4th Stop: Confluence of LA River and Arroyo Seco
This was one of the most dramatic stops on the tour. Tour leader Joe Linton provided great context, noting that this was the location where Western explorers first encountered and described the river in 1769. Father Juan Crespi, part of the expedition, described the river as “meandering through dense forest of willow and sycamore, elderberry and wild grape.”
Well, he would be quite shocked today. We got off the tour bus, squeezed through a gate, and walked down a concrete path along the Arroyo Seco channel to the river. What we found was a massive, highly engineered concrete culvert, with not a spot of greenery to be seen.
The area where we paused beside the river was beneath two freeways and a freight rail line, with graffiti covering every square inch. There was a dry spot a few feet out into the river, which the more adventurous among us walked out to.
It was quite a dramatic view, and it was difficult to imagine what the area must have been like in Father Crespi’s day. Joe described the confluence as “maybe the ugliest place in Los Angeles.” Certainly given the history of the spot, I wouldn’t disagree.