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River Resources 


In certain locations, the Los Angeles River Watershed offers an opportunity to explore the region's unique geography and biodiversity. However, when there is contamination in the rivers and streams of our watershed, visitors, especially swimmers, have a greater chance of getting sick. Contamination from animal and human waste can introduce bacteria , microscopic organisms, and other pathogens that make us sick. The Los Angeles River Watershed Monitoring Program (LARWMP) monitors bacteria levels at formal/regulated and unregulated recreational sites from Memorial Day to Labor Day to help build a better understanding of the water quality and public health risks at popular recreational sites. Click here for the most recent LARWMP report

Recreational Activities 

The L.A. River recreational permitted zones are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day for kayaking, hiking and fishing. Sites are managed by Mountains and Recreation and Conservation Authority and are located in the Glendale Narrows and Sepulveda Basin

Sites along the streams of the upper watershed are popular among visitors for hiking and swimming, particularly during the summer months. These sites are unregulated and lack lifeguards as well as the restroom facilities typically found at regulated sites. For more information visit the Los Angeles County of Public Health.

Why do we monitor bacteria? 

Regular monitoring is an important step in understanding water quality conditions and in identifying potential public health risks. The LARWMP monitors bacteria, specifically E. Coli at popular recreational sites. Although E. Coli is naturally found in the intestines of both animals and humans, high concentrations of E. Coli indicate an increased risk of getting sick. For more information on fecal indicator bacteria such as 

E. Coli, click here.


River Safety  

When enjoying the recreational opportunities regulated sites along the L.A. River Watershed have to offer, there are important precautions you can take to ensure a safe experience! 

Check water quality monitoring data

The bacteria levels found at popular recreational sites are compared to water quality standards for water contact recreation. Bacteria levels above the standard mean you are at a higher risk of getting sick.

Be safe when you recreate.

Swallowing water with high concentrations of bacteria may result in gastrointestinal illness. Wading in water with high concentrations of bacteria can also result in rashes, eye and ear infections, and skin infections. 

At all recreation sites:

  • Avoid swimming and kayaking during and up to 72 hours after rain events

  • Avoid water contact if you have an open wound

  • Obey all regulatory signs (e.g. park and U.S. Forest Service, MRCA, City and other government signs)

  • Avoid water contact if your immune system is compromised (small children and the elderly are at higher risk of contracting illnesses)

At kayaking sites:  

  • Avoid swimming and hand-to-face water contact

  • Avoid swallowing water and putting head under water

  • Rinse off with soap and water after kayaking

Help keep the river clean.  

The fecal bacteria that enter the waterways may originate from both animal and human sources. YOU can better protect our water quality and ensure recreational sites are safe for visitors by: 

  • Not entering the water if you have/had a diarrhea in the last two weeks

  • Cleaning up after your pets no matter where you are! Bacteria from fecal matter (such as pet waste) can wash into our rivers and streams

  • Using restroom facilities before visiting a recreational site

  • Putting trash in trash receptacles, especially trash that can introduce fecal waste into streams (diapers, pet waste, toilet paper)

  • Keeping an eye on children in swim diapers and changing them regularly 


The L.A. River watershed is home to many plants and animals that are unique to the region, and depend on food and habitat found near the river. Be a good watershed steward by throwing away trash, staying on trails, and respecting the diverse habitats found along the rivers and streams of the watershed. 

Learn more on how you can be a watershed steward

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