Get ready to kick back this summer on the L.A. River

Kayakers shown last year preparing to launch into the river in Elysian Valley | Martha Benedict


ELYSIAN VALLEY — Memorial Day kicks off the third official season of the L.A. River Recreation Zone, where urbanites will be able to canoe, bird watch or fish the summer away along the waterway.

In the past two years, the season ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But this year it looks like the zone will be open longer. A City Council committee has approved a request by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which oversees the zone, to keep the river activities going up until October 1. The final say on the extension, however, needs to come from the Army Corps of Engineers.

If approved, the public will have more time to walk, watch birds, kayak and fish (with permits) during daylight hours on the section of waterway that runs between Elysian Valley and Cypress Park. Here are some ways you will be play on the L.A. River this summer:

Kayak/Canoe yourself
Residents are allowed to bring non-motorized, steerable boats (think kayaks and canoes) down the Class I river rapids, which takes about 2-½ hours from Rattlesnake Park to Confluence Park. No inner tubes or floaty mats.

Sign Up For A Guided Kayak Tour
Starting this holiday weekend, two organizations will offer kayak tours of the 2.5-mile stretch of the Glendale Narrows: L.A. River Expeditions and L.A River Kayak Safari (which combines bike riding and kayaking).

Say Hello To The Kayak Patrol
In anticipation of more people on the river (last year 12,000 were counted, double the first year numbers), the MRCA is upping its presence on the river by sending out kayak patrols that will be the “eyes and ears of the rangers.” Donning yellow shirts and River Rescue helmets, these folks have been especially trained in first aid, CPR, swift water rescue and customer service.

Fish On The River
Make sure you get a permit. And be careful where you swing that pole.

Keep An Eye Open For Community Paddle Evenings
Sponsored by the MRCA and L.A. River Kayak Safari, these free events are for locals who will get instruction and paddling time in the ponded areas near Marsh Park.

Register For The L.A. River Boat Race On August 8
L.A. River Expedition will host the L.A. River Boat Race, which will challenge paddlers of all abilities. One course will be for sprinters and beginners and a second, longer for more experienced racers. Better start practicing.

Hang Out At The Frog Spot
The Frog Spot, a popular weekend pop-up organized by the Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR), opens up on Memorial Day weekend. On Saturday, the L.A. River Rover will be on the scene from noon – 5 pm; later,  three live bands and beer/wine from 5 pm – 8 pm. Organizers are planning for a summer of poetry readings, acoustic music shows, discussions, free yoga classes and more.

Check Out The New Spoke Café
The bike shop/foodie pop-up will offer music on Saturday at 3 pm from the Velophiliacs as well as offer Coolhaus ice cream and other snacks.

Bird Watching
Audubon offers weekly bird walks alongside the L.A. River. Free, of course.

The simplest things are best. Pack a picnic and head to Marsh Park (or any other riverside parklet) for an afternoon of DIY dining.

A word about the L.A. River and the drought:

Water levels are lower than in previous years, but nowhere near critical. The current drought should not affect much of the river activity since most of the summertime water comes from two reclamation plants upstream: LA-Glendale in Atwater and the Tillman Plant in Encino.

“Yes, people are conserving, so the water level is a little lower, but there’s still plenty of push and splash thanks to the rocks and drops that are in place there,” says Anthea Raymond, a senior staff member from LA River Expeditions. “It is always a great time.”

Brenda Rees is a writer and resident of Eagle Rock.

The Eastsider’s Daily email digest includes all new content published on The Eastsider during the last 24 hours. Expect the digest to land in your in email in box around 7 p.m. It’s free to sign up!

Once you submit your information, please check your email box to confirm your subscription.


  1. looking forward to this summer living by the river! the bicycle spoke cafe is really chill, hope they open it up on weekdays and serve food and I would be there a lot- beer wouldn’t hurt either!

  2. Hi Frogtownguy!

    We plan on doing all that just as soon as we are able to get through the expensive and long permitting process for LA. For now we are doing the best we can with outfitting a bike shop and having as much pre packaged foods and goods and we can. We look forward to continuing to bring Frogtown new surprises and improvements as time goes on.

    Thanks for the support.

  3. Having seen how people drive in LA, I’m not holding out great hopes that they would be watching where they swing their fly-fishing poles. It definitely would make me nervous about being around any fisherpeople.

    • Laura, fly-fishermen (and women) never, ever refer to a fly rod as a ‘pole.’ And, most of us are pretty careful on our backcasts, though we sometimes forget to look behind us for lookyloos, as the sport is totally relaxing and blissful. You should try it sometime.

      If you see me at Echo Park teaching people, just ask. I will be helping kids learn to fish at the lake, catch and release ethic encouraged. Take a pic, let it go.

      • One Bit of Advice When Watching a Fly-Fisher — never stand on their rod side, the cast will hit you. Stand to their left (most folks are right-handed) and you will be safe.

        And, most of us squash down the barb on the hook, and fish barbless, Hook easily comes out of mouths. Of fish.

  4. We kayaked down the river last year and it was surprisingly peaceful, beautiful, and we didn’t encounter any fishing folks.

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *