08.05.12Alan Harris

Intended Consequence: The Los Angeles River

Kayakers on the Los Angeles RiverIn the second year of sanctioned boat tours down the LA River two non-profit organizations, LACC and the San Joaquin River Stewardship Program received permits for 2,000 seats. They sold out in minutes.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District

In a previous post we reviewed the transformation of the Los Angeles River from a natural, albeit flood prone waterway to the concrete culvert it is today. As mentioned in that post it is time to undo some of the sins of the past. Helping advance an initiative to restore the river which began in the 1980’s and bring the plight of the river to the public’s attention is a documentary “Rock the Boat”.


Despite the fact the act of kayaking the Los Angeles River was subversive and illegal at the time, in 2008 a journalist and river activist, George Wolfe organized and led a kayak trip to prove the river was able to be navigated. A small group of kayaks successfully traversed their way down the river over the course of a weekend thus proving the Los Angeles River is navigable.

Two years later in July 2010, Lisa Jackson with the EPA, declared that the full length of the channel is indeed a “traditional navigable waterway”.  In addition to being a victory for river enthusiasts, this designation also opened the door for more stringent protections under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Since 2010 there have been two seasons of boating trips, but if you are interested in joining one of the sanctioned trips down the Los Angeles River you will have to wait until the 2013 season, because the 2012 season sold out.


As dedicated readers of already know, water is a big issue and we need to pay attention where it comes from and where it goes. “Rock the Boat” documents the successful boating expedition proving the river’s navigability and the EPA declaration of the river protected under the Clean Water Act.  “Rock the Boat” helped expose where the water goes and when screened at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in January, 2012 it was awarded the People’s Choice Award. The film is now on the festival circuit and will be distributed for educational purposes to schools and libraries nationwide.


What does the future hold for the Los Angeles River? You can find some of the concepts for the greening of the river here. Slowly, but surely over time the river will be transformed…one section at a time.  I also dedicated a Pinterest board to the Los Angeles River. If you have relative links you would like added to the board please leave them in the comment section.

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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine and speaker at WaterSmart Innovations Conference.




  1. Tuesday, 10:46 Martha Golea

    When will the ValleyCrestTakesOn team be kayaking the LA River for our blogumentary?

  2. Tuesday, 12:03 Alan Harris

    @Martha – what a great idea and sounds like a lot of fun, but we will have to wait until the 2013 season since this year is sold out.

  3. […] at Starbucks post everywhere we go, too. So many people fell for our April Fools joke! Alan’s LA River post  hit home for a lot of people.  I had several people call me and tell me the post was a trip down […]

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