The LA River: A sad, lonely body of water that gets no respect

Paris has the Seine, Vienna the Danube, and Los Angeles has the LA, river that is.

Whoa, what!?!? Los Angeles has a river?

Perhaps river is far too generous of a term for the 52 miles of concrete-lined “waterways” which tumble from the foothills of Los Angeles down to the Port of Long Beach. And yet, locals in this water-starved city have clung to this definition of “river” because they’ve got nothing else that even comes close. No one even thinks it ironic that the number one activity enjoyed on the LA River is not boating or fishing, but rather filming car chases for blockbuster Hollywood films.

And yet, there are sections of the river that are actually river-like, with flowing water, small islands, and even little fish swimming about. But don’t expect to find these more bucolic stretches on your own.

Visiting the LA River is pretty much at the bottom of most any tourist itinerary, but if exploring massive concrete public works projects is your thing, you should consider checking out Friends of the LA River, a “non-profit organization founded in 1986 to protect and restore the natural and historic heritage of the Los Angeles River and its riparian habitat through inclusive planning, education and wise stewardship.”FoLAR conducts monthly nature walks and urban explorations of this serpentine watershed, exploring the struggling ecosystem, cool bridges, storm drain paintings, and more.

Few locals and even fewer tourists ever make it down to the banks of what is otherwise an invisible river rarely noticed by the throng of commuters who pass by it on a daily basis. River activists hope this will one day change. Although plans are often kicked around to construct a bike path along its banks from the beach to downtown, it will be a long time before this is ever realized. In the meantime, the LA River will continue its lonely, anonymous existence as the river that gets no respect.

(click here for more information about the LA River)