Wandering LA’s Wetlands

February 2 was World Wetlands Day, which has us thinking about how much we love LA’s wetlands. A haven for a wide variety of wildlife and plants, wetlands also help filter, clean and store water. When it rains, they act like a big sponge, soaking up water and preventing flooding. They’re also a great place to stroll and reflect on our city’s natural beauty. Here’s your go-to guide for two of LA’s wetlands:

Ballona Wetlands

Claim to fame: The last remaining natural wetland in Los Angeles County. Once upon a time, the marshes, mud flats, salt pans and sand dunes of Ballona Wetlands spread 2,000 acres from Playa del Rey to Baldwin Hills. Today, unfortunately only 600 acres of open space remains.

Wildlife: Ballona Wetlands provide habitat for 300 species of birds, including the majestic great blue heron, snowy egret and endangered species like the Belding’s savannah sparrow and least tern.

Plants: Restoration is underway to remove invasive, non-native species from Ballona Wetlands. Look past the exotic pampas grass and you’ll see some native beauties like the willows along the old Centinela Creek corridor.

Trails: The freshwater marsh has a public trail. It’s located at the corner of Lincoln and Jefferson boulevards. Dogs on leash are welcome!

More info: Friends of Ballona Wetlands 

South LA Wetlands

Claim to fame:  The 9-acre wetlands park was created from a former bus and rail yard as part of the $500 million Proposition O water bond. It was designed to collect and clean 680,000 gallons of stormwater per day—enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Wildlife: The wetlands officially opened in 2012 and now provides habitat for a diverse species of birds and aquatic life. The wetlands were designed to showcase five distinct habitats, including open water, emergent marsh, scrub-shrub, forested and upland, each with its own natural climate and water resources. Depending on where you stroll, you may see cinnamon teal duck and turtles, great blue heron, warblers, egrets, hummingbirds and Pacific tree frogs.

Plants: The five habitats each come with their own array of plant life too. Expect to spot duckweed, cattail, willows, American dogwood trees, California sycamore, wild rye and sage. There’s a saying in gardening that when it comes to native plants the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. As we enter the third year, expect to see more robust native plants all along the park.

Trails: Just over 1-mile of groomed trails and bridges take you from the parking lot at 5413 Avalon Blvd. to a boulder garden.

More info: South Los Angeles Wetlands

Image of American Avocets in Ballona salt pan, mud flat courtesy of stonebird.

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