The Los Angeles River starts in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains and flows nearly 51 miles (82 km) through the San Fernando Valley and downtown Los Angeles to its mouth at Long Beach, California. While the river was once free-flowing across the broad alluvial fan that is now the City of Los Angeles, it is currently notable for flowing through a concrete channel on a fixed course, which was built after a series of devastating floods in the early 20th century.
Indigenous people have lived in coastal Southern California for over 10,000 years, and several successive cultures have inhabited the present-day area. By the 16th century, the dominant group was the Tongva people and the river provided a source of water and food. The Tongva were hunters and gatherers who lived primarily off fish, small mammals, and the acorns from the abundant oak trees along the river’s path. There were at least 45 Tongva villages located near the Los Angeles River. After the arrival of the Spanish and the establishment of Mission San Gabriel in 1771, the Spanish referred to all of the Tongva living in that mission’s vicinity as Gabrieliño. Most of the Gabrieliño relocated to Spanish missions in the mid-19th, and a drastic drop in population occurred from exposure to European diseases.
In 1784 the Spanish King Carlos III granted Rancho Los Nietos to Spanish soldier Manuel Nieto and it was one of the first, and the largest, Spanish land concessions in Alta California. The rancho remained intact until 1834 when Governor Jose Figueroa officially ordered its partition into six smaller ranchos including Rancho Los Cerritos. “Cerritos” means “little hills” in Spanish and the rancho lands included the present-day cities of Cerritos and Long Beach. In 1843, Jonathan Temple bought Rancho Los Cerritos and built what is now known as the Los Cerritos Ranch House, a still-standing adobe building. In 1866, Temple sold Rancho Los Cerritos to a sheep-raising company, and eventually, the land was passed on to the Bixby Land Company and then to a Los Angeles syndicate that called itself the “Long Beach Land and Water Company”. They changed the name of the community to Long Beach and the city was officially incorporated in 1897. Read more here and here. Explore more of Long Beach and the Los Angeles River here: