Health & Fitness

Art and nature along the Tujunga Wash in the Valley

This walk in the Tujunga Wash Greenway in the Valley is a combination leg stretch, history lesson and art gallery, taking in one of the city's least-known cultural constructions and one of the longest murals in the world.

1. Begin at the northwest corner of Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Oxnard Street, near Grant High School. Through a set of green gates adorned with images of marsh plants and water birds, begin walking on the paved path going north along the concrete wash.

2. Walk along the concrete channel that carries flood overflow from Hansen Dam, nine miles to the northeast. Note the profusion of native plants lining the dry, rocky streambed to your left, among them tall sycamores and low-lying cactus and sage.

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3. At Victory Boulevard, turn right, cross the wash on the sidewalk and turn right again to begin walking south on the opposite side. Watch for more local flora, such as the palo verde, oleander, lantana and bottle brush, lining the path.

4. Approaching Oxnard Street, walk through a stone gate and across a lawn to cross the street and continue walking south along the wash under more big sycamore trees.

5. "The Great Wall of Los Angeles" is a public art project that lasted from 1976 to 1983 (with substantial restoration completed in 2011) and that now fills the eastern-facing wall of the wash with glorious murals. Local artists, creating a history of L.A. in 0.6 mile, created what is called one of the longest murals in the world.

6. The mural highlights Olympic athletes of color, the civil rights and gay rights movements, baby boomers, the "bracero" migrant worker program, the Zoot Suit riots, the Japanese internment camp at Manzanar and Prohibition. Going backward in time, walking south, you see Rosie the Riveter, the pioneers of the motion picture industry, Chinese workers building the railroads, the settlements of the Californios, the expeditions of Gaspar de Portola and Junipero Serra, and Native American Chumash villages.

7. At Burbank Boulevard, turn right onto the sidewalk, cross the wash, and then pick up the trail on the opposite side, and head north. Walk along the edge of Los Angeles Valley College and Grant High until you're back at the starting point.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland."

charles.fleming@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @misterfleming

The Stats

Distance: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: 1, on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 1 hour
Details: Dogs on a leash are OK. Wheelchair accessible. Free street parking is plentiful. Metro bus lines 154 and 167 stop at Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Oxnard Street.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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