Kayakers make their way down a stretch of the Los Angeles River last year… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
In a summer wonderland of theme parks and sparkling beaches, city officials soon will be offering canoe and kayak trips along the upper reaches of the Los Angeles River.
Tickets for the Los Angeles River adventure are expected to go on sale as early as July 8, and promoters are promising a ride like no other.
The route through the San Fernando Valley's Sepulveda Basin flood control channel will take customers along a 3-mile stretch of river where the water is 10 to 15 feet deep and edged with willows, sycamores and slanted concrete walls a stone's throw from the 101 and 405 freeways.
Participants will be chaperoned by seasoned kayakers and naturalists trained in swift-water rescue and equipped with throw ropes and a portable defibrillator.
"It's going to be a historic moment," said Los Angeles City Councilman Ed P. Reyes. "For decades, the river has been known as a hazardous flood control channel — that hasn't changed. What's new is this pilot program, which takes heed of the precautionary measures needed to enjoy the river's natural beauty and recreational opportunities."
The program, which is expected to win approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be operated by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps in partnership with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The trips will be offered on weekends at a cost of $50 per person, and on Fridays free of charge to youth programs in neighborhoods along the river in the San Fernando Valley.
The kayaks will launch near the Orange Line busway crossing and exit downriver at a takeout point on the west side of Burbank Boulevard.
If all goes according to plan, the program could be expanded later to include other scenic portions of river bottom such as a lush, 8-mile stretch north of downtown known as the Glendale Narrows, said environmentalist George Wolfe, who helped organize the program.
"The trip down the Sepulveda Flood Control Basin is a perfect test for this program," Wolfe said. "It's easy to imagine what the river looked like a century ago because there are lots of fish in the water, which moves slowly through dense vegetation and trees teeming with birds."
Wolfe said about 1,000 people have already expressed interest in floating down the river.
In a related action, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Friday announced the creation of a new Urban Waters Federal Partnership to revitalize waterways in under-served communities across the nation.
Eleven federal agencies will initially focus their efforts on helping communities develop educational and recreational activities at seven pilot locations: the Los Angeles River Watershed; the South Platte River in Colorado; the Lake Pontchartrain Area in Louisiana; the Patapsco Watershed in Maryland; the Bronx and Harlem River Watersheds in New York; and the Anacostia Watershed near Washington, D.C.
The announcement comes a year after U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declared the entire concrete-lined Los Angeles River Channel "traditional navigable waters," a designation crucial to applying Clean Water Act protections throughout its 834-square mile watershed.