Everything you need to know about public access to the L.A. River

Before you pick up a paddle, brush up on the recreational rules of the L.A. River, from kayaking to parking
LA River
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
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Summer in Los Angeles isn't complete without a trip to the Pacific, a drink on a rooftop bar and... kayaking the L.A. River? It may not be as pristine as the best beaches in L.A., but the river is increasingly becoming a worthwhile outdoor destination. Before you head out on the L.A. River, though, here are a few important things you need to know.

Is the L.A. River open to the public?

During most of the year, public access to the L.A. River is limited to adjacent pedestrian and bike baths. However, during the summer the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority allows the public to use two designated areas to walk, fish, and use non motorized and steerable boats such as kayaks.

Where and when can you access the L.A. River?

There are two recreational zones safe for public use during the summer. The Elysian Valley zone, between Fletcher Avenue and the 5, is open from May 29 through late September. The Sepulveda Basin zone, between Balboa and Burbank bvoulevards, is also open from May 29

late September.

What's the difference between the two zones?

The Elysian Valley zone resides in the Glendale Narrows, the only channelized section of the river with a non-concrete bottom. As a result, you'll find trees and grassy islands growing in the middle of the river. It's a relatively swift-moving section of the river, with Class I and II rapids.

The Sepulveda Basin zone sits near Lake Balboa and within a larger wildlife refuge and flood control plain. The water here is very calm, and the tree-lined banks are free of any concrete. Here's a closer look at that stretch of the river:

 

Where can you go kayaking?

Because of the stronger current in the Elysian Valley zone, you can only launch from Rattlesnake Park and take the kayak out at a sandbar down the river, just north of the 5. With the calmer current at the Sepulveda Basin zone, you can enter and exit the river from launch zones located underneath Balboa and Burbank boulevards.

What if you don't have your own kayak?

The following places offer limited kayak rentals and guided tours:

Paddle the L.A. River (Sepulveda Basin)

L.A. River Kayak Safari (Elysian Valley)

L.A. River Kayaks (Sepulveda Basin)

L.A. River Expeditions (Both)

Where can you park?

In Elysian Valley, limited parking is available near Confluence Park and along Fletcher Drive, with a vehicle loading zone on Riverside Drive near Oso Park. In the Sepulveda Basin, parking is available in a lot on Balboa Boulevard and along Woodley Avenue.

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