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L.A. River Excursion: Sepulveda Basin's East and West Bank, Balboa Blvd. to Burbank Blvd.

The Sepulveda Basin is one of few areas along the Los Angeles River that offers a glimpse into what the river once was and what the rest of the river may one day be.

Unpaved paths on both sides of the river are filled with walkers and joggers on the weekend. Smaller paths diverge into forests of mulefat, cottonwood, mugwort, buckwheat, and elderberry. Canada Geese routinely fly overhead in a V formation, and egrets mill along the bank amongst the foliage waiting to close in on a carp. Small rapids form where rocks have piled up as the water weaves in and out of islands. It smells like a river.

It still takes a little imagination to see this river as a river in the truest sense. One cannot crop out the golf courses that sit on both sides of the river - yes, two golf courses - while the plastic bags entangled in branches and shopping carts half submerged in the river's basin cannot be ignored. And you definitely cannot block out the buzz of the remote controlled airplanes in the near distance.

Yet this is the beautiful irony of this particular stretch of the river. In the middle of "sprawlsville," where the 405 intersects with the 101, this hidden gem provides access to and sanctuary for nature, recreational resources for families, and tranquility from the chaos of our city. Just north of the river - within walking distance - is the Anthony C. Beilenson Park, filled with picnicking families, quinceaneras, and the occasional jumparoo. People on rental bikes and rollerblades ride along the paved paths of the park's man-made lake. And to the northeast is a wildlife preserve and japanese garden.

As river advocate and city councilman Tom La Bonge would say, "Let's Live it, let's love it!" This is your river Los Angeles, get out this weekend and enjoy it!

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