You can once again kayak and fish the LA River

Friends of the LA River lead guided tours via kayak along the river.
Friends of the LA River lead guided tours via kayak along the river.
Ian Shive (USFWS) / Flickr

Grab your paddles and life jackets. The L.A. River's two recreation zones reopen Monday for the summer season. That means  you can once again legally kayak on the river or fish along its banks — in certain areas.

The two stretches, located in the Elysian Valley in northeast L.A. and in the Sepulveda Basin in the San Fernando Valley, open every year on Memorial Day. Each is approximately 2.5 miles long.

Although most of the L.A. River is covered in concrete, in 2010 it was recognized as a navigable waterway, paving the way, so to speak, for recreational activities.

Despite its concrete carapace, the river is teeming with life.

"You can definitely see amazing wildlife out there, from fish breeching and trying to catch that mosquito to an osprey that may be just flying above," Fernando Gomez, chief ranger for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, tells KPCC.

Gomez says he has spotted carp, catfish and even big mouth bass in the water. Look up and you might see great blue herons, snowy egrets, mallards and cormorants. He hopes that seeing the river from "the river up" will change people's perceptions.

"Once you get this experience," Gomez says, "you have a different respect for what the river has to offer. It makes you a stronger steward of the river, that this river can be more than just a concrete channel."

More than 10,000 people have kayaked or visited the L.A. River in the seven years since it opened for recreational activities, according to Gomez.

You can bring a kayak and paddle down the river on your own. Or you can rent a kayak and book a tour with one of three organizations offering guided experiences of the waterway. 

Make sure you have a life or personal flotation device. You can find more information, including maps with all the legal entry points to the L.A. River, at lariverrecreation.org.

"The recreation zone is open for all to come and enjoy," Gomez says. "You'll have an experience that for many years was frowned upon but now we're saying: Come and enjoy this river."