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Kayaking the LA River

I few weeks back I was scouring the Internet for fun things to do with the kids; instead, I came across something fun to do with my hubby. We kayaked the LA River!

This year, The Autry is doing a series of lectures and workshops on various Los Angeles areas/infrastructures, followed by "field trips" that go hand in hand with the lectures. Kayaking the LA River on a water-bound tour of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area (near the damn and Lake Balboa), led by river guides from Los Angeles Conservation Corps, was one of those "field trips". Unfortunately, we did not get to hear the actual lecture, but we did get to enjoy the, so easily overlooked beauty of the LA River.

Yes, the very river that was nothing more than a polluted wash just a few years ago! As a matter of fact, studies have shown that the newly revitalized LA River has elevated levels of E. coli, enterococcus, and is polluted with fecal matter. You read that right, fecal matter!

Luckily, bacteria levels at the Sepulveda Basin, near the last remaining natural-bottom section of the LA River, were relatively low this month and there was little danger to us kayakers. Still, I must say, I was absolutely paranoid about getting any water in my mouth and eyes, as it splashed up from my oar. But that did not take away from a fun adventure with my hubs.

We were advised to park at Woodley Park and make the walk to the Sepulveda Basin. Fortunately, hubby had the good sense to drive around first. That walk, in 90 degree heat, would have taken us a solid hour. So, we found street parking that was much closer to our launch site. There were plenty of spots available on Woodley at Burbank Blvd. Once we parked, we followed the signs to our lovely launch site.

As we walked, we passed a homeless encampment, and some interesting scenery. But, if you know Mr. Craig Holliman and wife, you know that we welcome the adventure and the chance to experience anything out of the ordinary.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the LACC folks. We handed in our paperwork and tickets for this guided tour of the LA River, and got to fool around a bit, checking out the scene and taking a few pictures. We really do have fun doing anything and everything.

We were then fitted for our gear, and heard a small, but very informative lecture on the history and current conditions of the LA River. It was really quite fascinating.

Once we were done, we got a short safety talk, and we were on our way to our kayaks.

Remember all of those interesting facts about elevated levels of bacteria and fecal matter in the LA River? Remember my paranoia about getting river water on me? Well, the kayaks were here...

In the picture above, you see the kayaks near the Burbank Blvd. bridge. They are all lined up in the last remaining natural-bottom section of the LA River. The grassy/leafy area is where we were. We had to walk through the ankle deep water, in our shoes, to get to the kayaks! But I'm not complaining. Not one bit. It was all part of the experience.

Kayaking through the LA River was an unforgettable experience. It was a conundrum of sorts. There were moments where I almost forgot that we were in Los Angeles, paddling near Burbank Blvd., and the 405 freeway, where I've spend countless hours stuck in traffic. It was serene and peaceful; there were fish in the water beneath us, egrets flying above us, and tadpoles by the hundreds, getting ready to make their transformations. Yet, in those same peaceful moments, nature was interrupted by the sounds of helicopters flying overhead, car alarms and traffic whizzing by. All stark reminders that we were in the middle of a thriving metropolis, on a polluted bed of water, rather than a lazy river in the middle of the woods.

It was a very unique experience and we are both so glad we did it. The consensus, however, was that we would not do it again. Does that make sense? We loved it, we enjoyed ourselves, but it's been scratched off the list and does not need to be repeated.

I do urge you to try it once, then do like we did: rush home, run past the children (don't let them touch you), and jump directly into the shower.

There are several companies in the LA area that provide tours and kayak rentals for the LA River, however the LA Conservation Corp is my personal favorite because their "primary mission is to provide at-risk young adults and school-aged youth with opportunities for success through job skills training, education and work experience with an emphasis on conservation and service projects that benefit the community" For more information, contact the Los Angeles Conservation Corp., or go directly to the Paddle the LA River website.


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