Thursday, July 16, 2009

Freak Creek

Pasadena Daily Photo has had a lot of outside input lately. As long as people tell us interesting stories, you won't find me complaining.

This one's not so much a story as it is a question: What is, or was, Woodbury Creek?

On June 24th, I received an email from Stan Ellington of Pasadena, telling me about this "concrete stream bed that flows from under Mountain Street just east of El Molino Ave. (Gladys Ct. and Mountain St.). I think this is Woodbury Creek," he said, "that used to flow through Washington Park but is now mostly underground. I can't find it on any map of Pasadena. Do you have any information on this stream?"

I didn't have any information, but that didn't stop Stan. He found LA Creek Freak, a blog about LA's lost waterways, and asked them the same question. On June 29th they posted the outstanding entry, Woodburied Creek. They even posted maps. The one I've linked to shows a blue line through the area at the southeast corner of Washington and El Molino, where you'll find Washington Park. The line continues south between El Molino and Palm, meeting up with Mountain Avenue at Gladys Court where Stan had first noticed the creek.

In her post on LA Creek Freak, Jessica Hall said, "I suspect the City of Pasadena may also have stormdrains over the creek, as we all know it is encased in concrete today." Gee, ya think? From the same position where I took the above photo, I turned around 180 degrees and took this:
The framing's not perfect. I didn't realize at the time what I was taking a picture of. But sure enough, there you have a storm drain and a manhole cover.

Just yesterday Boz and I were walking along another street that crosses the creek path, and we passed a driveway with a manhole cover right in the middle of it. I'd never seen that before. I checked the map and it, too, is in the (concrete) path of Woodbury Creek.

Stan's question still feels unanswered. But I want to thank Stan for asking it and for turning all of us on to LA Creek Freak. They are a find. Maybe someday we'll find Woodbury Creek, too.


Dina said...

Detective Petrea on a new assignment.
Good work.

eamon@ewmphotography said...

I can sense a flood of manhole covers gracing these portals for months to come! As you say, as long as there is a story attached...

Anonymous said...

Oh, no! I hope something like this doesn't happen near where I live. But I am afraid that it might since I seem to remember the counsel getting approval to move the Little Cahaba in order to build a shopping center. Like we need another one of those. - Thanks for bringing these sorts of things to attention. In Alabama, they are removing an Indian Mound to build a Sam's. How's that for "progress"? Soon our whole landscape is going to be bland box stores and cement filled creeks! I'm freaking out, people!

Escapist said...



Petrea Burchard said...

Dina, Detective Stan and Detective Jessica did the detecting in this case. But I'm happy to take the pictures and report on their good works.

Eamon...a story and a photo, of course. I almost took a picture of that manhole cover in the driveway!

Nikki, I wonder if people knew what was happening here, back when it happened. We are OUT OF WATER now. What were they thinking, back when they cemented over all the creeks? I'm no scientist, but it looks to me like you shouldn't let them mess with your natural waters!

Merci, Escapist.

Trish said...


I believe the issue was flooding many years ago (way before my time). Nature lets the streams flow when it rains. People build houses in the way of those streams (Riverside County is named that for a reason---but if they ever have a 100 year flood it'll be wiped out).

I believe there were flooding issues (back when it rained in LA County) and it was determined that the naturally flowing creek was a problem. Cementing over "solved" the problem. Sorta. When huge rains happen, it still overflows the drains, but theoretically in a more controlled atmosphere. And, upkeep on cement is easier than having to clean up a creek every year.

We used to have a creek running behind our place. They did the exact same thing. Took out all the natural stuff and put in concrete. The county determined that the growth was slowing the flow of the creek, thus in a flood situation, concrete would be better, cause less damage and be better for residents.

What they didn't take into account was that concrete looks like sh!t and does nothing for the environment and displaces creatures. "Paved paradise and put up a parking lot!" comes to mind.

I suspect Pasadena PIO might have some answers. Check with the Water Dept, they may have answers too.

I do recall my grandfather explaining the whole system to me back when I was in single digits...but that was...ahem, a few years ago and I wasn't always the most attentive kid.

Margaret said...

Very interesting. Love the history.

Petrea Burchard said...

Trish, I always love your stories.

Sure, people want to build by the streams. I don't think it makes sense for us to "tame" them, though, because if we tame them into submission we're biting off our nose to spite our face.

Of course back when things were flooding, perhaps they couldn't anticipate the weather patterns we're experiencing now. So I forgive them. That doesn't mean we don't have problems that need solving.

It also doesn't mean I have a clue as to how to solve them.

I love the history, too, Margaret. It's a spider's web and I'm a fly.

marley said...

Interesting. Its fun finding out new things!

Re - the underside photo of the colouful glass in the pavement. I don't think it'll happen as its part of a bank. I'd love to get in basement but I imagine its where the safe and money are kept!

Susan Manning said...

I can understand the different ways people think will solve flooding, but there is not always the search for the history like a blog like this. 100 year flood plains are sometimes ignored and simply charged more for insurance. People with lots of $$, developers, and other types of investors may ignore natural land histories and build residences and shopping malls on flood plains, sink holes, and what is it that Foster City is built on?

I really hate manhole covers....there are too many lately...

Vanda said...

Fascinating stuff!!

Strangely, here in North Hollywood there are no storm drains. But I think all the streets sorta slant towards the L.A. River. When it rains intersections turn into ponds for a few hours.

Petrea Burchard said...

I never noticed that about North Hollywood. I lived there when I first moved here. (Susan Manning and I lived in the same building on Blix Street.) Later I moved to West Hollywood, then back to North Hollywood, where I lived in a building that backed up against the LA River. What a strange concept that thing is. It must have seemed so brilliant when it was first conceived, but now it's the first thing film makers use when they want to depict urban blight.

Steve R. said...

Wow! I can't believe you found
this and posted more info about it
that I would ever find.

As a teenagers (back in the 70's),
us kids would play in the "storm drain" as we called it.

It was open mid block on Elizabeth Street and we would walk it all the way up to Woodbury, where it turned into a 2ft diameter hole with a metal grate that none of us wanted to go in to.

I think there was an opening on Atchison as well.

The Elizabeth opening was covered with concrete several years ago and the homeowner next door got the land.

Going south, it became a long tunnel somewhere around Rio Grande and didn't open to the outside until the opening you found down on Mountain. We had no idea it went near Washington Park.

During the dry months, there was only a trickle of water down the middle and, despite what our parents at the time believed, we never saw a single rat, mouse, or other rodents. (We did run into some other kids down there once in the tunnel which gave us a good scare!).

You can find more maps about this on the LA County Tax Assessor's web site by looking at the Assesor's maps, which still show the old easements. (And did you know there used to be an El Molino Park near Highland and El Molino?!)

Thanks for the memories.

- Steve

Petrea Burchard said...

Steve, this is great info. If you have a moment, I recommend you share it with the LA Creek Freak site. That's where the best information is and where I got the information in my post. Click on the "Woodburied Creek" link in the body of this post, and that'll take you there.

john wayne said...

thanks for that email on catacombs. as to this tunnel im not to sure it goes strait north like that. i explored these tunnels once with a friend. they go far deep and as i entered the tunnel it curves to the right. it seems to go under lake ave. and keeps going right. although i wouldnt advise going down there alone. seems a bit dangerous and when i went there was a homeless man in the entrance

Petrea Burchard said...

The maps I linked to show where the original creek was, pretty much north/south. The storm drains may have redirected it. I don't have maps of the storm drains. They could go in many directions. However, there are storm drains that follow the same lines of the original creek.