Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Row on: Paddling season for the LA River begins this week

After a successful launch in 2011, popular Paddle the LA River program returns this year with a substantially expanded schedule of guided kayak and canoe tours along a scenic stretch of the river in the San Fernando Valley.

A partnership between environmental groups including the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, last year’s inaugural Paddle The LA River sold out all 260 tours in a mere ten minutes. Tickets for this year’s tours are priced at $53.74 (which includes a handling fee of $3.74) and go on sale tomorrow morning (Tuesday, July 17) at 7 a.m.

While the number of tours has been bumped up to over 2000 this year, ticket sales are expected to be brisk, so aspiring paddlers would be wise to score tickets sooner than later. The first public outings are scheduled to begin this Saturday, July 21. The season runs through September 29.

“It’s the hottest ticket in town,” said LA Conservation Corps spokesperson Mike Mena by phone. “Last year, our waiting list was huge of people hoping to get in through cancellations. We had one guy come down every weekend of the program hoping to go out until he finally got lucky.”

A new component of the program is that Wednesdays have been set aside as an educational day, where schools can take entire classes out for the guided tour, which Mena said was difficult to accommodate last year.

Trips are being offered Tuesdays through Saturdays, with three trips per day. The last trip of each day will be a shorter excursion, clocking in at an hour instead of the longer two-hour tours in the morning.

“We found last year that some people just weren’t up to the full tour,” explained Mena. “Sometimes we would have to tow kids who got too tired to keep paddling the entire time. It can be good for seniors as well. Although the oldest participant last year was an 87-year-old L.A. native who grew up along the river. He learned to swim in the L.A. River, and even remembered when there was a brothel on it back in the 1940s, I believe.

“The ultimate goal is to educate people about the fact that we have a river in Los Angeles, which not everybody knows,” Mena added. “We want to show that there is a lot of natural beauty in the river. There are parts of the tour where you could swear you were in the wilds of Colorado, and not paddling along in the middle of Los Angeles. There’s continuous river cleanup going on, because we know there’s still work to be done. We want to make this an annual event that turns up on a tourist’s itinerary right alongside visiting Lego Land and Universal CityWalk. We’d love to get to that point.”