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L.A. River open to canoeists and kayakers this summer!

No, you did not misread the title! :-)

When I was a boy, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, which flows through Cleveland, used to CATCH FIRE regularly from the industrial solvents that were dumped into it. We used to joke that water FLOATED on the Cuyahoga. Then, in ensuing years, both the river and Lake Erie underwent substantial cleanup. The L.A. River has similarly been polluted and subject to ridicule. THIS SUMMER, for the first time in decades, the Los Angeles River is open to kayakers and canoeists under a federally authorized two-month program! Many of us still envision the river with its concrete-lined sections as the setting for movies like “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Prior to this summer, the river named after the second-largest city in the U.S. was considered too contaminated for public recreation and was kept off-limits.

Now, the L.A. River is joining the ranks of other rivers in major U.S. cities, like Chicago, Denver, and of course San Antonio, TX that are restoring their waterways.

For the first time in SEVEN DECADES, the federal government has determined that part of the L.A. River is safe enough for public recreation and allows folks to paddle through one of its most scenic portions – through a recreation area with trees, birds, and aquatic life! For seven weekends in August and September, the Army Corps of Engineers is allowing the public to canoe and kayak on a 1.5-mile portion of the 51-mile river. How did the Corps get involved? The 1.5 segment is located in a flood-control area with a dam. The area is called the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area (1, 2), a 2,000-acre park in Los AngelesSan Fernando Valley.

Now, in the middle of the L.A. sprawl, paddlers travel downstream for 2.5 hours along a river lined with sycamores and willow trees, under a pilot program led by the nonprofit LA Conservation Corps, a group that describes itself as “the largest nonprofit youth corps in the nation” and which works with at-risk young adults on conservation projects.

(Just about now, I am starting to feel REALLY POSITIVE! I hope that you are, too!)

Such a journey might have once seemed IMPOSSIBLE from the history of the river, which was Los Angeles’s main source of water until 1914. By the 1930s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had “paved” much of the river for flood control. The last native steelhead trout was caught in the late 1940s. The conservation group, American Rivers, placed the L.A. River on the list of the 20 most endangered rivers SIX TIMES in the 1990s. According to The River Project, the L.A. River was named, in 1995, the second most-endangered river in the United States.

Now, the “float trip” is described by CNN in this way:

“As narrow as a few yards in some sections, the river often widened to 30 or 40 feet in some portions, where blue damselflies hovered above a surface colored iridescent green by patches of duckweed.

Kayakers and their guides spotted mallards, night herons, egrets and a green heron in the waterway — which is home to a more than 200 species of birds, including the American coot, great blue heron, belted kingfisher, yellow warbler, red-winged blackbird and cormorant.

Channel catfish and mosquito fish populate the river, though none happened to be sighted during Friday’s trip. The river also supports the western pond turtle, red-legged frog and tree frogs. One plant is colorfully called the sticky monkey flower.”

The CNN article also describes the many groups with previously conflicting aims that have banded together to help restore the Los Angeles River, and the series of events, some involving lawsuits, that led to the historic re-opening for public recreation.

Public interest in paddling the river has been insatiable! The “Paddle the L.A. River” program sold out its maiden season of 280 seats IN 10 MINUTES earlier this month. The seats cost $50 each, with the money used to offset equipment costs and insurance.

At the end of the float trip, LA Conservation Corps guide, Ignacio Garcia, distributed a remedy to paddlers to combat the trash still seen along parts of the 1.5-mile section: re-usable grocery bags made of fabric, not disposable plastic.

We at Cheshire Cat Photo™ understand the value of reusable tote bags, which is why we offer tote bags in various styles and sizes at our Store on Zazzle®, all decorated with photographic images of California’s Wonderland.

We congratulate the groups involved in restoring the L.A. River, and we wish them continued success!

-Bill at

Cheshire Cat Photo™ – “Your Guide to California’s Wonderland™”

You can view higher-resolution photos at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. The Cheshire Cat Photo Store on Zazzle® contains a wide variety of apparel and gifts decorated with our images of California. All locations are accessible from hereBe a “Facebook Fan” of Cheshire Cat Photo here! If you don’t see what you want or would be on our email list for updates, send us an email at

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