About this website

The waters that fill the wide concrete troughs that carve through Northeast Los Angeles-- the LA River and the Arroyo Seco- originate in myriad unnamed small seeps and waterflows throughout our neighborhoods that were never mapped or named. These streams and seeps were part of the character of the landscapes the first Euro-american settlers found.

Note that though public dialogue around our waterways has focussed around the large channelized rivers, the real opportunity for watershed restoration is in the upper watershed, where streams begin. This is where water soaks into the soil, giving life to plants and species small and large, slowly collecting into small streams, which eventually come together as the tributaries that form the rivers which we have named.

Today, the way we have channelized our streams and depicted them on maps give the impression that the flow of water through our landscapes is linear. But originally, it was not so. Linearity was an outcome of development. Before channelization, there was diversity in how water moves through and manifests in the landscapes. This contributed to the character of neighborhoods and sense of place.

Early on, communities noticed that the replacement of vegetated landscapes with paved surfaces (buildings, roads, parking lots) created flooding and erosion downstream. Development continued, nonetheless, until building was so extensive that it had turned winter rains into a public safety risk. While the routing of most of our winter rains into an underground stormdrain system dried up nuisance water and freed up land for development, it also resulted in neighborhoods that were comparatively uniform in character.

The stories on this website were compiled from interviews with elders of Northeast Los Angeles, and supplemented by archival and other sources between 2003-6. Some of the stories I recorded sound a bit like mythology, but I choose to leave these stories and my rendition of them in their original form. This website has itself become a historical document!

Maybe one day, I will add some notes about the mechanics of urban hydrology, as I understand this topic, fifteen years later! Until then, I'll only note that the community of Eagle Rock is situated over their own groundwater basin, which collects water from the hills above this town. The town shares this aquifer with no other community. Thus Eagle Rock has a unique opportunity to manage the level of water in its own aquifer. If rainwater harvesting measures such as permeable paving, bioswales, and revegetation of exposed ground were more widespread in this community we could expect the water table to rise, making more moisture available throughout the year to feed local landscapes. Eagle Rock's aquifer is only tapped by one single user: Sparkletts. Until then, please enjoy. Write to me with comments at myriadsmallthings /a/t/g/m/a/i/l/d/o/t/c/o/m.

-- Jane Tsong, 2019

For more info
To read more about historical creeks in Los Angeles, go to LA Creek Freak.
Or, find "L.A. Creek Freak" or "North Branch" on facebook to trade notes about our local streams.

Thank you to all the North East Los Angeles old timers who shared their memories with me, and especially Eric Warren of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society for guiding my research, sharing discoveries, and offering encouragement. Tim Brick's exhibition "Flowing Waters, Fruitful Valley" opened my eyes to the pre-aqueduct history of water in Los Angeles. Jessica Hall's work mapping historical water courses throughout the entire LA metropolitan area, and doing important research on the North Fork of the Arroyo Seco was inspirational. She generously shared with me her own sources and contacts. Ann Dove, Powell Greenland, and Michael Hart were also incredibly generous. Nicole Antebi suggested formatting my research in the form of a bike tour. Liz and Shay of C.I.C.L.E. expertly organized the route for the first group bike ride in 2008. May others continue to add to this story, which I've only just scratched the surface of...

A complete bibliography is published on the website, Water, CA , edited by Nicole Antebi and Enid Baxter Blader.

Fairchild Collection at Whittier College
Geoscience Support Services
Pasadena Museum of History
Eagle Rock Historical Society
Huntington Library
LA DWP Archives
Los Angeles Public Library

Conversations/Correspondence with...
Tim Brick
Bob Cota
Ann Dove
Troy Evans
Charles J. Fisher
Bert Fraleigh
Powell Greenland
Fred Guapo
Ed Kluss
Don Krotser
Wanda Kuenzli
Jessica Hall
Michael J. Hart
Kenneth Kent Sr.
Elmer Lorenz
Lupe, manager of Eagle Rock Springs Mobile Home Community in 2007
Bill Mac Learn