Thesis snippets: rivers and their many faces

My very earliest forays into discovering the Los Angeles River, from a distance in Australia, had me thinking that it was all wide, trapezoidal flood control channel, like in the film Grease where Danny and Leo race hot-rods along the downtown stretch, their respective admirers watching on, every shot filled from edge to edge with monolithic concrete, and those bridges, one after the next. Of course, I quickly came to know the river has many faces, this was only one of them. The riverscape varies significantly from source to mouth – soft-bottom stretches, narrow box channel, yawning wide trapezoidal channel, vast expanses of water and narrow trickles. And more than this, to think of a river means to think of an entire catchment: tributaries; floodplains; surfaces, impervious and otherwise; stormwater systems; other infrastructure; so much more than just the river’s main stem. This is an analytical power of rivers, they force us to think connectively rather than in separate, modular ways. As Josh Link said in his interview, “you know, the sediment issue that’s way up in the hills, that you wouldn’t really associate with the L.A. River – this storm drain basically that’s going through the city – you just start making a lot of connections”.[1]

[1] Joshua Link, interview by Tilly Hinton, Tuesday 19 January 2016, 2016, Digital Recording, Millenium Biltmore Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles.

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