The 2014 Los Angeles River Kayak Season Is Open!

Experience the greenest stretch of the Los Angeles River this Summer. LACC leads kayakers under the Bubank Boulevard Bridge, in the San Fernando Valley. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Experience the greenest stretch of the Los Angeles River this Summer. LACC leads kayakers under the Bubank Boulevard Bridge, in the San Fernando Valley. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

I got a chance to do a preview kayak tour of the Los Angeles River yesterday. The tour was part of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps Paddle the L.A. River program. It took place in the most natural stretch of the 51-mile-long L.A. River: the Sepulveda Basin. The river runs through the middle of the 2000-acre Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, located in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, near the intersection of the 101 Freeway and the 405 Freeway. The Sepulveda Basin is easily accessible via the Metro Orange Line; both the Woodley Avenue and the Balboa Blvd. stations are located there.

The Sepulveda Basin lies behind the Sepulveda Dam. Behind the dam, the riverbanks are not lined with concrete. Both banks are lined with tall trees. There is plenty of wildlife: ducks, egrets, herons, killdeer, stilts, dragonflies, damselflies, fish, and coyote. 

L.A. River kayakers in the "little grand canyon" in Sepulveda Basin.
L.A. River kayakers in the “little grand canyon” in Sepulveda Basin.

I had paddled the river there before, in the 1990s at clean-up events, a not-quite-fully-permitted expedition in 2008, and again at the Conservation Corps first permitted season in 2011. This morning was my wife’s first kayak trip on the L.A. River.  She was impressed at just how natural it felt, right in the middle of the suburban San Fernando Valley. With walls of green foliage on both sides and no automobile noise, it’s very peaceful.

Hopefully, with a $1 billion habitat restoration project about to get underway, more parts of the river will be as pleasant as the Sepulveda Basin.

The 2014 kayaking season started yesterday and continues through September 13th, 2014. The kayak tours are fully-supported and beginner-friendly, with all necessary gear included. The roughly 2-mile round trip takes around 90 minutes. Tickets went on sale yesterday. In past years, these tickets have completely sold out within a day or two. Many Saturdays are already sold out. Buy yours now to experience a part of Los Angeles that many Angelenos don’t even know exists.

Kayaking is a great way to get a close-up look at the wildlife that inhabit the river. Birds, including this snowy egret, are less spooked by people approaching them on the water.
Kayaking the river is a great way to get a close-up look at the wildlife that inhabit the river. Birds, including this snowy egret, are less spooked by people approaching them on the water.

10 thoughts on The 2014 Los Angeles River Kayak Season Is Open!

  1. The Sepulveda Basin part of the LA River is not “natural”, its man-made. 80% of the water in the LA River during the dry season comes from the Donald Tillman Reclamation facility in the Sepulveda Basin. Its sewage treatment water that is high quality, bu not potable. There is very little natural flow of water in the LA River during most of the year.

    The LA River is lined with concrete to prevent flooding. In 1938, 144 people lost their lives as a result of flooding.

    The Sepulveda dam was built to hold back the winter rain water and during heavy rains the Sepulveda Basin is flooded by the dam. Burbank Blvd in the Sepulveda Basin can have water as much as 5-feet high during the winter rainy season when the dam backs up the water.

    I used to ride my bicycle to get to work in the Sepulveda Basin along Burbank Blvd before the Orange Line path was built to get past the 405 freeway. This section of Burbank Blvd can be blocked off for days after heavy rains to let the water subside and the street cleaners must come in to remove the mud. As far as I know these are the only times that this section of Burbank Blvd is ever swept. I used to see the same glass, fallen branches and dead animals for weeks along this section of Burbank Blvd. I got so tired of riding over the same glass week after week that I brought a broom out one day and swept it myself.

  2. Great piece. LA River Expeditions is also doing trips down this stretch on Friday and Sunday. And best of all there is a do-it-yourself launch on the east shore just below Burbank Boulevard. Bring your own or rent from LA River Kayaks, the basin’s official vendor. More info at mrca.org.

  3. Can anyone tell me specifically where I can park and put in my kayak on the L.A. river? The easy part to start with. I looked for a meet up group that does this but couldn’t find one. Are there any people or groups that get together to go on their own? Lots of questions I know :) Thanks !

  4. Hi Joe – we went this past weekend. If you go to the excursion at the Sepulveda Dam, you park at a lot off of Balboa, at 6001 Balboa Blvd. It serves the soccer field nearby. There will be a van that transports you to where you can kayak up and down the river. Wear closed toe sandals or crappy shoes you don’t mind possibly having to throw away because you wade into the river. I had a wonderful time and I hope you get to enjoy this opportunity to experience the river like this this summer. Best wishes, Sirinya

  5. Thank you Sirinya ! Great info. Do you or others have a group I can meet up with or go along on one of these kayak trips?

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