Fifty-One Miles of Concrete
It is hard to believe that the large concrete ditch that thousands of hundreds of Los Angelinos pass everyday in downtown Los Angeles is in fact the Los Angeles River.
Beginning in the 1930s and finally completed in the 1950s, most of the Greater Los Angeles Area's rivers, creeks, and almost any other natural waterway were filled with concrete for the sake of flood control. Among these was the L.A. River, which from the city's founding until the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct was the city's prime source of water.
Most of the water that is visible is from underground reservoir. The river begins in Encino and was only a few feet wide until flood control projects expanded the channel. It continues in an easterly path, turning south, towards the sea at a place known as the Glendale Narrows. As it continues south it is joined by several other tributaries, the Arroyo Seco and Rio Hondo being the most prominent.
The natural course of the Los Angeles River has been hardly anything but constant. At one time it turned west and joined Ballona Creek, which ends at Marina del Rey. Previously, the Rio Hondo was the channel of the San Gabriel River and the L.A. river lost its name upon their junction when in the late 1800s floods created the San Gabriel's present channel, and until flood control permenantly changed the river's path, the L.A. River's terminus was near the east end of Terminal Island.
Today, a small, but growing number of people are joining Friends of the Los Angeles River, a non-profit orginization dedicated to restoring the natural beauty of the river. Although one problem facing these people is the fact that except for a few portions in Griffith Park, and the Glendale Narrows, the river looks like a big ugly ditch laced with homeless, shopping cars, and graffiti. Perhaps one reason for restoring is that to some extent it is the city's soul, as it was the only reason the city was even founded.