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Nathan Cooke, Runner of the LA River's 51 Miles

Meet Nathan Cooke, a designer with a passion for environmental stewardship, and a love for running. Nathan has set the ambitious goal to run all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River. Let that sit in: 51 miles! On August 20, Nathan will start in Canoga Park and run all the way to Long Beach in an effort to celebrate and bring awareness to the River and its future possibilities.


In order to complete the length of the River, Nathan will have to weave through side-streets and run directly in the water channel due to the gaps in the River’s pedestrian paths. His detached route calls attention to the need for a connected River corridor and pedestrian network. River LA’s Greenway 2020 campaign is a movement to connect all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River, from Canoga Park to Long Beach, by the year 2020. The Greenway goal is to provide key linkage for river-adjacent cities, improving quality of life and building a healthier and more resilient region. 

Nathan is all about goal-setting. He has previously run marathon distances and a 35 mile birthday run, but has never attempted the ambitious 51 mile goal. He will be joined by runners from the Skid Row Running Club, a nonprofit that hopes to empower the community and support participants to achieve positive life goals.

We asked Nathan some questions about why he’s running the LA River, which you can read below. If you’d like to show your support for the LA River and Nathan’s journey, make your contribution to River LA here

Screen_Shot_2017-08-17_at_11.48.54_AM.pngWhy am I running in the LA River?

As a Designer, part of my job is to envision things that don’t exist, and bring them to life so that others can interact with them. I believe this desire to imagine and create exists in everyone. I believe that this drive stems from humanity’s beginnings on the Savannah. People were made to run long distances. Our bodies were built to chase down prey that disappeared beyond the horizon; and our minds could imagine them even when we could not see them. All of this, imagination, drive and goal setting, is what pushed us off the Savannah, and to create the world we have today. People are natural runners. People are natural Designers.

Running the river is a clear way to connect these parts of myself. Running. Design. Stewardship.

What do you envision for the future of the River?

We have shaped much of the world to our needs, and at times, to the detriment of ourselves and the environment. The river was channelized to serve a purpose, and it needs to change to serve a new purpose. I would love to see a river with open spaces, and accessible by all. A place where people can run along its entire 51 mile length, and not be concerned with trash or sewage outflow. A place school children and families can encounter a variety of flora and fauna that inspire the imagination.


How will you face the challenge of running the long distance?

Running the 51 miles of the river, is a microcosm of going through life. We just have to keep putting one foot forward in front of the other, and adapt to the environment at hand. It is a challenge that will be full of pain. It is through this challenge though, that I find meaning. It is through this challenge that I can make meaning of life. That I reflect upon all aspects of myself. That I can bring others together for conversation about how to shape the world into that which we imagine together.

Which River Index Criteria Are Most Important to You?

(1) Open Spaces & Public Parks

(2) Public Health Social Equity

(3) Ecology and Habitat

(4) Water Quality


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Become a Bedrock Donor

Become a Bedrock Donor!

Our Bedrock Donors are a special circle of River LA supporters dedicated to unlocking the potential of the Los Angeles River. Bedrock Donors give a small (or large!) gift every month. This consistent donation empowers us to spend our time focusing on the river and less time on administrative costs. How neat is that?!

Gifts are charged automatically each month with the ability to change or suspend the donation at any time, making the donation process easier and more convenient. Plus, Bedrock Donors receive special benefits as a token of our gratitude for their continual support.

Becoming a Bedrock Donor is an impactful, hassle-free way to make your support for the River go further. Together, we can transform all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River and change the course of Los Angeles.

Sign up to be a Bedrock Donor today!

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August River Roundup

July was a busy month for River LA and the Los Angeles River. With so much happening, it’s hard to keep up! Because of that, we’ve decided to rethink our monthly newsletter.

Today, we’d like to introduce the LA River Roundup. This version of our newsletter will include all the latest and greatest news about the Los Angeles River, including our original content and content from other organizations. Read below and let us know what you think in the comments!


River LA Releases Date for 7th Annual Urban Garden Party Fundraiser
This event celebrates the 51-mile Los Angeles River. This year, we’re honoring John Boiler and Supervisor Hilda Solis. River LA 

River by the Numbers: How to Use the LA River Index
Learn best practices for using the LA River Index tool containing data on the Los Angeles River. Perfect for students and organizations looking to become river experts! River LA


State Approves $100 Million for River Restoration
$100 million of Proposition 1 Funding was allocated for restoration of the LA River. CBS Local

Los Angeles to Host 2028 Summer Olympics
Los Angeles announces deal to host 2028 elections, initial speculations about incorporation of River into event. Variety

Did Rogue Paddlers, Scalia Cement Protection for LA River?
How Trump administration’s effort to limit the Clean Water Act might affect the Los Angeles River. E&E News  

Eric Garcetti Sworn In For Second Term As L.A. Mayor
Mayor Eric Garcetti is sworn in for second term with LA River as one of his talking points. LAist


18 "Rail-to-Trail" Projects Following in the High Line's Footsteps
18 park infrastructure projects join the Highline Network, including River LA. dezeen

Guest commentator on why an inclusive, collaborative approach is necessary for river revitalization. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Frogtown Bike Shop is Now Also Full Restaurant
Spoke Bicycle Cafe, bike shop and cafe on the LA River, expands to full restaurant. The Eastsider LA

Researchers Create Report with Suggestions for LA River Revitalization 
UCLA researchers report on existing projects along the river emphasizing community outreach. Daily Bruin



Atwater Bridge a Go Despite 4x Original Cost
La Kretz Crossing gets the go-ahead from city officials with new budget. Los Feliz Ledger 

The L.A. River Dreams of its Future: Larry Wilson
Columnist considers the potential challenges for re-design of River. Los Angeles Daily News

Fresh Renderings Show Off South LA’s Future Bike and Pedestrian Path
Designs present pedestrian and bike paths connecting Metro’s Crenshaw, Silver, and Blue lines to River in South LA. Curbed Los Angeles

Early Plans for Taylor Yard Include New Walkways and Kayaking Spots
Interim use for Taylor Yard property could include walkways, bike lanes, kayaking spots. Curbed Los Angeles

A Revitalized LA River Can Still Protect L.A. From Flooding
Opinion piece that design for the L.A. River can address both flood control and the need for public parks without being mutually exclusive. Los Angeles Times


EPA U.S. EPA Requires Southern California Plastic Manufacturers to Protect L.A. River from Pollution
EPA reaches agreement with plastic product manufacturers to protect River from pollution.
Web Wire.

Heal The Bay Launches New 'Report Card' To Grade L.A. Rivers And Watering Holes
Heal the Bay’s Report Card assesses the L.A. River’s water quality. LAist.

Is Re-Introducing Steelhead Trout into the Arroyo Seco Another Fish Tale?
Scientists consider re-introducing steelhead trout into L.A. River’s tributaries. Pasadena Star-News

LA Reaches Settlement With Army Corps Of Engineers Over LA River And Its Tributaries
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reach agreement on water quality for Los Angeles River. LA West Media

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River by the Numbers: How to Use the River Index

Did you know, 1 out of ever 4 Angelenos live within 30 miles of the river?

In 2014, we partnered with Gehry Partners, OLIN, and Geosyntec to digest and explore the enormous amount of data surrounding the Los Angeles River. Our goal was to build upon the 25 years of work to create a single framework by which future projects for the river could be evaluated. For example, if a city wanted to build a park along the LA River, this index could be used to determine if it’s in the right location based off of population need, etc.

All this work led to the River Index, which was launched in 2016.

Today, this free, online resource includes an analysis of new and existing studies and master plans, and was informed by community members, peer organizations, state and local agencies, technical experts, and everyone in between. It covers a range of topics and has everything you need to becoming a LA River expert. We’re here to provide an overview of how it works, and share some best practices for making the most of the River Index.

Have a specific question about it? Let us know in the comments.

What is the River Index, exactly?

The River Index is an online resource full of data about the Los Angeles River and the communities it runs through. It’s been broken into nine sections, but really can be looked at through three lenses: People, water and nature*. The table shows a breakdown of topics covered in the index:





Water Recharge

Ecology & Habitat


Water Quality

Greenhouse Gases

Public Health & Social Equity

Flood Risk Management

Open Space & Parks 

*These topics are all connected. This is just one way of categorizing the incredible amount of data from the River Index! 

Each of these sections has an incredible amount of data, including the history of the issues and facts about existing conditions, so get ready for some knowledge. 

How should I use this resource?

The River Index is a free, public resource that anyone can use. It’s a great starting point for individuals, schools, and organizations to begin their exploration of a topic as it relates to the Los Angeles River and the neighborhoods surrounding it. We do ask that as you use this fabulous resource, you link to it so other folks can find and use it!

So how’s it work?


For the purposes of this section, we’re going to review an example of how you might use this index.

Let’s say you want to write a blog for your organization or an essay for school about water quality in the Los Angeles area. Head on over to the LA River Index homepage, and start clicking around to the Water Quality section of the website.

Once you’re within a section, you’ll notice an overview of the content, and what goals are around that issue. For example, our work, and the content around Water Quality, is all aimed at ‘improving river water quality to positively impact our natural ecosystem.’ Pretty cool, huh?

A your scroll down the Water Quality page, you’ll notice a few things:

Some favorite statistics:

These topics have an unbelievable amount of data. On the issue homepages, we try to highlight particularly interesting data. Did you know 98% of the original LA River watershed’s native wetlands have been lost? It’s a bummer, but that’s why it’s important to do this research!

‘Explore This Topic’

This section, found on the toolbar to the left, offers all the additional information about the topic you’re researching. For Water Quality, this includes Issues and Improvements. As you select and explore these tabs, you’re taken deeper into the content and provided with additional, related content.

‘Related Topics’

Pretty straightforward here, but you can explore the other topics as they relate to Water Quality by selecting the options under this header. For Water Quality, this includes ‘Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.’ Selecting the options under Related Topics will sometimes kick you over to a resource on another site, like the Greater Los Angeles County Region Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

Have fun with it! Who doesn’t love data relevant to your community? If you have troubles or questions as you’re clicking around, feel free to reach out to We’re here and happy to help! We really love river data.

What’s this ‘Toolset’ section about?

The toolset is designed to help folks evaluate opportunities and projects along the river. This section is overflowing with information from dozens of resources to help project leaders better understand the data surrounding the river.

3D_River_Channel.pngTo use this section, consider the type of data you’d like to access. The tools have been broken into: 3D Data Collection, 2D DataCollection, Design Reaches, Functional Flow Rate, Precedent Information, Kit of Parts, and Economic Development Framework.

These sections contain the river information in particular data styles. Not every topic is covered in each of the different styles of data but with a little digging, you’ll be able to find your specific area of interest.

Where did all this data come from?

This River Index is a result of countless meetings with regional elected officials, peer and technical organizations, public agencies, and 100s of listening sessions with the general public. The data is a compilation of national, state, and local organizations, as well as our team (Gehry Partners, OLIN, and Geosyntec). All of this information is free and available to the public.

What’s come out of this so far?

So far, this River Index has been used to educate and inform organizations, public leaders, and communities about our great river. It’s provided the lenses by which we view and judge our work. And, going forward, it’s what we believe the future of this infrastructure project can result in: clean water, river connectivity, fewer greenhouses gases, and just a healthier, safer Southern California.

We hope this brief How-To helps you better understand and utilize this incredible toolkit of data about our Los Angeles River. If you have a specific question about the tool, or want to share a cool project you (or your students) are working on, please share! Click here to get started.

And we couldn’t forget, this wouldn’t be possible without the generous donations from the follow fabulous organizations and individuals:

We thank the following major donors:

  • Achieving America Family Foundation

  • Andrea Gibbin

  • California Community Foundation/Opportunity Fund

  • The California Water Foundation program of Resources Legacy Fund

  • Goldhirsh Foundation

  • The JIB Fund

  • John W. Carson Foundation

  • JP Morgan Chase Bank

  • Luann and Bob Williams

  • Lynda and Stewart Resnick

  • The City of Long Beach

  • The Rivers and Mountains Conservancy

  • The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation

  • The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation

  • The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

  • Amy Gordon Yanow and Tony Yanow

  • …and matching Donations to the Yanow gift

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8 Summer Activities on the Los Angeles River


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Upcoming Events

7th Annual Urban Garden Party

Sunday, October 01, 2017 at 04:00 PM
Sportsmen's Lodge
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