Learn To Kayak On The L.A. River

Imagine yourself floating down a river. Feel the sun warm your skin and the wind brush your face. Now lay back in your kayak and watch the clouds float by through the branches of an old sycamore. Savor a quiet moment shared only by a blue heron cleaning her feathers. Believe it or not, you are kayaking on the Los Angeles River!

Despite plastic bags decorating the trees like Christmas ornaments and abandoned shopping carts disappearing into quicksand, the LA River is an unexpected oasis in the middle of our city.

Once home to bears and steelhead trout, the original river was a 51-mi waterway that ran across the flood plain now occupied by Los Angeles. The concrete river we know today was constructed in the 1930’s following a series of catastrophic floods. Over the past several decades, the community has worked to restore the river’s natural habitat, while cultivating a unique space for outdoor enjoyment, including bike paths, parks and recreational waterways.

On Memorial Day, we joined LA River Kayak Safari for their second voyage of the season, which runs through Labor Day. From a small park in Elysian Valley, we rode beach cruisers to the Frog Spot, a neighborhood rest stop supported by Friends of the LA River.

After fitting our life preservers, we practiced paddling before entering the river. Our guide and Kayak Safari co-ounder Steve Appleton told us, “You can never paddle the same river twice!” This was especially true after recent rains, which flooded and reformed the river’s rapids and banks from the year before.

We blazed a path down the river like pioneers, sometimes getting stuck on rocks and bumping each other , but all in good fun. Just when I was starting to get comfortable, the river tipped me over for a reality check. The rapids are unpredictable, and kayaking is hard work!

My experience on the LA River left me feeling a little sore, but mostly inspired to give back to the river. If you’re looking for a unique adventure in Los Angeles this summer, I highly recommend joining a trip with LA River Kayak Safari!

Tips For Your Kayaking Adventure

  • Expect to get wet! Keep a change of dry clothes in your car for the drive home.
  • Wear close-toed shoes. Old tennis shoes work best. At times, you will be required to carry your kayak around a rapid. This is called “portage.”
  • Your kayak does not have storage for anything other than a water bottle.
  • If you wish to bring a camera, make sure you have a waterproof case that can attach to your life preserver.
  • Be prepared for a fun full body workout! If you are not up for the challenge, you may prefer to spend your afternoon enjoying a cold beer at The Frog Spot.

Want to explore the LA River on foot? Come check out the Frog Spot on June 11 2-5pm to kick off our 1st Take Only Memories Workshop! Learn essential photo skills from our friend @matty_westside and become a skilled observer & steward of the natural world. Your $10 donation supports Friends of the LA River and their efforts to restore the river’s natural habitat!



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