Flocking to the LA River, Part 1


By Joyce Amaro, LA Stormwater

With two recreational zones open this summer on the Los Angeles River, I thought I’d take advantage of the close proximity to the river my office enjoys and stroll along its banks with my camera. For the more than 10 years that I have been working in the Elysian Valley, there have been many a late afternoon that I’ve watched White-throated Swifts dart and spin through the cool air in search of their dinner. And, at least once a week, I have seen a Great Blue Heron or a Snowy Egret elegantly winging its way west over our building towards the LA River.

It’s been these glimpses of nature that drew me to the Elysian Valley River Recreation Zone. I was hoping to get up close and personal with a few feathered friends. As I drove to the river, I shook my head and chuckled at the names of the streets I passed – Clearwater, Riverdale, Marsh. They all sounded so pastoral, belying the heavily industrial area surrounding this portion of the river and the thick concrete embankments on which I would soon be walking.

I entered the LA River at the Great Heron Gates at Fletcher Drive and began walking south, joining the handful of bikers, skaters and walkers making their way along the river’s bike path.  Just north of the Glendale Freeway, I walked down to the river’s edge and looked, with great interest, at the Rattlesnake Rapids. I made my way along the river’s edge until I came to the Marsh Park Rapids. I remembered scoffing at the idea of Class 1 and 2 rapids on the LA River as I read the Elysian Valley River Recreation Zone Map online. Rapids on the Los Angeles River? Really? But as I walked past the gently roiling water, I could see where maneuvering through this portion of the river on a kayak would take some skill.  “Who knew? The Los Angeles River has rapids,” I mused.

After ten minutes I still hadn’t seen any birds, and I found myself frustrated.  In my hurry-up-and-get-to-the-next-event life, I had half-expected to have ducks waddling up to me the moment I stepped out of my car, ready for their “paparazzi moment.” I grew impatient, looking at my watch. I didn’t have all day. Where were all the birds I had seen over the years? Where were the Great Blue Herons? The Swifts? The Snowy Egrets?

As I walked, though, I couldn’t help but slow down a bit as I took in the distinctive sights and sounds of the river. I heard the bubbling, rushing water. I saw the sun glistening off the wet rocks. I was drawn in by the sweet voice of two Warblers as they called expectantly to each other. I watched a Yellow Swallowtail flit among the bushes and felt the cool breeze on my face. And, for a few minutes, I forgot that I was in the middle of the second largest city in America. It wasn’t until I hit my “pause button” that the Los Angeles River began to work its magic.

And, that’s when I saw her. 

To be continued… check out part 2 here!


Comments (1)

  1. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    Mary McLeod
    July 11th, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I used to live in Atwater and as a young person I often went to the river to see pollywogs and later frogs. Infact before they put in the 5 freeway me and my brother use to cross the river and go swimming at Griffth park pool. I have many fond memories of the LA River. I also use to live at Roger Young village in Griffth Park.

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