On a March afternoon on the Los Angeles River, two anglers waded in the concrete channel of the Glendale Narrows, casting their lines for carp and largemouth bass. Above them, a belted kingfisher perched on a mattress that had been caught in the crook of a budding cottonwood during a recent storm surge. Some recreationists enjoy catch-and-release on the river, but others — low-income and unhoused people who need sustenance — were hoping to leave with coolers, buckets or even shopping carts full of freshly caught fish.
In a gem of a piece, photographer Roberto (Bear) Guerra chronicles the species loss the LA River has suffered since being encased in concrete with photographs of specimens from the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology and the LA County Natural History Museum.
An important photo essay as our city weighs the future of the river in terms of development and habitat restoration. A sample:
Western Toad (Bufo boreas) — Perhaps no animal is as emblematic of the decline of native species in the decades following channelization as the western toad. One of the neighborhoods adjacent to the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river is still known as “Frogtown,” for the swarms of young toads and Pacific treefrogs that hopped through the streets each year until the 1970s. Today, toads and frogs are rarely to be found.