4 Walks Around LA River’s Newly Opened Paddleway
For the first time in 80 years, Los Angeles again boasts a centralized waterway open for recreational use. A 2.5-mile stretch of the 51-mile river is now open for kayaking, canoeing, paddling, and angling, CNN reported Saturday. The “Elysian Valley” stretch is open to boating activities free of fees, licensure, or other restrictions and requires no additional licensing for those looking to hook one of the carp, catfish, or bass that make the river their home.
The opening is a pilot program, and will keep the stretch open to public use from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend this year, with renewals of the program expected in subsequent years.
To celebrate our excitement for this program — managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority — here are 4 walks around the Glendale Narrows stretch (which includes Elysian Valley) that will add to your enjoyment of this now expanding natural resource:
Rattlesnake Park (1.6 miles)
Rattlesnake Park, opened in 1997, is one of the best places to begin any exploration of the LA River. The walk features a pocket park with native trees, plants, and benches, with views of the Great Heron Gate sculpture and the historic Fletcher Drive Bridge.
The walk begins at the Great Heron Gate statue, and down the river rock steps into the park proper. Follow the stream toward the Fletcher Drive Bridge, which was built in 1927. This stretch of the river is the setting for a scene in Janet Fitch’s White Oleander. On this stroll you will enjoy the shade of the sycamores and cottonwoods, all planted by North East Tress in the late 1990s. The surface is uneven, so watch your steps.
Continue under the 2 Freeway downstream about a half mile until you reach Elysian Valley Gateway Park, which you’ll enter through an unmarked chain-link gate. At this point, you can either head back to Fletcher from whence you came, or continue to…
Egret Park (3.4 miles)
Egret Park features seven pocket parks, native planting, and scenic soft-bottom river, and is one of the most appealing and natural stretches along the entire river.
The walk starts at Egret Park on Riverside Drive, one block southeast of the intersection of Riverside and Oros Street. Head to the water, and then follow it upstream (away from the freeway) along the access road, keeping an eye out for bicyclists. Here you will come to Steelhead Park (a pocket park), named for the steelhead trout, which were plentiful in the river until it was paved.
Continuing along the water you will encounter numerous other pocket parks. Once you reach Elysian Valley Gateway Park, you can turn around and head back to the start.
Los Feliz (2.6 miles)
With its pocket parks, bike paths, public art, and the only riverside cafe in LA, this is an excellent spot for experiencing the LA River. This soft-bottom stretch is popular with walkers, runners, and even dogs and horses, and features the infamous river cats, painted by Leo Limon on storm drain outlets. This walk also features views of the downtown skyline.
Start at Eatz Cafe (3207 Los Feliz Blvd., adjacent to the Los Feliz Municipal Golf Course), and go west on the sidewalk toward the river. On your right, enter the river right-of-way through the Guardians of the River Gate. Look carefully at the gate: there’s more in its sculpture than meets the eye immediately.
Continue upstream, noting the stonework, native plant life, and picnic area. From the picnic area, you have a view of the historic Los Feliz Blvd. Bridge, originally called the “Tropico Bridge.” As you continue upstream, you’ll pass by (across the river and 5 Freeway) the equestrian entrance to Griffith Park. And as you continue further, you will see on your right a large pond, part of the Los Angeles-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant.
The turnaround point here is Colorado Blvd., from which point you can see the downtown skyline before turning to retrace your steps.
Or, if you want to continue walking, you can check out…
Atwater River Walk (1 mile)
Atwater River Walk features pocket parks with native vegetation and even a unique yoga course, as well as excellent views from bicycle and pedestrian bridges.
Begin at the park’s Dover Street entrance (near Dover St. and Legion Ln.), and walk downstream. The park features what is probably LA’s only yoga stretch par course, and the river walk also features extensive native planting, a dry streambed, and benches. The 5-station yoga course features various stretching poses and breathing exercises.
Continue downstream and turn right onto the Sunnynook Footbridge. It is unmarked but the only pedestrian bridge in the vicinity. The bridge is an excellent place to look over the river as it riffles and pools below your feet. Also, check out the view of the historic Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct.
Continuing across the bridge, you’ll reach the river bikeway and the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge. The bridge marks the turning point for this walk.
For more walks around the LA River, check out Down by the Los Angeles River by Joe Linton (Wilderness Press, 2005).