L.A. Conservation Corps inaugurates second year of L.A. River kayaking

MORNING LIGHT: Yes, that’s the way the L.A. River looks around 8 a.m. in summer. (Jim Burns)

At 7 a.m. on a Friday in the Valley, most early-bird go-getters think about what they’ll do after work. First though, they’ll chug, chug, chug down surface streets to a freeway; then hear the buzz, buzz, buzz as the digital world insistently wonders why not take those eyes off the freeway and get a load of this. A mug of very hot coffee, a few harsh words for other drivers and in due time, they’ll be in their parking spots at the office. That’s life in the Friday fast lane.

But as our group of truant workers donned hard hats, snapped on life jackets and sat our butts just right in kayak bottoms, the workaday world couldn’t have been farther away.

“Usually I’d be at my desk, answering emails and drinking coffee,” one of our group of seven said.


During the two hours we spend on the river, our three corpsmen kept us in line. They taught us not to be afraid of the water (tested and safe, thank you very much); they helped us not to slip and fall during each of three unexpected portages; they rescued at least a few of us from errant willow-branch overhangs and ill-placed sandbars. And they made us feel at home for those two glorious hours as we paddled along, hearing “river right” to spot a white heron just reaching flight, or a mallard honking the right of way over our elongated, colorful crafts.

The real magic happened once our group of seven couldn’t see/hear the freeway. All became country quiet.

“People think it’s somewhere in Louisiana,” said one of our guides, “because of the plastic bags.”

PADDLE UP: The L.A. Conservation Corps guides a group through still waters and overhanging willows. (Jim Burns

True, there was some trash, but as another floater commented, not nearly what we expected.

Hey, there’s a certain thrill to kayaking around a drowned shopping cart. And an authenticity to this very-urban river that’s just beginning to heal from years of our neglect.

Bottom line: Go and experience this yourself. It’s worth the $50.

Prediction: Five-year contract in hand, the Corps going to make this tour an L.A. “must do.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns



One thought on “L.A. Conservation Corps inaugurates second year of L.A. River kayaking”

  1. Hello Mr. Burns, this is James Williams, the Viewpoints Sports Editor, I just wanted to say Hello and that it was good meeting you on Monday. Also, I stumbled upon your blog and it is very interesting. I plan to learn quite a bit from your blog about fishing.

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