Long a neglected part of our city's landscape, the Los Angeles River once defined life in the area. Before there was a California, or even a United States, the Gabrieleño Indians had a community of over 45 villages dotting the San Fernando Valley and present day Glendale, and the River was their foundation, providing water and a diverse selection of food. In 1769, Spain's Gaspar de Portola "discovered" the river during his explorations, dubbing it El Río de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula. Later it was shortened to reflect the name of the city growing around it -- the waterway that once defined the region now becoming its subordinate.
Although the river was fairly dry for most of the year, winter rains often brought with them dramatic and unpredictable flash floods well into the 1930s. After a devastating flood in 1938, Angelenos began to demand flood control measures, resulting in the Army Corps of Engineers' work over the next 30 years to essentially turn the river into a man-made storm drain.
Now, work on the Los Angeles River has moved from flood control to conservation, as advocacy groups and individuals take on the task of preserving and restoring the river and its wildlife. The Los Angeles River itself is increasingly the site of artistic, social, and educational activity, once becoming a lifeline linking a growing and diverse population.
Youth Voices is a digital literacy and civic engagement program that invites youth to explore their neighborhood and become active participants in all aspects of their community. Take a look at some of their work and the Youth Voices curriculum.