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LA River Facts

The Los Angeles River is the original source of life for the City of Los Angeles. It is where the Tongva and, later, the Spanish built the City’s first settlements and where, today, ethnically diverse neighborhoods prosper. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the River powered the City’s industry and served as an important transportation corridor, creating economic value and growth. As development encroached upon the river’s floodplain, eventual flooding destroyed homes and property, harming people and wreaking havoc on some of the City’s most significant original settlements. Today the City is working to revitalize the Los Angeles River, keeping this rich history in mind. See also, The History of the LA Aqueduct here.



  • A series of devastating floods caused the River to be channelized: 1914: $165 million in property damage; 1934: $75 million in damage and 49 deaths; 1938: $900 million in damage and 87 deaths—beginning in the 1930s-1940s the LA River is channelized by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
  • The LA River flows through the nation’s 2nd largest urban region, into two of the world’s busiest port regions, and into the world’s largest water body: the Pacific Ocean.
  • The LA River begins in Canoga Park, flows through the San Fernando Valley, along the cities of Burbank and Glendale, along Griffith Park and Elysian Park, through Downtown LA and then through the cities of Vernon, Commerce, Maywood, Bell, Bell Gardens, South Gate, Lynwood, Compton, Paramount, Carson, and Long Beach.
  • LA River Watershed: 870 square miles
  • LA River Length: 51 miles (First 32 miles in the City of LA)
  • The first 32 miles of the River that flow through the City of Los Angeles intersect 7 U.S. Congressional Districts, 10 Council Districts, approximately 20 Neighborhood Council areas, and 12 Community Plan areas.
  • Elevation at Origin (Canoga Park): 772 feet
  • Elevation at Outlet (Pacific Ocean): 0 feet
  • Average Slope: 0.29 percent
  • Average Annual Precipitation: 15 inches
  • Average Daily Discharge: 320 cubic feet per second or 207 million gallons per day


Within the City of LA, the LA River Corridor is Home to:

  • More than 1 million people (Data from 2000 Census)
  • More than 390,000 housing units (2000)
  • More than 480,000 workers (2000)
  • More than 35,000 businesses (2003)
  • More than 80 schools (2004-5)
  • At the end of 2009 only 4 states had higher unemployment rates than California (12.4%)—Nationwide: 9.7%; Communities Surrounding the River Have Rates that are Much Higher—LA County: 12%; LA City: 13.2%; City of Commerce: 21.1%; Compton: 20.2%; Bell Gardens: 18.9%; Lynwood: 18.8%