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The Living River By Robin Smith

Birds, trees and wildflowers - who would have thought you could find all of this along the Los Angeles River? Parts of the river have a soft bottom, lined with boulders and cobble, creating a lush habitat for wildlife. Unlike much of the river, these areas weren’t paved because of a high ground water table, or they serve as flood control basins. Willow trees, native scrub, and islands of reeds and grasses are ideal nesting spots for birds, both native and migratory. Fish and crayfish swim these waters, enticing hawks, kestrels, and shorebirds.

The Los Angeles River is most river-like along its unpaved sections (totaling 13 miles), which are some of the best bird watching spots in L.A. County. Here are a few places to explore:

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve 6350 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys 91406 The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve is a sanctuary for an astonishing number of birds. Located in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, this soft bottom habitat is one of the best bird watching places around. It features an 11-acre lake with wildlife viewing stations. Ringed by mountains, it is a haven for herons, egrets and ducks.

Marsh Park by the Glendale Narrows 2960 Marsh Street, Los Angeles 90039 Marsh Park, in the Elysian Valley neighborhood, is a three acre park next to the river with a small playground, picnic area and a stunning view of the Verdugo Hills. Follow the Los Angeles River Greenway Trail and Bike Path north to the adjacent Glendale Narrows (2.3 miles). Herons, egrets, stilts, and ducks roost along the water’s edge. At sunset, the air smells like fresh water, wildflowers, and sage. A chorus of crickets, bullfrogs, and birds burst forth and the setting sun’s reflection turns the river into gold.

Glendale Narrows during sunset

Long Beach Estuary at Willow Street De Forest Ave. & W. 25th Way, Long Beach 90806 Cormorants spread their wings to dry, turning and posing like bodybuilders at the Long Beach estuary, where the Los Angeles River meets the Pacific Ocean. Wildflowers bloom in the spring sea air. A murder of crows circle a Cooper’s Hawk, protecting their nests. Shorebirds troll the waters for fish. The walk begins where the concrete ends, as the river outruns its concrete bottom for the three miles to the sea.

Imagine a natural free-flowing river throughout Los Angeles County. Planned revitalization projects aim to remove more pavement from the river floor to increase soft bottom areas. Thriving trees and plants freshening the air we breathe, fabulous birds in flight painting our urban skies; this would change the face of Los Angeles.

Beautiful riverbanks of Long Beach Estuary 10 Symbiosis The lush vegetation of the Sepulveda Basin

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