From its headwaters high atop Mount San Antonio to its debouchment with the Pacific Ocean at Seal Beach, the San Gabriel River is one of the L.A. basin's most cherished and vital waterways. During its 60 mile trajectory the San Gabriel River flows through more than 19 cities, largely within concrete encased flood channels. In recent decades, the Azusa Canyon portion of the river has become a favorite destination for millions of Southern Californians looking to escape the rush of the city.
Recreational opportunities abound in the San Gabriel Mountains near the top of the river. The East Fork of the river provides a gateway to hiking within the Sheep Mountain wilderness, and in recent years many hikers have even taken to bungee jumping at the end of the 7-mile long hike to the Bridge to Nowhere. The West Fork offers a National Scenic Bike trail and access to a catch and release trout stream. For driving enthusiasts, Highway 39 provides a scenic ride dominated by panoramic vistas of the rivers canyons.
The river's name is derived from the San Gabriel Mission, founded by the first wave of Spanish colonizers in 1771, and originally located at the banks of the Rio Hondo, a major tributary of the San Gabriel River. For thousands of years, the river’s abundant riparian region served as the backbone of the Tongva civilization, providing these native peoples with fresh water and wildlife. To this day, The West, East and North Forks of the river drain the largest watershed in the mountain, and provide millions of residents with clean drinking water.
Currently, there are efforts underway to designate large portions of the river and the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Recreation Zone. The Emerald Necklace Project envisions connecting more than 1,500 acres of parks and open spaces along an interconnected greenway around the Rio Hondo, San Gabriel, and lower Los Angeles rivers.
You can become a part of the narrative of the San Gabriel River by contributing your stories and memories of the river here.
Los Angeles is a sprawling city of many neighborhoods, each with its own unique set of people, places, and things that work together to create a distinct community. With so many layers of history and culture, the best way to begin to understand L.A. is to break it down into small bits, and peel back the layers, and reveal the depths of this complex city.
Be a Tourist
Use our Field Guides to explore the places and histories that make up our unique neighborhoods.