This Saturday I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the Los Angeles River by those who know it best: the non-profit advocacy group Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR). FOLAR are the premier advocate for rehabilitating the river, and I jumped at the chance to join them for what I knew would be a fantastic day.
Our tour leaders were FOLAR outreach director Joe Linton, and environmental writer Jenny Price. They did not disappoint, providing us with a comprehensive look at the many faces of the river. Over the course of the day we stopped at five different locations, covering everything from the verdant, almost-natural Glendale Narrows area, to the incredibly industrial jungle of Vernon/Maywood.
Prior to taking the tour, my main impression of the river was the view I got as I crossed it on the Metro Gold Line, between the Lincoln Heights and Chinatown stops. Occasionally I had seen what I thought were birds wading and swimming in the river, and I was curious to know what they were. I brought my binoculars along for the tour, and was completely shocked by the diversity of bird species that use the river as habitat. According to my notes, we observed 17 different species, including three species of duck that I had never seen before! Who would have guessed that the LA River could be host to such biodiversity? I had certainly never heard of it as a common destination for birdwatchers.
Of course, the reason the river isn’t a popular destination is due to its highly unnatural condition as a concrete-lined channel wandering through some of the city’s most industrial areas. This is why FOLAR’s river tours are such a great idea. You get to visit multiple stops in a comfortable bus, feeling confident as you travel with a large group of people, and benefiting from the knowledge of experienced guides who know the river like the back of their hands. As you stop in more and more places, you become more and more comfortable with the river and its environs, become ever more fearless in your explorations. I certainly plan to come back to the river to walk, bike, and of course, see some more birds.
Over the coming week, I’ll continue to post more details on where we went, what I saw, and the history and context that I learned. For now, I highly recommend that everyone who is interested in learning about the great, much maligned resource that is the Los Angeles River takes this wonderful tour. The tour is next offered on Saturday, February 17th from 10 am -4:30 pm, led by Jenny Price. To be placed on the list of attendees, visit FOLAR’s Riverwalk webpage to reserve your spot with PayPal.