Los Feliz, North Atwater
With its pocket parks, bike paths, public art grace the area, and riverside café, Los Feliz is an excellent place for experiencing the LA River. This soft-bottom stretch is popular with walkers, runners, and even dogs and horses. The 2.6 mile walk features the infamous river cats, painted by Leo Limón on storm drain outlets, and views of the downtown skyline.
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Los Feliz Café, 3207 Los Feliz Boulevard, Atwater Village
Directions to the Start
Bike: Very easy bicycle access from the LA City LA River Bikeway. Exit on the north (upstream) side of the Alex Baum Bridge at Los Feliz Boulevard. Ride east on the sidewalk, cross the river, and Eatz is the first establishment you’ll arrive at.
Transit: Take MTA Bus 180 or 181, which run from Hollywood to Pasadena (with an easy Metro Red Line connection Hollywood/Western station). Get off the bus at the intersection of Los Feliz and Glenfeliz.
Car: Take the 5 Freeway. Exit Los Feliz Boulevard (east). Cross under the bike bridge, over the river, and park. Street parking available on Los Feliz Blvd, or adjacent neighborhood streets (Glenfeliz, Garden). Limited parking is available in the parking lot at golf course/cafe.
Take the sidewalk west from the cafe toward the LA River. On your right, enter the river right-of-way through the beautiful welcoming Guardians of the River Gate. The gate, created by artist Michael Amescua, depicts various river flora and fauna. Can you find a bear, a butterfly, a deer, a duck, three fish, a heron and three other birds, a lizard, a mountain lion, a rabbit, four snakes, a turtle, two worms, and a magic half-bird half-fish creature?
Continue walking upstream. Note the beautiful circular stonework, native vegetation, decorative bench, and picnic area. They are all part of a 1999 mini-park created by North East Trees (NET). The park was funded and is maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (SMMC/MRCA). Try out the equestrian-themed artistic bench (also by Amescua). At the small picnic area, check out the interpretive signage telling part of the story of the De Anza expedition and the beginnings of the Rancho Los Feliz.
From here, you have a good view of the soft-bottom river and the historic Los Feliz Boulevard Bridge, originally called the “Tropico Bridge” when it opened in 1925. It was damaged in the floods of 1938, and soon thereafter re-worked. Its ornamental concrete railing was replaced with the bland metal railing you see today. From the upstream deck you can see the Army Corps of Engineers 1938 plaque attached to the elongated piers below. Across the river is the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge over Los Feliz Boulevard.
Continue walking upstream on the access road. On your right is an equestrian neighborhood. Horses ford the river to get into Griffith Park, located on your left across the river and the 5 Freeway. Equestrians are hoping to eliminate the slippery crossing by constructing an equestrian/pedestrian bridge.
On your right, just past the stables is a remnant riparian area known as North Atwater Creek. I have heard a couple of different theories about the history of this creek. It may have been a historic creek tributary, or it may have been one of the braided channels of the river itself, before the river was straightened and deepened. In any case, the site, though dry much of the year, supports wetland vegetation and recently broke ground for a restoration project. You can get a better look at the creek by taking a path on your right which leads to North Atwater Park, though today the seasonal creek area itself is fenced off and inaccessible.
As you continue walking upstream, you will see on your right a large pond. It is part of the Los Angeles-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant, a city of Los Angeles wastewater treatment plant that discharges recycled water into the river.
The turnaround point for the walk is at Colorado Boulevard. It is possible to walk under the bridge and continue upstream another half-mile, but the area is somewhat uninviting.
When you turn around, check out the view of the Downtown Los Angeles Skyline visible over the hills of Silver Lake. Retrace your steps to the starting point.
If you want to continue walking, cross Los Feliz (either at Glenfeliz or at the bicycle bridge) and do the Atwater Riverwalk.