The LA River is a conundrum. Once a natural body of water that flowed through the San Fernando Valley and nourished crops along its banks, it was prone to frequent flooding and as the city grew it was deemed too unstable and threatened the communities that sprang up around it. In the 1930’s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built concrete walls along its length to contain and control the flood waters.

Today there is no part of the river that is natural, all of it has been altered and engineered. Even so, islands of sediment, grasses, and trees build up in the center of the river’s flow, and those attract an amazing variety of birds. Some are year-round residents, others stop off on their migratory paths to rest and feed.

I have been visiting a stretch of the river since March of 2020, and was constantly surprised at the bird life to be found. I have made many photographs that you would never believe originated there. But recently the path of the river has been changed, for what purpose I don’t know. What I do know is that the center islands have been mostly cleared, and most of the birds have gone as well.

I walked it this afternoon before sunset, I still found some beautiful little scenes to photograph, but the broad palette of colors and creatures is largely gone, and I’m saddened by that. Rivers are not easily tamed however, so given time, maybe my little stretch of it will assert itself once more and bring a bit of chaos back to the manmade order of things.

2 Replies to “Walkabout 1/23/22 – LA River”

  1. It’s fascinating how little spots like this, whether completely natural or not, become migratory stop overs. Central Park in New York City is another example of this. I’m sorry to hear how the river changed. Every time I think about coming back later to photograph something instead of taking the time now I think back to things like this. If we wait until later we may completely miss the opportunity, so whenever possible take advantage of it now, there’s no guarantee it’ll still be around later. I love the photo of the Anna’s hummingbird, just gorgeous, and something I don’t get to see in Virginia.

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