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Don't Miss This Pocket Park: Rattlesnake Park, Elysian Valley

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Rattlesnake Park opened in 1997. It was created and is maintained by the state's Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (SMMC/MRCA). It's an excellent place to begin exploring the L.A. River. This 1.6 mile walk features a pocket park with native trees, plants and benches - and you'll also see the magnificent Great Heron Gate sculpture and the historic Fletcher Drive Bridge. Downstream you'll find Marsh Park and Elysian Valley Gateway Park, two small parks in the string of pocket parks in the Glendale Narrows.


Rattlesnake Mini-Park, Fletcher Drive and the L.A. River


BIKE: Easy access is located across the street from the downstream end of the Glendale Narrows section of the L.A. River Bikeway. Bike parking at Rattlesnake Park.

TRANSIT: Take Metro Bus 603 from Pico-Union to Glendale. Get off at Fletcher and Ripple. Look for the heron gate: you can't miss it.

CAR: Exit the southbound 5 Freeway at Fletcher (there's no Fletcher exit on the Northbound 5). Go left (north) on Fletcher one block. Parking is either to the right or left on Ripple. Five spaces are available to the left. Generally there is plenty of street parking on Clearwater, one block to the right.

Alternately, exit the southbound 2 Freeway at Fletcher (there ís no Fletcher exit on the Northbound 2 either). Go left at the end of the off ramp, cross the river, and follow above directions for parking.

Alternately, exit the 2 Freeway at San Fernando Road. Go northwest on San Fernando one block. Turn left on to Fletcher. Cross the river, and follow above directions for parking.

Bikers at the Great Heron Gates in Rattlesnake Park. | Photo: David Galvan/Flickr/Creative Commons


Before you begin the walk, take a moment to check out sculptor Brett Goldstone's Great Heron Gate. Pass through the gate's door and read FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams' River poetry, which is etched in metal atop the river stone bollard. Descend the steps to your left into Rattlesnake Park.

When North East Trees (NET), which designed and constructed this park in 1997, began clearing this formerly vacant, trash-ridden site, they discovered a small nest of rattlesnakes. The snakes themselves, indigenous fauna to the L.A. River but very rare these days, were relocated to Elysian Park.

Park designer Lynne Dwyer incorporated a subtle snake motif in the stonework at the park; notice the curving river rock wall with a rattle-tail upstream and snake's head drinking fountain on the downstream end.

Walk downstream. As you leave the pocket park, take a moment to look back at the beautiful 1927 Fletcher Drive Bridge. For more information on the Fletcher Bridge, see walk 10.

This stretch of river is the setting for a scene in Janet Fitch's best-selling novel White Oleander. Fitch's protagonist Astrid rested her arms on the damp concrete railing. The water flowed through its big concrete embankments, the bottom covered with decades of silt and boulders and trees. It was returning to its wild state despite the massive sloped shore, a secret river. A tall white bird fished among the rocks, standing on one leg like in a Japanese woodcut. Unfortunately this scene was omitted from the movie. Over the course of the novel, Fitch's Astrid moves follow the course of the Los Angeles River from the upper watershed of the Tujunga Wash to the house on Ripple Street in Elysian Valley.

Walk along the river in the shade of the sycamores and cottonwoods, all planted by NET in the late 1990s. You are walking on a shared bike and pedestrian path. Share the path with bikes.

Continue under the 2 Freeway. To your left is a deeper section of the River where locals fish. The River does support fish. including carp, tilapia, mosquito fish, fathead minnows, and others. On your right, just past the large gray-walled building at the end of Marsh Street is the first phase of the future 5.5-acre riverside Marsh Park.

Continue walking downstream until you reach Elysian Valley Gateway Park. It is located just over a half mile from the 2 Freeway. Enter through an unmarked chain-link gate on your right. Gateway Park, which opened in 1995, is the earliest of the Glendale Narrows pocket parks,. Designed by NET's Lynne Dwyer, the park retained existing non-native trees and added native landscaping, picnic benches and a drinking fountain. Get a drink of water, and then return back the way you came. If you want to walk further at this point, continue walking downstream.

When you return to Fletcher, there are a few more sights to see nearby. Go through the heron gate, then turn left. Cross Ripple at the crosswalk, then cross to the upstream side of Fletcher. Continue walking upstream on what is now Crystal Street. On your left is the LA River Bicycle Park, which opened in July 2005. The site was formerly a vacant area around the footing of the L.A. City Department of Water and Power's transmission towers. The pocket park features a bike staging area, with maps showing suggested bike trips. There's native landscaping, river rock, a Brett Goldstone heron sculpture, benches designed by Leo Limon, and five parking spaces.

Cross the river at Fletcher to check out another great Goldstone gate.


Marsh Park

A 3-acre park designed to naturally filter out pollutant runoff from adjacent neighborhood streets. This park provides river access, and a stellar view of the Verdugo Hills, as well as picnic grounds, a grassy area, and nature-themed children's play equipment.


Rick's Drive In & Out

2400 Fletcher Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90039-2802

(323) 660-5988

Foster's Freeze

2760 Fletcher Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90039-2437

(323) 663-2045

Home Restaurant

2500 Riverside Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90039-4025

(323) 665-0211

Banner Photo: Elysian Valley Panorama. | Photo: Mr. Rollers/Flickr/Creative Commons

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