California reservoirs only have a year of water left, groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows, and almonds are, apparently, just the worst. So it seems strange to say that the Los Angeles River is on a roll right now. We get it: For most Angelenos, the river is a disgusting dribble, a concrete-lined eyesore that’s best suited for Hollywood chase scenes. But give it a few years and a billion or so dollars, and the LA River can become a lush channel of civic pride. Until then, these seven tours, events and art installations are transforming the river into an exciting public space, no Terminator necessary.
Sure, it doesn't look so glamorous now, but help ease the river along during the Friend's of the Los Angeles River's annual cleanup. The cleanup tackles a different area each Saturday—the Valley, the Eastside and South LA—with multiple meet-up locations at each. The April "work party" include live music performances, gift giveaways, family activities and refreshments.
Artist Rafa Esparaza stacked 1,500 adobe blocks in Glassell Park to create the ultimate riverside palette for local graffiti artists. Every month, this installation welcomes a new batch of artists to decorate its two blank walls; the next iteration, which starts May 3, welcomes Chicano muralist Leo Limón and street artist Roach. You can find the installation at the Bowtie Project (approx. 2800 Casitas Ave), a collaboration between Clockshop and California State Parks.
Speaking of the Bowtie Project, take a walk along the Glendale Narrows parcel with Clockshop's Julia Meltzer, star architect Michael Maltzan and Public Works Commissioner Barbara Romero. The April 22 tour—which already has a waitlist—is part of the 3rd Los Angeles Project, a lecture series led by architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne.
There’s a lot more river to explore than a single art project, and this ambitious bike ride just might be the best way to do so. Take one of 10 different routes, ranging from 15 to 100 miles long, that start and end at the Autry Center in Griffith Park or the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. Stick around for a post-ride festival with a raffle, live music and food to reward your efforts.
If you’d prefer to explore on your own two feet, hoof it on May 3 at this annual fun run. Kids can partake, too, with a free 1K. All proceeds benefit the LA Parks Foundation’s initiative to transform the river into a swimmable, boatable waterway.
Daytime runs? How routine. Start your run at sunset instead and continue underneath the stars—at least, the few you can see from the Valley—at this nighttime running series. The Earth Day installment of this 5K and kids 400M includes games, live music, a firepit with s'mores and free beer from Golden Road Brewing, all in the name of raising awareness for the beautification of the river. Just make sure to bundle up and wear a headlamp.
It’s alright, the water won’t hurt you. Actually, we’re not scientists, so don’t quote us on that. You can, however, cite the success of the Los Angeles River Recreation Program. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, two stretches of the river in Elysian Valley and the Sepulveda Basin are open to the public to walk, fish and kayak. Don’t have your own kayak? There are a whole bunch of kayaking companies with (limited) reservations that should begin to trickle out soon.