Once Upon a Time

Now encased in concrete, the L.A. River was once a brilliant river, thick with Willow Trees and fish such as Steelhead Trout. One could smell California Sage and Wild Roses and hear Cottonwood Trees rustling in the wind. The river provided food, shelter, transportation, and recreation, a truly sustainable life for Los Angeles' earliest people, the Tongva Indians. As Spanish and Mexicans settled in Los Angeles, the river was diverted into zanjas, irrigation aqueducts, to provide water to villages and eventually farms. As Los Angeles developed into an industrialized city, the river became more and more neglected. Yet still, prior to its channelization, children played along the beaches of the rivers catching frogs and garter snakes, and families picnicked along its banks.

Above, a slideshow with captions illustrating the history of the LA River prior to its channelization.

Explore the related interactive mural


Harry Chandler


Looking Back