A once prolific Steelhead Stream: The Los Angeles River

If you could go back in time to the 1940’s and 1950’s, you would find a very different looking Los Angeles River than you see today.

Back then, the river was free-flowing and hosted a robust run of steelhead. Hard to believe these days since the poor dilapidated river has been reduced to a graffiti covered concrete drainage ditch in the heart of massive urban sprawl. Now, broken bottles and diapers are the norm…not chrome ocean-run rainbows.

But there are parts of the stream…upstream of downtown LA…that still kinda resemble an actual river. I spent some time exploring one such reach on Friday. It was exciting to see that there is still a bit of river left.

And it was thriving with waterfowl, plus many fish eating birds like cormorants, herons and egrets. In the slow pools, there were clouds of minnows and some slightly larger fish as well. In fact some folks were even fishing. I wanted to believe that the fish were schools of steelhead fry but I of course knew better.

As cool as it was to see so much wildlife mere feet from a e-waste recycling center and roaring I-5, it was also so damned depressing to see how destroyed this once amazing waterway is. So, it was with mixed emotions that explored this area. Here’s a photo essay of my trek…

























  1. Alick says

    I really like the way the brush and small trees are breaking down the concrete banks. gives one hope.

  2. says

    The NEWS channels of Los Angeles have aired a few special reports of the city fathers try to bring back the Los Angeles River back to is old glory…. It would very nice to see Angelinos standing at the banks of the Los Angeles river fishing as in olden days…

  3. Butch Krauth says

    I fish a beautiful spot on the Merced river in California that was once a secret to only a few. The last time I was there I saw the remains of a party with garbage covering most of my camping spot. I picked up what I could carry and fished as many broken beer bottles as possible from the pristine waters before darkness set in. I was there about 9 hours and never wet a line. The following weekend I returned to find a similar mess. This was a spot I shared with my handicapped son, now were looking for a new spot he can get to. Butch

  4. says

    This is what we have to look forward to on our rivers and Delta when the canal is built. Really don’t understand why we can’t learn from our past mistakes.

  5. fishbird says

    Could you imagine an urban steelhead/salmon (aka american riv. ,anchor riv.ect…..) fishery for people to enjoy in LA . There are just to many private golf courses and urban waste in the SoCal to allow spare water for migrating fish I assume!!!!

  6. Richard from England says

    Interesting that JD and you can see the potential if could be cleaned up. We had a river like that near my house, the Mersey, which was once a sewer and grossly polluted. Salmon returning now and sea trout seen near Manchester Airport ! Nature soon recovers things…

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