The Los Angeles River: Part 6 – Sepulveda BasinApril 13, 2018
The Los Angeles River: Part 4 – Tarzana (Update)June 16, 2018
Welcome to my second journey of discovery along the Los Angeles River.
Over 4 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 in the county’s efforts to revitalize the river.
A lot has changed since we completed that journey. New projects have started, old landscapes have been transformed, and more people are enjoying the river than ever before. 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. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest on our progress.
PART 7: Sherman Oaks
– Neighborhood Pedigree
In 1910, Moses Hazeltine Sherman acquired 1,000 acres of prime, oak tree filled property from the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company. He built a large house near the intersection of today’s Sepulveda and Ventura Blvds.
In 1927, Sherman subdivided his property and sold the land for $780 an acre. Residents named the neighborhood in his (and the trees) honor. Soon expensive homes were being built in the hills and, by the late 1940s, businesses began springing up along Ventura Bl.
In 1993, and again in 2009, residents of some parts of Van Nuys petitioned the city of Los Angeles to let them secede and become part of Sherman Oaks; expanding it’s size and population by thousands of homes.
In 1987, Sherman Oaks resident Ernie La Mere took it upon himself to improve a nearby part of the river, spearheading Los Angeles’ first river revitalization project.
– The River
Downstream of the Sepulveda Dam, the river flows beneath the 405 Freeway, then between Castle Park and LAFD Station 88. At the Sepulveda Bl. bridge it reaches the border of Sherman Oaks. There’s no access, but a small grassy area near Castle Park’s batting cages lets you get a close up view.
Starting at the southeast corner of Sepulveda Bl. and Valleyheart Dr., you’ll rejoin the Los Angeles Riverfront Greenway, last seen in Reseda. The tall sign at the entrance leads you to the bike path and a landscaped rest area with a drinking fountain and poop bags. I was here when the path opened in 2015 – watch Mayor Garcetti and Councilman LaBonge cut the ribbon.
About 1/4 mile downstream you’ll find Morrison Street Pocket Park. It’s just a few benches and a sign honoring ‘Mr. Los Angeles’ – former L. A. City Councilman Tom Labonge.
From here it’s 1/3 mile of easy walking to Kester St., and the next gap in the someday 51-mile bike path.
*Kester St. is busy and there’s no crosswalk here so don’t try to cross! We’ll come back.*
Cross the Kester St. bridge to the north side of the river and take a left onto Valleyheart Dr. A sign soon warns you there is no river access. However, walk down Valleyheart Dr. and you’ll see there’s easy access to the riverside dirt path all the way back to Sepulveda Bl. [There are many places like this in The Valley and your fellow Angelenos walk on them all the time. Just be courteous…like it was your neighborhood.] It’s just over 1/2 mile back to your starting point.
Hop in the car and drive to the intersection of Huston St. and Valleyheart Dr., just east of Kester St.. Here is the entrance to Ernie’s Walk. Named in honor of Ernie La Mere, this 1/3 mile graded dirt path was the river’s first restoration project. There’s a pet memorial to honor local dogs and cats of years past, shady trees, benches and poop bags. A locked gate at Cedros Ave. is the end of the line – retrace your steps back to your vehicle.
Ernie’s Walk provides the only riverside access between Kester St. and Hazeltine Ave.. However, at the site of the former Sunkist Co. headquarters (Hazeltine and the 101 freeway), the iconic building’s current owners have promised to build a riverside park.
Drive to and park on Valleyheart Dr., just east of Hazeltine Ave.. On the south side of the river is another one of those “unofficial” riverside trails. There’s a gate, but easy access to the trail is available from anywhere along Valleyheart Dr.. A pleasant, 1/2 mile walk under shady trees takes you to Woodman Ave.. There’s no river access east of Woodman so, once again, you’ll have to retrace your steps back to the car.
East of Woodman Ave., the next spot with river access is at Moorpark St.. But along the way you can see it from the Sunnyslope Ave. footbridge. Access from the north is from Sunnyslope Ave. but Rye St. provides access from the south.
The short stretch of river between Moorpark St. and Fulton Ave. may not look like much, but there’s riverside access and some nice landscaping. There are plans for a pocket park to replace the concrete triangle across from the church, but they’ve been in place for a while…
When the river flows beneath the Fulton Ave. bridge it enters Studio City, the subject of the next post in this long journey to the sea.
This popular park is 65 1/2 acres of fun for anyone interested in playing sports or rolling in plush grass. A mile-long paved path winds through the whole place and you’ll meet plenty of dogs along the way.
80 acres of quiet, unspoiled wilderness in the middle of The Valley. There’s a .9 mile trail that provides dramatic views and a taste of what things were like before development. The trail is accessible from the north end only; at the end of Deervale Place.
There are no amenities at this park
This secluded park is 20 acres of shady wilderness with a seasonal creek and a .8 mile lollypop-loop trail. It was donated to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy by actor Warren Beatty in 1986. The trailhead is on a dead end road and there’s not much parking, so you may have to walk a bit (uphill) from your car to reach it.
There are no amenities at this park
This ‘park’ is really just an unmaintained trail in the foothills near Coldwater Canyon. I tried to complete the trail from both the north and south but was defeated by mother nature. The views were nice though.
An incomplete and overgrown trail
There are no amenities at this park
– Other Places On The Map
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy owns acres of undeveloped land in the foothills north of Mulholland Dr.. If you look at Sherman Oaks on a map, you may see these ‘parks’ and ‘open spaces’ and wonder if you can visit them. The answer, for the most part, is no.
• Fossil Ridge Park
When the developer of Mulholland Estates donated some of the 110 acres that make up this ‘park’, it came with the promise of easy public access, trails and a visitor center. None of those things happened. There is access, but no one is going out of their way to make it easy. The ‘park’ has no maintained trails; it’s just an undeveloped and overgrown open space. If you want to check it out, there are two places where you can look and imagine what might have been:
Westgate Rd. near Mulholland Dr. and Beverly Glen Bl.. Check in with the guard at Mulholland Estates and they’ll open the gate for you. If they give you a hard time, give them this: Memorandum
Oak Forest Canyon Natural Area at the end of Camino de la Cumbre Rd.. It will feel as if you’re trespassing, but you’re not. Legend says Edgar Rice Burroughs was inspired to write Tarzan when visiting this spot.
• Coldwater Canyon Open Space
Runs along the west side of Coldwater Canyon Bl. from Mulholland Bl. to Harvard-Westlake School. It’s undeveloped and inaccessible.
• MRCA Open Space
A small, inaccessible area between Mulholland Bl. and Longridge Ave.. You can see it from the Narrows Overlook at 13201 Mulholland Bl.
– Misc. 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.
Our favorite sources of Sherman Oaks information:
All photographs taken by Jim Gross.
See you on the river!