition into our memories. Our experience was unforgettable, and left us wondering how long we would remain as the privileged few who have paddled the LA River.”

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