In 1939 after a decade of devastating floods, Federal Authorities began to create a concrete "straight jacket" for the river. With channelization, the natural habitat suffered. By the 1960′s Freeway expansions, industrial pollution and street run-off further degraded the river. Yet, in the Elysian Valley stretch, a high water table and the dynamics of the river's bends around the local hills left a soft-bottom (instead of concrete,)creating an environment for aquatic plants, fish, birds, and humans. Sedimentary islands are also home to many river-specific trees and animals, include a diversity of birds.
The Los Angeles River is on the mend.
A coalition of forces -including paddlers- is moving the river towards restoration and health. Designated as a navigable river by the Federal Government, the river is now protected by the Clean Water Act, giving impetus to clean up efforts and habitat restoration. In time, the LA River must by law reach a level of water quality that is acceptable to swimming. Most stream water in summer is clean treated water so water quality is acceptable for kayaking with a few common sense precautions. During rainy weather we do not paddle because street run of compromises water quality. For all citizens our goal is a river that is ever more habitable for all creatures- including humans.
Both trips are exactly the same in terms of logistics and suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. To determine if you are in suitable physical condition to join us (most are) please read our trips details
LA River Kayak Safari
Is an urban-nature adventure that combines bikes, kayaks, instruction and conversation about the Los Angeles River. We discuss the past and future of the LA river. Along the way you learn how to paddle and run small rapids. We pass through Elysian Valley (Frogtown,)next to the future State Park. See Special Arrangement Trips below. Our offerings:
1.75 miles. Total trip time is around 3 hours. (12:45pm-3:30pm) including bike ride, instruction, discussion and time on the water.
1.75 miles. Total trip time around 3 hours. (3:45 – 6:45 pm) including bike ride, instruction, discussion and time on the water.
High end Fluid Kayaks. Guides who are local, patient, fit and swift-water rescure trained. Abundant wildlife; we often encounter a plethora of birds and other species, some rare in Southern California.
This is an adventuresome LA River experience. You will encounter mild rapids, "lazy river" stretches, rocky sections and as well as lots of flora and fauna. We guide you every step of the way, including helping navigate the correct route (the river forks in some places) and teaching you how to kayak the mild rapids. We provide all equipment, instruction and logistics. We also work closely with the rangers of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) to make your trip a safe and fun one.
Requirements for Patrons
This is a somewhat strenuous trip that involves navigating several small rapids, and the occasional portage (getting out of your boat to move it.)
We care for you and your well-being but you need to know that you will be counted on to assist with boat moving at the end of the trip. (At the Put In we handle everything).
We have successfully guided people of all levels of physical condition.
We recommend this trip for any level of paddler but it is preferable if you engage in some form of ongoing exercise. Older folks who exercise are quite able to take the trip. Young people 10-18 years old pick it up almost immediately. (See further details later in this document).
We have a strict weight limit of 210lbs.
Later in the 2017 season (later June or July) we may have some new boats that allow us to increase the weight limit. Inquire via email on our website if you have questions. If you are near or over the weight limit, this trip is not for you. We are not discriminatory but is based on the limits of our boats for this stretch of river. Please take an honest and truthful assessment of your weight. If you are bringing a group please make sure everyone make the limit.
Be aware you will get wet.
If you fear water, LA River kayaking is not recommended. Being goodspirited is the most important criteria for your enjoyment of the trip.
Parking and Start Location
Parking is limited in Elysian Valley. Please park on Riverside Dr. near Oso Park which is the start location. Oso Park is at the corner of Oros Street and Riverside Drive, Los Angeles, Ca 90031. Do not park on the streets interior to Elysian Valley out of respect for the neighborhood. There is plenty of room on Riverside Dr. which is a short walk from the start point at Osos Park. When you see our big blue and white truck, you have arrived at the start location. Note that the start location is Oso Park----NOT our home base at the Frogspot. Please arrive at Oso Park by the start time of your tour. Be on time or forfeit your trip without refund. We get permits for our put in times and cannot wait for stragglers!
Park as described above and meet us near our Blue and White truck at Oso Park.
Sign required waivers.
Bike ride to Put In.
Instruction and talks
Arrive at Put In, hydrate, bathroom break, river talk, paddle instruction.
Gear up and Put in
Paddle downstream to Take Out
At take out all will assist bringing boats to truck.
you are bringing the dream of a restored Los Angeles River to reality!
Overall, please travel light. Backpacks, snacks, electronics, towels are NOT encouraged. Leave them in the car if [possible. The lighter you travel the easier it will be for you. We highly encourage you to leave your phone behind and enjoy an urban nature experience free from intrusion. Assume that whatever you carry can and will get wet. Protect valuables in waterproof container or bag. If you must carry medicines or other valuables protect them in a waterproof "dry bag." (Ziploc bags are not sufficient).
What to Bring
Closed toed shoes that can get wet
Old tennis shoes are best! (Do not bring heavy work or hiking boots).
Fast drying clothes.
Swimwear is ok but be aware that we navigate around rocks and plants. You will be exposed to the sun. Most people prefer fast drying, protective clothing.
Reusable water bottle that can be secured to the kayak.
If you absolutely need to carry valuable personal items or medications put it in a dry bag that you can get at REI or other outdoor shops. Medicine, cameras that are not waterproof, cell phones, electronic keys etc. should all be left behind or be in a dry bag.
What Not to Bring
Throw away water bottles.
They are hard to secure and end up polluting the river.
Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the Recreation Zone per the rules of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA.)
Drugs of any kind
Unless by prescription. Even if you have a prescription, no marijuana or smoking of any kind is allowed due to park rules.
Cell phones or other personal belongings that can be damaged by water.
Such things must either be in waterproof case or left behind.
Heavy backpack or other heavy items.
These can affect the balance of your boat and cause it to capsize more easily.
Flip flops and open-toed shoes ARE NOT allowed.
If you show up with flip flops we cannot take you along on the trip. They are not considered safe by the park authorities. Your ticket will not be refunded.
Jeans, flannel shirts or other slow drying and heavy clothes.
Special Notes on Kids and Older Persons
Kids 10 and up are great!
Sometimes we take even younger ones- but only by special arrangement (email to inquire.) They pick it up very fast. Kids must be accompanied by a responsible adult who is either the parent or a person who has written permission from the parent to accompany the child on the kayak safari. Our trips are limited to 4 children per trip unless we make special arrangements. We are willing to work with you to special arrangements for groups of kids. Inquire by email.
Recommended that kids be at ease with water.
Kids who have some water experience and are at ease with water as well as reasonably athletic will be fine to complete this journey. Children who do not meet these criteria should not be taken on the trip. If you have trouble deciding, please email us and we can assist.
Older adults (seniors) can do it, with some cautions
We have successfully guided many seniors on the river. Do be aware the trip is strenuous and will include some portions where you must pull along a 38 lbs. kayak. We assist you as much as possible but you should expect at times to get wet and kayakers even occasionally do fall out of their kayak. Your personal floatation device will buoy you if in deeper water and we will assist you. If you are a person who consistently exercises, can climb the concrete embankment while carrying a kayak with another person, and is not fearful of water, you should be fine. Attitude is very important. If you have any questions, email us.
As stated before
If you do not exercise consistently, are over 210lbs, or fear water, this trip is not recommended. You need the basic core strength to lift yourself out of the boat from sitting numerous times during the trip. For any who do not feel up to the full trip (due to the above cautions) we have open and free Community Paddle Evenings one night per month where everyone can attend. These are short pond paddles but still great fun. Check back at lariverkayaksafari.org/booking.html for further updates.
All patrons will wear PFDs (personal flotation device) and approved kayak helmets.
We carry first aid kids and have been trained in First Aid and other life-saving techniques.
We carry throw ropes to assist rescue.
Please inform us if you have any special medical condition that might affect your ability to undertake this outdoor activity or require our special attention.
Our guides are swiftwater rescued trained, fit, and informed. We take care with your safety.
Special Arrangement Trips
Groups building, non profits, educational or camp trips
Contact us to make special arrangements or simply book at a discount on Monday, Tuesday, Wed, and Thursday.
Occasionally we take a longer trip that is 2.5 miles long.
For intermediate and advanced paddlers only due to a challenging rock navigation stretch. Contact us to find about upcoming trips, often on Fridays.
We will run a limited number of trips in the milder Sepulveda stretch of the river.
Contact us for information on how to arrange.
We are dedicated to the river and to creating tangible benefits for our community, Elysian Valley (aka Frogtown.) We select and maintain the best gear that is perfectly suited to paddling the Los Angeles River. Our experienced guides know the river and provide you with innovative instruction that develops your paddling skills fast.
Steven Appleton has created award-winning public art works in the U.S. as well as Europe and Brasil. He is also deeply involved in river restoration and revitalization. A long time Elysian Valley resident, he's been part of the visionary conversation about the LA River for years. His affinity for wild rivers originates from his experiences canoeing the rivers of Michigan as a boy.
Grove Pashley is an entertainment photographer, environmental activist and lifetime outdoor enthusiast. While growing up in Utah he kayaked and canoed its many lakes, ponds and rivers. In those days he was nicknamed "nature boy", a moniker that again makes sense since his move to live and work next to the urban wildness of the LA River.