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Los Angeles River recreation zones at Sepulveda, Elysian Valley open up for the summer

Memorial Day marks the first day for public access at two recreational zones on the Los Angeles River. Sunrise to sunset, in the Sepulveda Basin and in Elysian Valley, you can fish, bike, and walk along the riverbed. The biggest draw again this year is expected to be the kayaking, with expanded programs in both areas.

Fernando Gomez, chief ranger for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, has led trips down the river for four years. He says he’s seen a more diverse group of people come kayaking on the river each year, “just a variety of people” – from Orange County, from San Diego, neighbors to Marsh Park, people from across the river – many of whom have never been in a boat before.  

He says the higher profile of the river is a good thing for these potential visitors.

“Now they have a capability of renting kayaks at the park so people can enjoy the river in a different way,” he said.

Friends of the Los Angeles River and LA River Kayak Safari will offer guided tours leaving from just around Fletcher Avenue, twice a day on the weekend, once a day weekdays.

The MRCA has been offering previews.

“Here we are, about 100 yards from the freeway,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell from his kayak. We put in at Marsh Park, in his 13th council district. “And yet we have this lovely river island. It’s very common to see great blue heron white egrets. It’s very tranquil right here five minutes from downtown LA.”

At Sepulveda Basin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees the recreation area. Los Angeles Conservation Corps and L.A. River Expeditions will offer guided tours leaving from north of Victory Boulevard, and people with their own steerable boats will be able to travel that stretch of river.

Gomez says in that zone, kayaks aren’t allowed on the soft sides of the river where they can interfere with wildlife.

While you might see more nature than you’d expect, you’ll see less plastic. O’Farrell and Friends of the Los Angeles River’s Shelly Backlar say since the bag ban enacted in L.A. several months ago, a lot fewer bags foul the river.