Los Angeles: A real river runs through it

Sometimes, work can seem like a vacation. The Los Angeles Conservation Corps, a nonprofit corporation that connects youth with nature,  launched a series of kayak and canoe tours down the 51 mile Los Angeles River last summer and brought the program back again this year. The river begins in the Santa Susana Mountains, but most of it was paved by the Army Corps of Engineers about 70 years ago. But parts of it remain natural in the San Fernando Valley and I recently had the opportunity to go on a guided tour, in my own kayak. It was great and like I said in the beginning, sometimes work can seem like a vacation.  I’m in the photo above, taken by Daily News staff photographer Hans Gutknecht.  From my story (Daily News, July 22, 2012):

Sitting in a kayak on the river, you forget.

There on the water, you ignore the roar of airplanes flying above, or the pollution of cars speeding by.

But tucked here and there beside moss-covered stones and wild mustard plants are also reminders that the Los Angeles River meanders through urban sprawl and into human disregard. 

Worn, stringy plastic bags hang like tree moss on branches. A rusted shopping cart sits on a sandbar. Squished plastic soda bottles are wedged between rocks and under the Burbank Boulevard bridge, giant graffiti letters warn visitors that someone thinks of the river as his territory.

“I’ve seen so much wildlife here, like catfish and carp,” said Edgar Del Campo, one of the young guides who works with Los Angeles River Corps, the lead agency that is taking paid visitors this summer on supervised canoe and kayak tours down the fabled waterway.

“But I’ve also seen so much trash, especially plastic bags. That’s what we’re focused on raising awareness about.”

The tours opened to the public Saturday, marking the second year supervised canoe and kayak trips will travel down a portion of the Los Angeles River, beginning under the Balboa Boulevard bridge footpath down 1.5 miles toward the Burbank Boulevard overpass.

 

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