Newbie bikers learn on miles of car-free trails.  Kids of all ages kayak, bird watch and play in pocket parks springing up along the water. If that sounds like a bucolic getaway, think again: this all takes place along the LA River that runs right through the city. The Frog Spot in Glassell Park, now open for the summer, is the perfect place to start your exploration, learn more about the river history and preservation, hear music, do yoga, play games, snack and make new friends.

frogspot_bocceballphoto: LeTania Kirkland

The History of “A River Runs Through It”
The LA River starts in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains and flows for nearly 48 miles from Canoga Park to Long Beach. It was once a natural flowing river and home to steelhead trout, grizzlies and other animals. After a series of devastating floods, the Army Corps of Engineers began the process to pave over 80% of the river. What was once a thriving habitat and water became a largely ignored concrete mass. Then The Friends of the LA River was founded in 1986 with a mission to restore and protect the natural integrity of the river. FOLAR created The Frog Spot last summer to encourage an interest in the river among the general public; a spot where we can all learn a bit about the river, as well as have a “jumping off” point for more river explorations. The Frog Spot re-opened for the season on Memorial Day with even more plans for a fabulous 2016 summer.

frogspot_signphoto: LeTania Kirkland

Get Those Wheels Rolling
The Frog Spot is located right along the Elysian Valley bike path on the river. If you know your little riders may only pedal a short distance, a great starting point is Marsh Park, which is also along the bike trail. If you have to drive to get to the area, you can park the car in the open (free!) lots, let them run in the lush grass and garden areas and then head west on the bike path. There are plenty of signs leading to the “Spot.”

photo: LeTania Kirkland

Have a Drink, Take a Seat, Toss a Ball
Enter the Frog Spot and you’ll be warmly greeted. The space is wide open, casual and has plenty of shade provided by a canopy of billowing, white sails. After your ride, the family is welcome to grab a cup or refill water bottles with free ice cold water. The food trailer is open for light snacks, paletas, cold drinks and coffee. Beer and wine is also served on Saturdays after 2 p.m. After you’ve had a moment to hydrate and cool down, be sure to take advantage of the Bocce court. Don’t worry if you’ve never played; someone on staff will be able to give you a quick run-down of the rules. It’s easy enough for everyone in the family to play.

frogspot_boccezolliephoto: LeTania Kirkland

There is also a children’s corner under a shady tree complete with art supplies and other goodies. Go ahead have a seat and let them wiggle a bit. This place makes you feel like you dropped into a good friend’s backyard barbecue.

Music and Merriment
Every Saturday evening features live music. Throughout the summer there will also be poetry readings, affordable (gasp) yoga classes and other events. Check their calendar, facebook or twitter page for updated details.

frogspot_kidsonriverphoto: LeTania Kirkland

Get Schooled and Get Moving
The Frog Spot is a great place to hang, but it is also a place for learning. Bring your littles along for some river education. The entire staff is knowledgeable about the river and can answer questions your mini-ecologists might have about the river’s past, present or future. Be sure everyone is wearing sneakers if you plan on exploring. It’s okay to walk down the wash to get closer to river’s edge, but it’s a bit steep, so good shoes are a must. Also, be sure to check their calendar for a listing of tours and educational opportunities.

frogspot_steelhead

Be sure to check out the Stella the Steelhead Sculpture before you leave. This massive piece was completed by a team of artists to represent the steelhead that used to thrive in the river. Besides a spool of wire, this piece was made of nothing but recycled materials—much of it debris that was pulled from the river itself. The piece is attached to a bicycle and has toured around the city. Stella is a sight to behold and an invaluable lesson in conservation for future environmentalists.

The Frog Spot is open weekends through Labor Day, Saturdays from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. & Sundays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Frog Spot
2825 Benedict St.
Glassell Park
323-223-0585
Online: folar.org/frogspot

What’s your favorite thing to do along the LA River?  Let us know in the comment section!

—LeTania Kirkland