Once mocked as an eyesore, the Los Angeles River has experienced something of a renaissance  in the last decade. Stretches of the waterway that were once synonymous with blight, decay and ugliness have been cleaned up and safety improved. Where once there was nothing to do along the the L.A. River’s concrete-lined banks, you can now enjoy bike paths, a string of pocket parks, and community events. Now, in a historic development,  you can throw boating into the mix.

For the next couple of months, kayaks, canoes and rafts will be allowed on a two-and-a-half mile stretch of the Los Angeles River between Fletcher Drive just south of L.A.’s Atwater Village neighborhood and Steelhead Park just north of downtown L.A.  It’s the first time boating has been allowed since the 1930s. It’s part of a pilot project organized by groups including the  Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Friends of the Los Angeles River, and the Los Angeles Flood Control District. If this trial program goes well, the boating program could become an annual summertime event and a great new L.A. tradition.

Here’s more information about how you can paddle the L.A. River . Below, photos of the boating program’s opening day and the people who were eager to get into the water

At an event before the boating program started, various officials and environmental activists talked about the long struggle to improve the Los Angeles River and turn it into a fully functioning recreational waterway. This stretch of the L.A. River is boarded by working class neighborhoods whose residents feel the waterway is finally getting the attention it deserves. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

At an event before the boating program started, various officials and environmental activists talked about the long struggle to improve the Los Angeles River and turn it into a fully functioning recreational waterway. This stretch of the L.A. River is boarded by working class neighborhoods whose residents feel the waterway is finally getting the attention it deserves. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

The stretch of the L.A. River open to boating features mostly placid waters with a couple of mini-rapids. People don't have to buy a permit or pay a fee to put their boats in the water. Just show up and cast off. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

The stretch of the L.A. River open to boating features mostly placid waters with a couple of mini-rapids. People don’t have to buy a permit or pay a fee to put their boats in the water. Just show up with your vessel of choice and cast off. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

Those who paddle this stretch of the L.A. River will share the waterway with a small group of people who regularly fish from its banks. Fishing from boats is also allowed.  (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

Those who paddle this stretch of the L.A. River will share the waterway with a small group of people who regularly fish from its banks. Fishing from boats is also allowed. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

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Rangers will be on hand during the boating program to help make sure boaters stay safe. Watercraft will be allowed in the L.A. River between sunup and sundown. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

 

The first day of the boating program encouraged many to bring watercraft out of their garages. Jennifer Young, in the orange hat, frequently canoes in Montana and was looking forward to doing it on a river only a stone's throw away from her house.

The first day of the boating program encouraged many people to bring watercraft out of their garages. Jennifer Young, in the orange hat, frequently paddles her canoe in Montana and was looking forward to doing it on a river that’s only  a stone’s throw away from her house. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

People who don't have their own boats will be able rent watercraft from private operators. There will also be organized paddles of the L.A. River, with experts talking about its history and the abundance of plant and wildlife to be found along this stretch of the waterway. (Photo by Raphael Gonzalez)

People who don’t have their own boats will be able rent watercraft from private operators. There will also be organized paddles of the L.A. River, with experts talking about its history and the abundance of plant and wildlife to be found along this stretch of the waterway. (Photo by Raphael Gonzalez)

The boating program does have rules. Only boats that can be navigated, like kayaks, canoes and rafts, will be allowed on the water. That leaves out floating on intertubes or giant pieces of styrofoam. Smoking and drinking of alcoholic beverages also aren't allowed on boats. You'll also have to leave Fido at home. Pets aren't allowed on the water. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

The boating program does have rules. Only boats that can be navigated, like kayaks, canoes and rafts, will be allowed on the water. That leaves out floating on inner tubes or giant pieces of Styrofoam. Smoking and drinking of alcoholic beverages also aren’t allowed on boats. You’ll also have to leave Fido at home. Pets aren’t allowed on the water. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

 

 

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14 Comments »

  • Ron Arias said:

    Thanks for the pix. I plan to paddle the newly open stretch next Sunday. I grew up in the 40s and 50s in neighborhood next to this part of the river–it was my playground, that and Elysian Park. Years later I wrote scenes that take place in the river in a novelita that's still in print–The Road to Tamazunchale. In a sense, this part of the river becomes part of the fable–or idea–of an ever evolving city.
    Can't wait to push off in my little inflatable kayak.

  • Saul Gonzalez said:

    Thanks for the comment, Ron. I love the neighborhoods along this Frogtown stretch of the L.A. River and am often on the cycling path. Maybe I'll see you in the water as you paddle! I'll also look up your book.

    Best,

    Saul Gonzalez, KCRW

  • Lina Kogan said:

    Are rental canoes available?
    Thank you!

  • Bill B said:

    Lina:

    Photo caption says, "People who don’t have their own boats will be able rent watercraft from private operators."

    And this page offers more on that subject: http://www.lariverrecreation.org/LA_River_Recreat

    ;-)

  • leeroy said:

    Sad–tickets to kayak are totally sold out and the waiting list is at capacity!

  • Jennifer Young said:

    I have kayaked and rafted many rivers in the eastern US and also in Montana. I live in Atwater and had the pleasure of being able to paddle the LA river in my canoe on opening day. It was a very different experience than other rivers I've paddled but a total blast! And I love that it is in my back yard. I think you can also sign up for trips through http://www.lariverexpeditions.com/

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  • Tony Taylor said:

    This is such a dangerous undertaking, not to mention very expensive-have heard estimates of $3 million to $10 million. Have asked Lupe Vela one of the people who pushed this program for the cost and so far she is resisting so it may take a Freedom of Information request to get that info. Don't know if the cost will include the cost of the additional water that is being put into the river to make the water deep enough so folks can kayak. The waters of the LA River are extremely polluted, in spite of claims that it isn't, and people who get into its waters are subject to getting a very bad infection if they have cuts, or scratches on their arms, legs or any part of their body that may come into contact with the water. Its a shame that those promoting this program did not tell the truth when they pushed it and still are pushing it without telling those participating of just how dangerous it is. Hope you have good insurance and whatever you do do not drink the water. If your boat hits a rock and overturns and you happen to get a good gulp of river water, which is street run off and chemically treated sewer water you are gonna get pretty sick.

  • Kayak Fisherman said:

    We have the same set up in Fort Worth, Texas. I try every weekend to make my way down the the river in the city to do some kayak fishing. Cant get enough. This is so encouraging to see that our city's are creating programs to getting people outdoors instead of spending time playing video games! Go experience LIFE I promise it can be fun too!

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  • daniella said:

    Yes, I am ready to paddle the L.A. river! I have already a small yacht and I have to buy a few custom sails, just in case, and go sailing the boat together with my children. I think this activity is a great opportunity for children to learn something new.

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