If you could go back in time to the 1940’s and 1950’s, you would find a very different looking Los Angeles River than you see today.
Back then, the river was free-flowing and hosted a robust run of steelhead. Hard to believe these days since the poor dilapidated river has been reduced to a graffiti covered concrete drainage ditch in the heart of massive urban sprawl. Now, broken bottles and diapers are the norm…not chrome ocean-run rainbows.
But there are parts of the stream…upstream of downtown LA…that still kinda resemble an actual river. I spent some time exploring one such reach on Friday. It was exciting to see that there is still a bit of river left.
And it was thriving with waterfowl, plus many fish eating birds like cormorants, herons and egrets. In the slow pools, there were clouds of minnows and some slightly larger fish as well. In fact some folks were even fishing. I wanted to believe that the fish were schools of steelhead fry but I of course knew better.
As cool as it was to see so much wildlife mere feet from a e-waste recycling center and roaring I-5, it was also so damned depressing to see how destroyed this once amazing waterway is. So, it was with mixed emotions that explored this area. Here’s a photo essay of my trek…
Visiting LA over Thanksgiving not only made me feel lucky for all the family and friends I have but also that I live in a place where steelies still roam free. Maybe things aren’t what the used to be at home, but all you have to do is take a look at the Los Angeles River and feel fortunate for what you have. The sad state of the LA River, which used to play host to really good runs of steelhead, is also a grim reminder of what things can turn into if we don’t keep fighting the good fight of fishery conservation.
To read my sick and twisted fantasy of the LA River, click HERE
(NOTE: This article originally ran in the April 2009 issue of Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine)
Rush hour traffic is at a standstill on the graffiti-caked overpass 40 feet above our heads. Impatient commuters lay on their horns and bang on their steering wheels like caged monkeys as we hike towards the river. I step over a used rubber glove and then crouch down at the water’s edge near a soiled diaper. I try not to touch the water for fear of contracting some sort of unspeakable disease. A yellow Prestone jug floats by and almost looks as if it’s glowing in the low evening sun.
“Ain’t she beautiful, bro?” my guide asks with a huge grin.
This is definitely not my idea of paradise, but when my spinner gets crushed on the first cast and line starts ripping off my reel at an alarming rate, I start to reconsider. But let me back up here…Click here to read more…