Down by the Los Angeles River  by Joe Linton

Down by the Los Angeles River Guide Book

by Joe Linton (Wilderness Press)
Down by the Los Angeles River  by Joe Linton
Unknown to many Angelenos, the Los Angeles River wends its way through LA, from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. For years, much of the river has been culverted in concrete channels, hidden from view except as an occasional backdrop to gritty Hollywood movies scenes. Recently, the river has seen a renaissance, with organizations such as Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) working with local groups to revitalize the landscape with new parklands that combine natural beauty and urban artistic creativity. Down by the Los Angeles River presents a river that reflects the heart of LA itself. Travel with FoLAR guide and fine artist Joe Linton on more than 40 walking, biking, and driving tours that explore the parks, artwork, pathways, historic bridges, and natural areas along the 51 miles of river. Filled with beautiful original illustrations by Linton, this guide is as unique as the river itself.

© 2005 Joe Linton/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Down by the Los Angeles River" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 39.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 39.

The Arroyo Seco Bike Path offers a rare in-channel experience. The bikeway is essentially a slab laid in the bottom of the trapezoidal channel. The stream runs alongside the path. The bikeway is relatively short at this point, but it provides good connectivity to parks along the Arroyo in this area. It’s actually a comparatively pleasant and quiet experience, as the sound of the adjacent Pasadena Freeway is muffled when you’re below grade.
Pasadena, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 2.1
Atwater River Walk is one of the first and largest pocket parks along the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows. Cottonwood and sycamore trees planted there in the mid-1990s are getting nice and tall. The walk features pocket parks with native vegetation and even a unique yoga course, as well as excellent views from bicycle and pedestrian bridges. Access Note: Although many people visit this area every day, this trip may include places that are not yet officially open to the public.
Glendale, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 1
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This park is named after the film star who reportedly lived in one of the large houses along Rancho Ave., across from the park. This walk is in the upstream end of the Glendale Narrows, which is my favorite stretch of the LA River because it retains a soft, earthen bottom. It is home to birds, trees, turtles, lizards, a great historic bridge, a stretch of the Glendale Narrows section of the LA River Bike Path, and a pleasant picnic area with tall sycamores and oaks.
Glendale, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 1.2
The Bosque Del Rio Hondo Park (Spanish for “forest of the deep river”) is a 5-acre park within the 277-acre Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, a lush and wild natural area with excellent bird-watching in the riparian wetlands. The original San Gabriel Mission was established here in 1771; in 1775, after a flood and fire, the mission was relocated to its present location, above the floodplain, in today’s city of San Gabriel. In recent years, the area has been known as Marrano Beach, an unofficial local hangout. Like other areas behind flood-protection dams, the site features an un-concreted, relatively natural streambed. In addition to the Rio Hondo, which flows year round, the site also features seasonal creeks: Mission Creek and Butterfly Creek. It is plentiful with critters, including herons, coots, ducks, hawks, turkey vultures, rabbits, turtles, frogs, and even (harmless) gopher snakes.
Montebello, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 3.8
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Brown’s Creek debouches into the Los Angeles River near Mason Ave. in the West San Fernando Valley community of Winnetka. The Brown’s Creek Bike Path is a relatively short bikeway that serves mainly as a Chatsworth neighborhood feeder for train commuters. Though the creek is entirely a concrete box channel, the bikeway features landscaping, mini-parks, benches, water, and 1970s-era bridges decorated with river rock at Rinaldi Street, Variel Street, and Chatsworth Street. The neighborhood retains a somewhat rural character with plenty of equestrian activity. The adjacent train depot features the tiny, folksy Museum of Chatsworth Transportation and Movie History, with historic photography and paraphernalia in the train waiting room. It’s open Monday through Friday, 6:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Simi Valley, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 1.5
Two new bikeways opened on Compton Creek in the spring of 2005. The Compton Creek Bike Path is the first phase of a planned greenway trail system that will transform this tributary from a neglected utilitarian culvert into a multiuse community asset for bicyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians. This downstream end of the bikeway is pleasantly shaded by a row of native California sycamore trees.
Compton, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 2.9
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The Compton Creek Regional Garden Park is an ambitious vision for change that is supported by the community, the city of Compton, and county and federal elected officials. The project opened in 2005 with a tree-lined shared bicycle/ pedestrian/equestrian path. Future plans include parks, vegetation, public art, and creekside economic development.
Compton, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
The Cornfields is a highly visible and important historic site for the region. The former rail yard was slated for warehouse construction, but in the late 1990s, FoLAR and the Chinatown Yards Alliance successfully led a campaign to halt the development. California State Parks has purchased the site to develop a park commemorating its cultural and natural history. The process of planning, funding, and building the new park is expected to take many years, but interim portions of the park should be open in 2006. This walk goes around the future park, touring an area rich in cultural and historic heritage. Please note that these directions were written prior to the park’s construction. If the park is complete when you visit, you can either follow these directions or look for the entry point into the new park and explore there.
Los Angeles, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 2.3
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The Dominguez Gap is an area in North Long Beach where two side-channel wetlands parallel the Los Angeles River from just upstream of the 405 Freeway to upstream of Compton Creek. This walk showcases only the 30-acre east basin. A similar 14-acre basin exists on the west side of the river, but it’s difficult to access. Though the river itself is contained in a concrete-lined channel, the wetlands support seasonal bird populations. It is generally better seen at the wetter times of the year, winter through early summer.
Long Beach, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 1.9
The beauty of the Los Angeles River through downtown derives not from its natural wonders, but from its urban ones. This walk features four of the more than a dozen prominent historic bridges dating from 1910 to 1932. These bridges are monuments to civic pride, featuring graceful arches and a variety of intricate ornamental details, all demonstrating that public infrastructure can be lasting, beautiful, and functional. Please note that this walk is best enjoyed on weekends, when the weekday truck traffic is absent from this industrial area.
Los Angeles, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
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From Egret Park, located at the downstream end of the scenic Glendale Narrows, you can observe the contrast in the river where the soft bottom ends and miles of concrete begin. This walk features seven pocket parks, native planting, and scenic soft-bottom river. This is one of the most appealing and natural stretches along the entire river. Access Note: Although many people visit this area every day, this trip may include places that are not yet officially open to the public.
Glendale, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 3.4
Ernie’s Walk is the earliest community effort to revitalize the Los Angeles River. Begun by retired local resident Ernie La Mere in 1987, the formerly folksy garden site was refurbished by the county of Los Angeles in 2003. This walk traverses the popular 0.3-mile linear park, which features river-rock seating walls and native and non-native plantings along the concrete river channel.
Burbank, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 0.6
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This walk begins where the concrete ends. Below Willow Street in Long Beach, the river has an earthen bottom with sides reinforced by boulder riprap levees. The walk features native plantings, pocket parks, and good bird-watching.
Long Beach, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 2
The Glendale Narrows bikeway parallels the unpaved, soft-bottom LA River, making it a great way to see some of the nicest parts of the river. This section features various mini-parks, historic bridges, and public art. The bikeway is excellent for families, and also has enough uninterrupted straightaways for experienced rider to cut loose. It is also a full-feature commuter bikeway, with lighting (on until 10 p.m.), call boxes, and convenient entry points at major intersections.
Glendale, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 8.3
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The Hansen Dam Bike Path is popular with pedestrians, runners, and bicyclists. The path, which runs along the top of Hansen Dam on the Tujunga Wash in Lake View Terrace, features expansive views of the San Fernando Valley. The bike path is very wide, so it’s easily shared among the various users.
Glendale, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 2.5
Hansen Dam is a very popular place for pedestrians, runners, equestrians, and bicyclists—a sort of beach bike path for the families of the north San Fernando Valley. The dam’s massive size is an indicator of the power of the broad Tujunga Wash as it descends from the steep San Gabriel Mountains into the San Fernando Valley. Most folks walk along the top of the dam, which offers cool breezes and panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley. I prefer to start out on the equestrian trail below the front of the dam, and return along the top. Wheelchair users will want to remain on the even surface atop the dam.
Burbank, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
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The Lario Bike Trail is longest river bikeway in the LA River watershed and can be combined with connecting bikeways for even longer rides (but don’t worry, there are plenty of parks along the way where you can fill your water bottle). The trail, which gets its name because it runs along the LA River and the Rio Hondo (from Whittier Narrows in South El Monte all the way to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach), shows many of the faces of the Los Angeles River, from industrial, to residential, to natural, including soft-bottom areas behind the Whittier Narrows Dam and those in the estuary downstream of Willow Street in Long Beach.
Long Beach, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 23.5
The Village Gardens, located in Sherman Oaks, is a short stretch of the LA River where one bank has been reclaimed by the neighbors and where the state has created a mini-park on the other bank, complete with an outdoor classroom. Despite the concrete channel, this is an enjoyable green and flowering stretch. A neighborhood group, the Village Gardeners, led the grassroots efforts to reclaim this stretch of the river, picking up trash and planting “whatever would grow,” according to cofounder Annette Fuller. The site has a great feel; it’s not the institutional uniformity found in many municipal projects. It feels like someone cares (or many someones care) about this area. Access Note: Although many people visit this area every day, this trip may include places that are not yet officially open to the public.
Burbank, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 1.2
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I am frequently asked how to bike the whole river, or how to bike from the Glendale Narrows LA River Bike Path to the beach. While I don’t recommend this ride for folks other than the most dedicated creek-freaks (like myself), I’ve included it here because it’s a way to experience the trajectory of the entire river. If you’re looking for a long bike ride that’s all on bike path, see the Lario Bike Trail, described in Bikeway 4. Stretching from the start of the LA River in Canoga Park to its mouth in Long Beach, this trip is quite an undertaking. The ride crosses the San Fernando Valley mostly on streets, takes the Glendale Narrows LA River Bike Path, and then follows streets through downtown LA before resuming the bike path in Vernon and continuing 17 miles to Long Beach.
Los Angeles, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 55
With its pocket parks, bike paths, public art, and the only riverside café in LA, Los Feliz is an excellent place for experiencing the LA River. This soft-bottom stretch is popular with walkers, runners, and even dogs and horses. The walk features the infamous river cats, painted by Leo Limón on storm drain outlets, and views of the downtown skyline. Access Note: Although many people visit this area every day, this trip may include places that are not yet officially open to the public.
Glendale, CA - Walking - Trail Length: 2.6
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