11 Things You Didn't Know About the LA River
Unless you live, like, right by it, you probably think about the LA River almost never. But the fact of the matter is, the River's a very important part of LA history; not only was it the setting for the scientifically proven best scene in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (bet you knew that already), but it also once was actually a natural river, before most of it was paved over starting in 1939 (bet you didn't know that at all). In honor of the beginning of the season when you can kayak the still-natural parts of the LA River (yes, this is a real -- and really beautiful -- thing you can do through The Los Angeles Conservation Corps, among other groups), here are 11 facts you probably didn't know about the River.
1. It's been a key setting for tons (and tons) of movies
This totally makes sense, since so many movies are shot in LA, but still: everything from the Transformers series to Grease to Chinatown (of course) have had major plot points take place in and around the iconic concrete of the river.
2. The seminal LA punk band No Age staged an illegal show on the river's edge in 2007
It was sponsored by the now-defunct 'zine/cultural organization Arthur Magazine and about 75 people turned up. There's video of it right here and here, and you can watch the whole thing get busted up here.
3. You weren't allowed to do any recreational activities in the river... until 2013
That's the first year in 70 years that fishing, kayaking, and other activities were allowed -- and the first year that many people in the city started thinking about the river as anything other than runoff water.
4. Frank Gehry -- the architect who's also responsible for the Disney Hall -- is helping to reinvigorate (and redesign) the entire river
So what's the plan? Well, it's sort of top-secret -- but the team behind it just launched this site, which mentions everything from increased parks to rerouting where the water goes.
5. There are still parts of the river that are unpaved, and totally natural-looking
Namely, the parts you can kayak in: the flood-control basin in Van Nuys, the Glendale Narrows near Griffith Park, and the end of the river, near Long Beach.
6. The River was LA's primary source of drinking water until 1913
There were also settlements of people living by it as early as the 1700s.
7. The decision to pave the river came after a massive flood in 1938
Among the many things the floodwaters destroyed was a side-of-the-river brothel, which is too bad, because you know the Houston Brothers would totally have made that the best bar in the city if it had survived.
8. The river runs 48 miles, start to end
It begins, officially, in Canoga Park, where two streams -- Bell Creek and Arroyo Calabasas -- meet, and terminates in Long Beach, as this amazing archive photo shows.
9. The water is not sewage runoff
The water -- 23 million gallons of it, per day -- is treated and sanitized before it ends up in the river. We're not saying, like, drink it, but you're also not gonna repeat that gross scene from the Vacation remake if you get wet kayaking.
10. It's home to tons of free-swimming fish
Seriously: carp, bass, and tilapia swim in the river, though none of them are native -- the last native fish to be caught in the river was a trout back in 1940.
11. The city doesn't own the entire river
According to a recent LA Times story, about 15% of the river is privately owned -- by everyone from Warner Bros., to the guy who owns the Smoke House restaurant in Burbank, which he bought for "a few hundred bucks."
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