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L.A. Walks: The grittiest L.A. River path you’ve never heard of

L.A. Walks: The grittiest L.A. River path you’ve never heard of
Clockshop, a multidisciplinary arts organization, sponsors art installations and events at the Bowtie Parcel near the L.A. River. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

This walk doesn’t fall into the category of bucolic country stroll, but it offers an unusual opportunity to get outside in the middle of the urban sprawl. A little gritty and not for those who demand beautiful scenery on their walks, the Bowtie Parcel is still a great leg-stretcher in a fascinating environment.

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Best to do this one in good shoes, as there may be broken glass and industrial detritus underfoot. If you’re interested in “plogging,” the increasingly popular practice of good citizenship that involves picking up a little trash while you walk, this is a great place to do it.

(Los Angeles Times)

1. Begin your walk somewhere around the intersection of Fletcher Drive and Casitas Avenue, near a complex entanglement of infrastructure that drops Fletcher below some railroad lines and Casitas under the 2 Freeway. Park where you can, and begin walking east on Casitas.

In time you will come to a cul-de-sac and a dirt road with a broad yellow gate across it. Walk past the gate and enter the Bowtie Parcel.

2. Swing to the right and walk toward the Los Angeles River, and begin enjoying the wide-open weirdness of this 18-acre park. Once part of the Southern Pacific Railroad service facility known as Taylor Yard — you may see remnants or sections of track as you stroll, and aerial views on Google maps show extensive rail works — it has since been acquired by the California State Park system.

The park is overseen by Clockshop, a multidisciplinary arts organization based in Frogtown that sponsors art installations and events here. (And, once, an urban Girl Scouts camping trip.)

The Bowtie Parcel walk starts somewhere around the intersection of Fletcher Drive and Casitas Avenue.
The Bowtie Parcel walk starts somewhere around the intersection of Fletcher Drive and Casitas Avenue. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

3. When you get near the river, bend left and keep walking underneath a set of high-tension electrical wires. On the water, as you gaze down, you may see interesting bird life. This stretch of the river is part of the Pacific Flyway, the migratory route for birds that pass along the Pacific coast. Regulars here include osprey, long-necked stilts, herons, cormorants, hawks and varieties of ducks and geese.

Expect to see a forest of waist-high palms during the Bowtie Parcel walk.
Expect to see a forest of waist-high palms during the Bowtie Parcel walk. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

4. You’ll feel the park narrow and begin to widen again — making the bow-tie shape that gives the parcel its name — near an incongruous forest of waist-high palm trees. To your left are the buildings of the Sotomayor Learning Academies, and behind them the hills of Glassell Park, Cypress Park and Mt. Washington.

Walkers can find surprisingly beautiful spots on this gritty L.A. walk.
Walkers can find surprisingly beautiful spots on this gritty L.A. walk. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

On your right, across the river, is the newly hip district known as Frogtown. Beyond are the hills of Silver Lake and Echo Park. Along the way, you may encounter pieces of previous art installations. These, like the signage in the parcel, are by Clockshop.

5. Stay to the right. The path will eventually lead you to a strange, recessed semicircle — its original railroad purpose unclear; a turnaround? — that has been brilliantly graffitied. (I paused here for some time to take in the yards and yards of decorated walls, the work of talented local artists.) Curve around the back of this circle, then bear to the right to find a wide, paved road that leads back toward your starting point. As you go, note the many half-buried lengths of railroad iron, another remnant of the area’s previous function.

6. Follow the paved road. In time you will be back at the cul-de-sac and the end of the walk.

STATS

Distance: 2.2 miles round trip

Difficulty: 2 on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1 hour

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Steps: 5,500

Details: Free street parking. No dogs allowed. OK for bicycles. Wheelchair accessible. Bus service via Glendale lines 7, 92.

Black-necked stilts forage for food along the L.A. River.
Black-necked stilts forage for food along the L.A. River. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He is on Twitter @misterfleming.

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