Calendar Item: Help clean up the East Fork

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Quick Mends: Listen to the people

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This manuscript map from 1868 shows the path of the Zanja Madre, or Mother Ditch, as it winds along current-day North Broadway from the Los Angeles River, at right. (courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Central Library Collection)

William Deverell, a historian at USC and the director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, recently penned this editorial in the Los Angeles Times. He skillfully recounts how the concrete-encased LA River came to be, but does deeper than other writers.

According to Deverell, the research for the U.S. Army Corps final work came from old-timers. Tasked with creating a profile of the river, two engineers asked these old people what it was like to grow up in the region before statehood, before the Gold Rush, even back to the Mexican and mission period.

“The people they interviewed were nonwhite: indigenous, Mexican, mixed-race mestizos. (No whites, or at least a very few, had memories that stretched back far enough to help.) These elders knew the river; it ran through their memories and lives. They grew up near it, but not too near, lest wintertime floods wash away their adobes. They drank from it, as did their livestock. They irrigated their crops from the zanjas they had carved from it. The river was lifeblood, the defining feature of the landscape.”

Yet this research from seemingly egalitarian roots was later used to create a river not for the people, but for those with money, power and clout.

As we near the approval of the renewal design plan, he advocates we not make the same mistake twice.

Thanks to Steve Kuchenski of the Pasadena Casting Club Conservation Committee for passing this along.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth Quotes: Roderick Haig-Brown’s ‘A River Never Sleeps’

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Prolific fishing author Roderick Haig-Brown was a conservation pioneer, spending much of his life in Campbell River, B.C. (Courtesy Museum at Campbell River)

Why should we all speak up to restore our river’s natural habitat in the face of redevelopment plans that put everything but the endangered southern steelhead  first?

Perhaps, because of the recent shrinkage of two treasured national monuments, despite an outcry by millions of concerned outdoorsmen (and women). For an eye-opening read, check out What Would Theodore Roosevelt Do?IMG_1028

Perhaps, because of goverment-mandated cutting of the two most important words of this century — “climate change” — from documents produced by the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency and other federal authorities.

Perhaps, because of the devastating climate-fueled conflagration we all recently witnessed here in our own city, to our north, to our south and to thousands of acres all over California.

Or, perhaps, because it is simply the right thing to do.

When does the misuse of what we’ve been freely given end? A former wild river now encased in concrete is as good a place as any to take a stand. Today, when I wade the soft-bottomed sections that remain, fly rod in hand, birds overhead, I feel that fragile sense of hope return. Hope begins as a small thing, like a faint cry you can’t quite make out. But, given time, and especially nurtured by like minds and hearts, it grows and spreads. Hope becomes a powerful force.

In these depressing times, we all need sources of inspiration to nurture that hope.

Consider the 1946 masterpiece, “A River Never Sleeps.” Its author Roderick Haig-Brown lays out his best-known book’s chapters by months. January is reserved for steelhead.

The English Haig-Brown included in this chapter drawn from his experiences in a logging camp in Mount Vernon, Washington, his praise for American openness to immigrants because we are a nation of immigrants:

“When I had been in camp only a week or two, a little old Irishman whom we called Frank Skagway showed me the strength and passion with which America grips her immigrants. In the bunkhouse one evening a few of us were talking of Europe and America and the differences of the life of the two continents.

Probably I said my say for Old England — I don’t remember now — but being only two or three months away from her, I must have. Frank had been listening without offering a word, but suddenly he looked over at me, his lined and long-jawed Irish face serious as I had never seen it.

‘Lad,’ he asked, ‘do you know what country this is?’

‘No,’ I said doubtfully.

‘It’s the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ ”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Record temps create carp spawning conditions

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This Plecostomus must have been in someone’s aquarium. (Credit Jim Burns)

OK, I know it sounds crazy, but carp were chasing each other, jumping out of the water and love was in the air. In other words, a mini-spawn is on. Weather in Long Beach topped out at 87 degrees breaking the record of 84 set in 1975, according to the National Weather Service.

Meanwhile, I didn’t catch this deceased  Plecostomus, but was thrilled to finally see one.

 

Aquarium lovers might know this heavily armored bottom feeder as a “janitor fish,” one that comes from the Amazon to clean the algae off your tank. Tthe species grows to 2 feet and sometimes end up in the river.

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Crazy-hot temperatures for December found lots of carp jumping out of the water, a bad sign for catching them.

See you on the river, Jim Burns