This is the first in a series of posts. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be working to document the Dominguez channel in photos and words.

These are photos that I took of the upper portion of the Channel right after some recent rains. Although it had stopped raining, the water in the channel was muddy, turbulent, and fast flowing. I was glad there was little chance of slipping in. Even though I knew intellectually to expect high flow right after the rain, I wasn’t prepared for the high rate and volume, having previously only seen the channel at times of low flow.

Above ground flow starts on 116th St between Kornblum and Doty.  There’s a paved access road along one side of the channel, but it’s usually gated (below).

Today the gate happened to be open.  The pictures aren’t ideal, since I didn’t realize until late in the walk that my camera had settings for cloudy days and such (ah the wonders of technology).

Just past the paved area south of the gate is the confluence of two drainage systems.  In this picture one is flowing out from under my feet.  The other joins about 50 yards up on the left.  Flow is south towards the 105 freeway.  The bridge in the distance is the 105.

Below is the flow coming out of the first  set of drainage tunnels.  This was right after heavy rain and that flow was fast!  I was glad there was a fence up to prevent accidental falls into the drainage.

Here’s why there was such a large amount of water: It is estimated that 62 percent of the land [in the Dominguez watershed] is covered with impervious surfaces (e.g., asphalt, concrete), which represents the highest percentage for any watershed area in Los Angeles County. Since the majority of the watershed is urban, drainage is primarily conducted through an extensive network of underground storm drains. In reality, the storm drain system, rather than the natural topography, is what defines the boundary for the watershed. Approximately 62 percent of the runoff drains to the Dominguez Channel, which is the largest drainage feature in the watershed (Figure 1.4-3). From LADWP Dominguez Watershed Master Plan

Facing south and moving closer to the 105 overcrossing.  You can see the turbulence as the two flows join.  There is a paved road on the left side that I walked down.  Houses that back up on the access road tend to have high fences, but otherwise ignore the channel.  It looks like a slightly different story over on the other side of of the channel.  I saw some cactus planted as a barrier and the more abundant grafitti seemed to indicate better access.  A nearby rooster crowed a few times as I walked the channel.

The 105 overcrossing.

This was a pleasant surprise.  I crossed under the 105 and looked across a fairly large, fenced, open space towards the Yukon Street undercrossing.  Yukon is barricaded with more fencing to prevent access from the north.  This area is roughly triangular, with this side perhaps big enough for a soccer field  narrowing as the drainage turns to more-or-less parallel the 105.

Above is a primitive mosaic of what I saw looking north up the access road (left), across the open space towards Yukon, and then eastward (at right).  A developer has put some houses just on the other side of the 105 from here, so it’s not out of the question that this space could be planted with homes – There doesn’t seem to be any place that’s too close to a freeway for homes.  Wouldn’t it be better as parkland or open space?

Approximately 81 percent of the watershed or 93 percent of the land [in the watershed] is developed. Residential development covers nearly 40 percent of the watershed, and another 41 percent is made up by industrial, commercial, and transportation uses. With a population of nearly 1 million, considerable demands are made on infrastructure and services within the watershed. Water supply is limited and the majority of water use is from imported sources. Parkland and open space are in short supply and generally are deficient in meeting the goal ratio of 0.4 hectare (1 acre) of park per each 1,000 population. From LADWP Dominguez Watershed Master Plan

Above is the end of the trail on this segment of access road.  That’s a freeway offramp up ahead and the flow of the channel goes underground until it reaches Crenshaw Blvd, several hundred feet farther east.  There is a park and ride lot on top of the underground channel between here and there.