The L.A. Conservation Corp announced earlier this week that kayaking tours of the L.A. River would be back with a bigger program -- five days worth of tours instead of two. Now, news comes today from another organization, L.A. River Expeditions, that they have also obtained a permit to conduct tours, bringing two additional days each week to round out a full seven days throughout the summer.
"We didn't know it would be expanded at all," said a happily surprised George Wolfe, President of L.A. River Expeditions, who this year is partnering with the Fresno-based San Joaquin River Stewardship Program.
Wolfe will run two trips on Sundays and Mondays while the Corp will hold three trips each day for the rest of the week. Registrations, which will be booked via their respective websites, have not begun, but trips could begin as early as Thursday, July, 19. Tours are held on a two-mile stretch at the Sepulveda Dam area in the San Fernando Valley and will last through September.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers permitted guided kayak trips on the river for the first time last summer as a pilot program. The demand was huge: tickets were sold out in minutes for the only-260 spots available. This year there will be over 2,000, which L.A. Conservation Corp's Mike Mena acknowledges will not be enough. "This is one step in the ultimate long-term goal to make recreation on the river for the many, not just the select few with tickets," he said.
Wolfe said the high demand and lack of space on trips was unfortunate, but is the kind of problem he'd rather see. It was just a few years ago that the Army Corp was resistant to opening up the river, viewed for decades as a flood channel, for recreational use. Wolfe says the agency deserves major credit for their work and hopes they continue to allow for expansion, such as opening up the Glendale narrows farther downstream for use as well.
In the meantime, Wolfe's program this year will have an interesting twist. Now partnered with a Central Valley non-profit, his guided tours will carry a more statewide approach to telling the river's story. "When it comes to water, all Californians are connected," said Steve Starcher, Director of the San Joaquin River Stewardship Program. "Developing a partnership between paddling groups in Fresno and Los Angeles is a small step toward the understanding and dialogue that is needed statewide to end California's water wars and achieve the co-equal goals of reliable water supplies and healthy aquatic ecosystems."
What does it look like to kayak the L.A. River? Check out some photos here.