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First 'Official' Paddles on the L.A. River Kick Off Saturday

Some hope they will pave the way for a similar program through Frogtown and the Elysian Valley next summer.

You shimmy down a concrete bank. Maybe you’re dragging your kayak or canoe along too.

Slats of sunlight come down through the bridge above that is Balboa Boulevard. It is quiet and lush.

You at the “put in”  where the LA Conservation Corps will launch a pilot program of supervised canoeing and kayaking on the Los Angeles River on Saturday.

It will be the first legally "permitted" program in the history of the river.

A Limited Opportunity

Ten paddlers at a time will explore a stretch of river that runs south from Balboa Boulevard to Woodley Avenue.

The spot is part of the San Fernando Valley’s Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area.

Plant life is still green, and the water flows somewhat freely—making it a good place for the tours in the dry season.

Interpretive guides from the Los Angeles Conservation Corp. will share the history, hydrology and botany of the place.

Most will have been trained by George Wolfe of L.A. River Expeditions, who led 2008’s historic 51-mile paddle down the length of the river.

That trip led to the River’s been recertified as “navigable” by the federal government in the summer of 2010--opening up many avenues for financial and public support of waterfront access programs.

Two trips on Saturday and another two on Sunday will depart from the waters below 6300 Balboa Boulevard.

The paddles will continue through September 25th.

Cooperation of Many Made Paddles Possible

Lewis McAdams, who founded the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) long ago, perhaps said it best when he said, “It takes a village to open up a river.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—in particular Col. Mark Toy—might agree.  Toy issued the a license for non-motorized boating that made the pilot tour program possible on July 22.

Many other community groups and city politicians and officials also helped things along including Council member Ed Reyes who represents parts of Echo Park.

Reyes, an urbanist who grew up near the river, has been a long-time advocate for making the it a centerpiece of  the Los Angeles life.

Glendale Narrows in Frogtown Could Get Similar Program Next Year

Wolfe and  Reyes hope to see a similar program at the Glendale Narrows section of the river, perhaps by next summer.

The Narrows stretches through Frogtown and the Elysian Valley.

Like the Sepulveda Dam stretch, it is particularly "river-like" because it has a natural bottom instead of concrete.

However, not everyone agrees that boat traffic through the area would be a good thing.

Birders, in particular, worry that it could shake up the eco-balance.

Fee for Trip Includes Education and Safety Aspect

Others may gripe about being charged a fee for the right to enjoy a nearly public river.

The $53.75 fee covers the equipment and supervising of two guides--one from the Los Angeles Conservation Corp and a second, swift-water trained ranger from Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority.

It's safety and education you wouldn't get on your own.

Click here to find out more about the "Paddle the Los Angeles River" pilot boating program and how to make reservations.

Click here to read about an "unofficial" trip down the Glendale Narrows in September.

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