Arroyo Seco - The Spine Of Civilization

For several thousand years, the hills surrounding this small tributary of the Los Angeles River were home to the Hahamog'na people, the river's banks a rich source of both steelhead trout—now extinct in the area—and medicinal flora.

When Gaspar de Portolà arrived to the area in 1770, he named the river the Arroyo Seco, or dry stream. The name was misleading, though, as the Arroyo flooded regularly, leading the Spaniards to settle away from its confluence near Downtown Los Angeles. Perhaps they should have learned a lesson or two from the Hahamog'na, whose homesteads were perched high up on the hills.

As the city grew, the Arroyo Seco corridor grew as well—part of the land boom that was transforming the entire region. It also served as the main transportation throughway between Pasadena, Downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains and Valley, making the area attractive to non-city dwellers who wanted to be close to urban hustle and bustle.

Afraid that regular floods would threaten residents and property values, engineers channelized the Arroyo Seco and built one of the first freeways in America—the Arroyo Seco Parkway—alongside the river's existing path, replacing the natural environment with a man-made one in the process.

Above, Christopher Nyerges, outdoor survival instructor and author, describes the relationship between the Arroyo Seco and the Native Americans; plus a slideshow of views of the river after development of the neighborhood.

The Spine of Civilization
Christopher Nyerges recounts the significance of the Arroyo Seco as a source of nourishment, community and transport to the Indigenous people who lived along its banks.
Explore the related interactive mural


Rubén Funkahautl Guevara



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The Hahamongna were not a tribe, they were part of the Tongva people who shared a common language and culture. Hahamongna was a village, one of nearly 200 such Tongva settlements around what is now the Los Angeles area.


We agree, it is our understanding that Hahamog'na was the village of Tongva Indians at the head of the Arroyo Seco which we describe more fully in the following page:

We also interviewed Chief Red Blood Anthony Morales and Walking Earth Keeper Mark Acuna of the Gabrieleno/Tongva People for our LA River installment:


The last Hahamongna person sold the Arroyo Seco part above Foothill- he said to me that he was the last of the Hahamongna. Seems to me that Chief Red Blood Anthony Morales and Walking Earth Keeper Mark Acuna are trying to muscle their way in for a payout, like the Sierra Club tries to extort money from anybody and everybody.