Monday, February 9, 2009

Urban Waterway

The Arroyo Seco is much more than a weird concrete channel used by local skateboarders. Although the Spanish name roughly translates to “dry stream bed,” it usually flows with several cubic feet of water per second, and occasionally swells to near capacity with the runoff of an erosion-prone 46.7 square mile watershed. It starts near Mount Wilson in the Angeles National Forest of the San Gabriel Mountains and winds its way between La Canada Flintridge and Altadena through Pasadena, alongside the western boundary of South Pas and onward into the bigger concrete confines of the Los Angeles River north of Downtown LA. The Arroyo Seco stream assists in replenishing the Raymond Basin aquifer underlying Pasadena.

The Arroyo region is a fantastic microcosm of local plant and animal life -- although, in my opinion, the area skunks certainly could tone down their olfactory upstaging. (My husband and I joke that we live in the Skunk Gabriel Valley.) The Arroyo Seco Foundation, created by Charles Lummis in 1905, has led the way in efforts to preserve and protect the area for future generations. The group works toward "an integrated, harmonious approach to watershed and flood management, water conservation, habitat enhancement as well as the expansion of recreational opportunities." I'm glad we have good people like this to make sure our natural treasures aren't completely paved over. They recently helped bring back the Arroyo chub -- a native species of fish that was once plentiful in the area.

Just above the Devil's Gate Dam, the Arroyo stream creates falls that are particularly loud and melodious. Local mythology tells us that this rhythmic, mysterious, laughing sound is due to an ongoing competition between the taunting river and the trickster coyote. (Though I wouldn’t put it past those rambunctious skunks to have something to do with it.)

Here, the Arroyo curves along the edge of Arroyo Drive, across from South Pasadena’s Lower Arroyo Park, right near the Skate Park and -- if you look at the familiar streetlamps on the left side of the photo -- next to the tunnel I showed you here.

For another view, Petrea at Pasadena Daily Photo has a gorgeous recent shot of the Arroyo here.


Judy Williams said...

Curved ribbons of blue. And Petrea's image is stunning as well.

Wish I had a song about an Arroyo. :~)

Marian Fortunati said...

What a delightful and informative post!!
Your photo is absolutely gorgeous!!
I love the way you caught the colors on the walls and the light in the water.

Yakpate said...

Laurie: What time of day did you take this shot? It has a dawn quality, as if you snapped it around 6 or 6:30 am. And what is that little square of swimming pool turquoise on the base of the left bridge support? And are those swirls of color on the retainer walls some kind of chemical accident or the work of local artists?

I am carefully avoiding looking at this picture too long... I can feel it sucking me into the water to swirl me away to Bluetown.

Dixie Jane said...

All this talk about an Arroya, skate boarding, skunks, water looks like a modern painting to me, done with a pallette knife. And I have named it, "Blue." A lovely shade of blue and it is hanging on a red wall. Ok, so you can call me crazy and I call it a "Blue Ribbon Winner". But I knows what I see.

Virginia said...

Did you know your Momma has been gallivanting all the way to B'ham today?? I was thrilled to have her drop in and visit a while. Hey DJ up there!!!!

Oh, and I agree, the arroyo looks like something by O'Keeffe but she's be painting the real thing I suppose.

pasadenapio said...

The City of Pasadena will host several "Discover the Arroyo Seco" events next month. See the schedule and more information here.

All events are free and everyone is welcome, so we hope to see you there!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

When I was a kid hanging out in the wash, we often saw small fish in the water. I thought they were minows and now I'm wondering if they were the Arroyo Chub.

dbdubya said...

YP - I'm pretty certain the swimming pool turquoise you ask about is part of the mural painted by the Girl Scouts on both sides of the inside walls of the tunnel under the freeway.

Mister Earl said...

Awesome photo, Laurie. It looks like the colors on the sides are painted-over grafitti, no?

Laurie said...

Hi everyone!

Welcome, Marion!

Judy, I agree -- Petrea's image is wonderful. A song about the Arroyo, huh... I'm going to have to work on that... (Mister Earl! Don't let me down!)

Yak, it wasn't sunrise but sunset. In fact, the light was bouncing around doing all kinds of weird, post-storm stuff. The shot is far more grainy than it should be -- but I like the effect here because, to me, this is more of a painting with light than a photograph. That might sound weird but that magic hour of twilight often messes with the camera, with interesting results. Here, it brought out all the nuanced color on the sides of the concrete without me having to push the contrast in editing the image.

Dixie Mom, you would do this justice in palette knife. Leslie Saeta... YOU have a palette knife, too!

Virginia, I hadn't thought of O'Keefe. Good call.

Pasadenapio, thank you so much for posting information about Discover Arroyo Seco events. I'm so glad to know about this.

PasadenaAdjacent, did you ever fish at that strange casting pond under the COlorado Street Bridge?

Dbdubya, I think you're right -- the turquoise is part of the mural.

Mister E, thanks! I'm not sure what those color swatches are, except to say that they are more pronounced in this photo, in that interesting just after sunset light than they are to the naked eye.

Thank you so much for commenting, everyone. I love coming here and seeing what everyone has to say. Lately, I have really been struck with how much fun blogging can be -- and how a post often takes on a life of its own due to the commentary of readers. You all made my image of raindrops the other day far more interesting than the original post!

Until tomorrow...

alex schaefer said...

Oh the poor LA River! ahahahaha! Great photo. Thanks for your nice comments on my blog.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

This is in a tad late but I have seen people throw goldfish into the casting pond. They don't live long and it's also a place for polywogs

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