Get us in your inbox

LA River
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

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

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

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, typically from Memorial Day through late September (this year: May 30–Sept 30, 2022).

You’ll find the Elysian Valley zone between Fletcher Avenue and the 5. There are two non-motorized boat launches between Fletcher and the 2 and one at the end of Newell Street, near La Colombe; the take out point is at the end of Oros Street.

The Sepulveda Basin zone runs between the river’s crossings with Balboa and Burbank Boulevards. You’ll find access points by each of those major boulevards, plus a third just southeast of Lake Balboa.

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 from a trip we took in 2016:


Where exactly can you go kayaking?

Because of the stronger current in the Elysian Valley zone, you’ll launch from the previously mentioned northern points and take the kayak out at a sandbar down the river, just north of the 5. It’s a one-direction trip, so you’ll have to sort out transportation between your start and end points if you’re not kayaking as part of a guided tour.

With the calmer current at the Sepulveda Basin zone, you can enter and exit the river from the three previously mentioned launch points and paddle in either direction.

Can I bring my own kayak?

Yep! If you have a kayak or canoe, you can use the access points to paddle the river free of charge.

What if you don’t have your own kayak?

The following places offer limited kayak rentals and guided tours:

L.A. River Kayak Safari (Elysian Valley)

L.A. River Kayaks (Elysian Valley)

L.A. River Expeditions (Sepulveda Basin, Elysian Valley)

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.

    You may also like
    You may also like