Chapter 1 Headwaters to the Sepulveda Basin

Hundreds of years ago the Gabrieliños lived and worked on the banks of the L.A. River, whose basin was green and lush, dotted with strands of willow and oak that stretched all the way to the Pacific.

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Once Upon a Time
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Looking Back
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Swiftwater Rescue Team
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Slideshow: Channelization
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The Olmsted Plan
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Slideshow: Non-Point Pollution
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Ellen Mackey
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Native Flora
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Melanie Winter
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Slideshow: Sepulveda Dam
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Sepulveda Basin
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Egrets
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The River as a Backdrop
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The Great Wall of Los Angeles


Headwaters to the Sepulveda Basin Mural

Hundreds of years ago, the Gabrieliños - L.A.’s first residents - lived and worked on the banks of the Paime Pahite. That river’s basin was green and lush, dotted with strands of willow and oak that stretched all the way to the Pacific. With the arrival of the Spaniards and the western rancheros, the Paime Pahite and its tributaries began to change. The demands of an ever growing population, and development of new irrigation technologies, changed both the river’s landscape and its meaning in the lives of Angelenos. (It also changed its name, the Paime Pahite becoming the Los Angeles River.) By the 1930s, when a series of heavy floods led the Army Corps of Engineers to channelize the waterway into little more than a concrete flood control channel, the city had essentially turned its back on the ancient river running through it.

But things have changed. As a result of 25 years of stubborn labor, steady reclamation and dedication, an army of activists, environmentalists and residents are poised to rediscover the Paime Pahite. The City now has a master plan to revitalize the river and in the process run a cool, green ribbon of public space up L.A.’s spine. Journey with us down the 52-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River and meet those who are helping it flow back into our public life and popular imagination.