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Walk along the L.A. River near Griffith Park

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This is an unexpectedly verdant walk surrounded by urban sprawl, where the Los Angeles River, gradually being allowed to return to its natural state, is home to an amazing array of native fish, fowl, joggers and cyclists.

1 Begin your walk from the parking lot at the Griffith Riverside tennis facility, across the street from the famous monument honoring William Mulholland, who brought water to the desert.

2 Cross the mighty Golden State Freeway on the footbridge hidden behind the tennis courts and the soccer field.

3 The Los Angeles River was channeled and tamed after a catastrophic 1938 flood that killed more than 100 people. Since then, it has been more flood control channel than river — but it's also a bike path, a walking path, and increasingly a nature preserve.

4 Thank the nonprofit Friends of the L.A. River for the benches, informational panels and path on the north side of the river. (If the gate close to the river is locked, find the pedestrian access on the trail at the end of the wide grassy lawn.) Take advantage of dry days to walk close to the water, and take a gander at the catfish, carp and trout below the surface and the egrets, stilts, herons and ducks on the banks.

5 The famed Red Car trolley used to cross the river at this point, where a park has recently been built to honor the electric rail line's history. Cars passed here on their way from downtown L.A. to Atwater, Glendale and beyond.

6 A program started in 2011 allows kayak trips down stretches of the L.A. River, beginning far west at the Sepulveda Dam, and is expected to include this section of the river by next year.

7 After you've crossed the river again on Fletcher Drive, turn right onto Crystal Street to access the bike path again. Or cross Fletcher into Rattlesnake Park to continue exploring the river south, where the path runs almost all the way to North Broadway.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles."

charles.fleming@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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