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LA River History

The LA River has sustained human life for centuries and attracted the settlements that founded the City of Los Angeles.

Dating back to the 18th Century, about 200 Native American Tongvas lived in the village of Yaangna, the largest of some 100 villages that were home to about 5,000 Native Americans in the Los Angeles region, when the Spaniards arrived in 1769. Eventually, the Tongvas were relocated to the east side of the River. In the mid-1800s, Yaangna was destroyed. European settlers named the River “Rio de Porciuncula” (the small portion river), and its water sustained the growing pueblo until the William Mulholland era.

The Los Angeles River runs approximately 51 miles through urban Los Angeles and several neighboring cities to the Harbor and the Pacific Ocean. The first 32 miles of the River flow through the City of Los Angeles. It was once a natural river which changed its course and flooded the area several times. Its wild nature led to its concrete channelization beginning in 1938 and completed in 1960. While channelization provided valuable flood protection to adjacent people and property, it changed Angelenos’ relationship with the waterway and led to the River’s neglect. Views of the River have evolved over the past several decades and the River is now valued for its potential to reconnect and revitalize neighborhoods and restore diminished habitat for wildlife, while continuing to provide effective flood control.

With the extraordinary transformation of how Angelenos’ value the River, the City of Los Angeles and thousands of residents have rallied to support its restoration with the understanding that the River watershed is central to making Los Angeles a sustainable city. The River has significant potential for natural, community, and economic resources which, if harnessed, would present significant opportunities to revitalize the adjacent neighborhoods.