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L.A. River Opens for Recreational Use

Canoes, kayaks and inflatable rafts can now be floated down the Los Angeles River from the L.A. Zoo area to near Dodgers Stadium, but inner tubes or swimming will attract park rangers who say no.

That’s the word from the Mountain Resources and Conservation Agency, which culminated a years-long effort by opening up 2-1/2 miles of free-flowing river, trees and ponds to the public on Monday.

The stretch of river is lined with concrete banks, but has a rocky bottom and has been known for centuries as a place where subterranean water from the San Fernando Valley surfaced, before it historically disappeared into sand near what is now the Civic Center.

These days, the water is a combination of street runoff and nearly-pure cleaned water from the Tillman Water Treatment Plant in Sepulveda Basin, said MRCA spokeswoman Dash Solarz.

As for the water quality, “it’s been tested and it’s safe, but it’s not recommended for drinking,” she told City News Service.

“Steerable, non-water contact boats, inflatable canoes, those type of water craft are all okay on the river,” she said. Fish have not been stocked, but carp and other finned creatures are in the pools and rapids.

“I saw six fishermen — no fisherwomen — and some little boys with poles, “ Solarz said Monday. “They do catch fish, which is okay so long as they have a license.”

Rangers in kayaks and on bicycles are patrolling the river, which passes Glendale, Griffith Park and a part of Los Angeles aptly known in earlier days as “Frogtown” — now Atwater Village.

The open stretch is from a park at Fletcher Drive south to what rafters would call the “put-out point” at Oros Street, just north of the industrial concrete wasteland that lies beyond the hulking set of bridges for the Golden State (5) Freeway, the Arroyo Seco parkway and several rail tracks.

Several small rapids and riffles are included, Solarz said. But the thrill of rafting down the slot at the concrete bottom of the river towards Long Beach — made famous in dozens of movies and TV shows — is off limits.

Other than a small stretch of grass-lined river in Sepulveda Basin, the newly-opened stretch is nearly the only accessible stretch of the 51-mile-long river, which flows from Chatsworth to the Queen Mary.

“Tons of people have been in there today and everyone’s having a good time,” Solarz said.