Don’t expect things to flow quickly if you canoe down the L.A. River

Mar 4, 2013

Photo by U.S. Army Corp of Engineers/Flickr

A proposal to open up the L.A River through Cypress Park and Elysian Valley to boating this summer conjures up images of a lazy afternoon spent drifting down stream. The reality, however, will be much different.  In fact, it sounds like anyone who attempts to kayak or canoe the approximately 2-1/2 mile section of the river south of Fletcher Drive will spend a lot of their time carrying and dragging their boat or riding in cars and shuttle buses.

“There will be paddling. There will be dragging,” said Walter Young with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which will help provide security and maintenance during the pilot program. “This is a challenging trip.”

Young made his remarks during a recent meeting about  The L.A. River Recreational Zone,  which would open the river south of Fletcher Drive to canoeing, hiking and other recreational for a three-month period beginning Memorial Day.  But anyone anyone who thinks they will be able to float down the river on an inner-tube or race across it on a jet ski will be disappointed.  They are not allowed.  Only non-motorized canoes and kayaks will be permitted, and they can only enter and exit the river at specific points.

Getting those canoes into and out of the water will also be a complex and perhaps time-consuming process. While boats will enter the river near the Fletcher Drive bridge in Elysian Valley, some of the boaters will have to park their cars and trucks under the 5 Freeway near the Cypress Park Home Depot. Getting back to those vehicles will mean taking a shuttle bus that runs along Riverside Drive. The process may seen “cumbersome” but it’s not unusual for kayakers and canoists, Young.

But once those boaters get into the river, it’s not guaranteed the water will be deep enough to support a canoe or kayak. The boaters will have to prepare for a fair amount of portaging  to get across rocky crossing, Young said. In fact, Young said there will be a long walk from where the boaters have to exit the river and get to Oso Park, where a shuttle bus will take people back to their vehicles.

How long will this 2-1/2 mile long journey down the L.A. River take? Perhaps two to three hours – not including the shuttle ride  – for those are familiar with that section of the river, said, George Wolfe, President of L.A. River Expeditions. “More [time] if you’ve boated before but have never been through it; a whole lot more if you’ve never boated at all.”

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