The rivers draining the mountain ranges of Southern California create the Los Angeles Basin and a vast tidal marsh along the coastline between San Pedro and Newport Beach. This drainage network once provided a confluence of fresh and salt water that sustained diverse local ecologies and accommodated sixty million migrating birds.
But settlers with new attitudes appeared in the area around 1850. The rivers became hazards, the wetlands became wastelands, then resources. They were channelized, paved, dredged, diked, and filled for flood control, agriculture, railways, oil wells, ports, industry, freeways, marinas, houses, condos, and stores.
Only a small amount of natural wetlands remains, and the birds are down to four million.
Pictured here is one of the these rivers, the San Gabriel, and two adjacent estuaries, Alamitos Bay and the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. I hope you enjoy these photographs but can also imagine what has been lost: a wooded river, its snowmelt and sediment slowly trickling through fields of saltwort and pickleweed as it approached the Pacific.
Coastal wetlands, emergent marshes, excerpt from a status report by the CDFG: California's Living Marine Resources. Some of the information above is from this report.
Something Resembling a River, a touching documentary film on the Los Angeles River by Gerard Dawson. Viewable online.