The Lost Wetlands Of Los Angeles Are Being Mapped Out By Experts

When we think of Los Angeles, we think of an overdeveloped, crowded, relatively expensive, star-studded place. However, there was once a time when the area that we now call Los Angeles consisted of farmlands, open spaces and wetlands.

La Cienaga was one of the biggest wetland regions in Los Angeles. The wetland stretched up to Mid-City Lost Angeles from South City Los Angeles. A plethora of pools, ponds and meadows characterized this area. La Cienaga connected to another wetland environment that is (or was) located on the coast. The name of this wetland complex was Ballona Lagoon.

These wetlands were biologically diverse and consisted of many different types of environments. A fuller list of the environments that existed in the wetland complexes of Los Angeles included willow thickets, wet meadows, perennial freshwater ponds, dunes, beaches, salt flat/tidal flats, valley freshwater marches, alkali flats, open water, brackish to salt marshes/tidal marshes and alkali meadows.

In 1769, the first official settlement of Los Angeles was founded by a European explorer named Gaspar de Portola. In 1850, California became the thirtieth state to have joined the Union. After this happened, more infrastructure was quickly built in Los Angeles. The addition of infrastructure altered the natural environment. Around the turn of the last century, the Ballona Lagoon wetlands were converted into a built-up community.

According to experts, the wetlands of Ballona Creek watershed extended over 8,100 acres. Today, the wetlands only extend to about 1,228 acres. The 130 mile area that once consisted of these wetlands is now a place where 1.2 million people call home. The neighborhoods that exist in this area include Beverly Hills, South Los Angeles, Inglewood, Baldwin Hills and western Los Angeles.

Recently, an effort has been made to map out the area that the original Ballona Creek watershed spanned. The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project constructed the Ballona Creek Watershed Historical Ecology Project, which includes a map of the wetlands. Attention has been put on the years between 1850 and 1890—the years that preceded the destruction of the environment.

In the libraries of the University of Southern California, there are pictures of Los Angeles that were taken before it became built up. They offer a stark contrast to the Los Angeles that we all know and love today. For example, in one picture from 1905, a young woman is sitting on a hill in Laughlin Park, overlooking Hollywood from the southwest. She is looking out over hills and neat groves.