Paddling down a concrete river

By NOAKI SCHWARTZ | August 27, 2011 | 11:10 AM EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paddle beneath an overpass and for a moment the concrete flood-control channel that shackles the Los Angeles River for much of its length gives way. Willows bend in the breeze, blue dragonflies skim the surface and snowy egrets rest under the cottonwoods.

Getting here legally is the hard part.

Nearly four decades after capricious flood waters were tamed by concrete, the 51-mile river has largely existed as a no-man's land, a fenced-off, garbage-strewn scar. Trespassing is forbidden.

Kayakers, naturalists and recreation buffs want to change that.

During a six-week period, nearly 300 people will have a chance to kayak one of the few stretches of the waterway that actually looks like a river as part of a pilot program sponsored by the LA Conservation Corps.