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Kayaking in the LA River

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Hell, this may be illegal, but if the LA River plan is going to crawl upstream at a snail's pace, screw it -- the time to play is now! Not when we're 75 years of age.

We caught this father/son urban adventure duo in Sherman Oaks paddling downstream towards Studio City. "Is this a tradition?" we screamed down. "Nope, it's our first time," the dad yelled back. We asked how he came up with this idea and he said he found it online.

At first search, the only Los Angeles urban adventure we could find was the Guardian Unlimited's escape guide to 20 urban adventures around the world. The only LA entry included hiking Topanga State Park while Manhattan grabbed the kayaking one.

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The father had also clued us in by the entrance. "There's an access ramp by Castle Park." We added a few keywords into Google and voila!

The best place to put a kayak into the Los Angeles River in Sherman Oaks, California, is near the Castle batting cages, which are nestled between a miniature golf course, Interstates 101 and 405, and the four-lane hiss of Sepulveda Boulevard... on a scorching afternoon last July, I slipped unseen through a hole in a rusty fence at the edge of the parking lot, down a sloping concrete bank -- away from the cops, who could give me a $500 ticket just for being in the riverbed. ["The Same River Twice" by Bill Donahue in Mother Jones]

In 2003, The New York Times also wrote an article about kayaking in the LA River, but it got more press over a Jayson Blair-esque plagiaristic lack of citation from the book, The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth by Blake Gumprecht (Interestingly enough, Slate ran a story about the NYT mishap with the same exact title as the above quoted text from Mother Jones).

Tour guide to journies, Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) board member Denis Schure has been known to legally get access for press tours: "The entire Los Angeles River is one giant no-trespassing zone according to both the city and the Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency currently charged with guarding the river's 22-mile channel. In an effort to play pioneer Schure has spent the last decade getting friendly with the various permitting agencies and avoiding run-ins with the law" ("Toxic Adventures" by Sam Williams).

Law or not, the father and son were enjoying their time together in what amounted to an isolated wilderness trip through America's 2nd biggest city. We asked the son how the water was to which he replied, "it's hot!" as we snapped a photo. They paddled carefree through the river like it was something every one does in this city. But only if that were close to the truth.

Until FoLAR and others gain their dream of legal kayaking and riverside bike riding, until the City and other government agencies find the funding and will power, and until the people of Los Angeles truly mobilize and speak up about their need for their river... Fathers and sons will continue to go under the radar on quiet Sunday afternoons. And as it should be.

More pictures after the jump.


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Previously on LAist:
- It's The Valley's Newer Shortcut
- Hey Universal City! What about the LA River Trail?
- Late Night Thoughts: LA River Bike Path
- LAist Recommends: LA River Tours with FOLAR
- LA River Plan held up because of Steven Spielberg?

Photos by Zach Behrens/