Welcome to my second journey of discovery along the Los Angeles River.
Three years ago, my pack set out to explore every accessible mile of our river from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. It was amazing. The walking was easy, the scenery was one of a kind, and we found some great parks too. There were some rough spots, but they were outnumbered by signs of progress being made in the county’s efforts to revitalize the river.
A lot has changed since we finished that journey. New projects have started, old landscapes have been transformed, and more people than ever are enjoying the river. It’s time for an update.
Join us as we explore the river again in search of fun things to do. We’re also going to check out every park in every riverside neighborhood we visit on the way.Subscribeto our mailing list for the latest on our progress.
PART 1: CANOGA PARK
– Neighborhood Pedigree
Canoga Park’s original name was Owensmouth because, when it was founded in 1912, its location was considered to be close to the mouth of the Owens River Aqueduct.
Owensmouth was founded as an independent town, but the water from the aqueduct was owned by the city of Los Angeles…the town agreed to be annexed in 1917. Welcome to L.A.!
The neighborhood voted to change its name in 1931. The residents preferred just ‘Canoga’, but the U.S. Post Office insisted they add ‘Park‘ to avoid confusion with a city in New York.
Canoga Park is home to the headwaters of the longest paved waterway in the world: El Río de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula; aka. the Los Angeles River.
– The River
The river begins where Bell Creek and Calabasas Creek merge behind Canoga Park High School. The curved walls are symbolic of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to tame the river with concrete after adevastating flood in 1938.
Our easy 1⅔ mile walk starts near the corner ofOwensmouth Ave. & Bassett St.. That’s where you’ll find the entrance to theHeadwaters Greenway. Opened in 2014, it has gravel paths, beautiful native plants, and rest areas with benches and poop bags.
The river flows east under the Owensmouth Avenue bridge and enters the park. Follow it downstream. A fence runs along the riverbank until you approach the side-by-side bridges at Canoga Avenue and the Orange Line Busway. Walk beneath them and soon you’ll have an unobstructed view of the river.
Continue another ¼ mile and you’ll come to the Variel Avenue footbridge, a pedestrian only walkway that provides easy access to both sides of the river.
Ahead of you is the DeSoto Avenue bridge, which is also the border of Canoga Park and Winnetka. Just before you reach the bridge, take the ramp on your left up to the street. Cross the bridge over to the south side of the river and take another ramp down to the path.
Walk upstream. You’ll notice the rest areas on this side are more elaborate than the ones on the north side. There’s also a paved walkway winding alongside the gravel path. Before you know it, you’re back at the Variel Avenue footbridge.
The path ahead of you ends at the Orange Line Busway and there is no outlet. Therefore, I recommend you cross the footbridge back over to the north side of the river instead. Then walk upstream until you pass the Orange Line Busway and Canoga Avenue bridges again.
A ramp to street level will soon be on your right. Take it up, then cross the Canoga Avenue bridge back to the south side of the river. Follow the ramp there down to the path. A short walk upstream leads to the Owensmouth Avenue bridge and the end of our adventure. Cross the bridge to return to the starting point.
This 1.42 acre, fenced-in park near the Northridge border is a rare patch of green in a neighborhood that needs it. It’s tiny, but if you’re looking for some grass to roll in or a shady tree to sit under, you’ll find it here.
– Other Stuff
As we make our way downstream, we’re going to catalog every bridge that crosses the river. Not really sure why, but we’re doing it anyway. Check out the growing list here.