Early Highland Park

The Highland Park area was particularly rich in a hydrologic sense. A major tributary of the Arroyo Seco, called the North Branch, flowed for six miles through northeast Los Angeles from the Annandale area of the San Rafael Hills near Poppy Peak. The stream flowed along Figueroa Street to Branch Street and then Aldama Street flowing into the Arroyo Seco at Sycamore Grove Park. The North Branch was fed by a series of healthy springs including Springvale and Glen Rock Springs. There were also numerous springs in the area about York Boulevard and Figueroa Boulevard and along Sycamore Grove Park.

The Importance of the North Branch
  • The most important urban tributary of the Arroyo Seco

  • Drains virtually all of Highland Park

  • Former home to trout and other species

  • Listed in numerous studies as a prime candidate for stream restoration

What Happened to the Streams and Springs?

Urbanization has not been kind to the natural resources of our area. First developers crowded the streams and paved our regiond. Then they were put in ipes and flood channels in the name of flood control.

The North Branch stream still flows, but it is in a box culvert buried beneath the streets and Sycamore Grove Park. It flows into the Arroyo Seco at the southern edge of the park. You can view the North Branch flow from the pedestrian bridge that spans the Arroyo Seco stream and Parkway. Look for the storm outlet just to the east of the bridge.

Stream Spirit Rising

Learn about the remarkable community campaign to restore the North Branch and upgrade Sycamore Grove park seventeen years ago.

Stream Spirit

From Stream to Sewer

The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation (BOS) has begun construction on a "low-flow diversion" project that will capture the dry weather flow of the historic North Branch stream and put it into the sewer headed out to the Hyperion Plant on Santa Monica Bay.

This is not a stormwater capture program or a restoration program. It is a sewer project without any any natural treatment steps or community benefits.

The BOS refers to the project in Sycamore Grove Park as the Figueroa St. Low-Flow Diversion. The planning and environmental documentation were slipped through the public review process in the summer of 2020 with very little public notification or outreach. In fact, we have not found anyone who was aware of the project until construction began. Did you know?

BOS says that this project will help clean up the Arroyo Seco stream, there are better ways to achieve that objective using nature-based treatment and public education.

Unless we stop it, this will be the last nail in the coffin of one of Highland Park's greatest natural treasures.

Sign the Petition

NELA Springs

Springvale Spring

Just west of North Figueroa street at Springvale Drive, this major spring was the source of the North Branch of the Arroyo Seco.

Glenn Rock (Milwaukee) Spring

This was a large spring that fed the North Branch of the Arroyo Seco in Highland Park at the head of Milwaukee Avenue.

Garvanza Spring

Spring at the site of the present reservoir behind Luther Burbank Middle School and Garvanza Elementary near Avenue 64 and York Blvd. Here there was a deep ravine that drained into the Arroyo Seco. Later it was the site of Los Angeles’ oldest reservoir still in use.

Arroyo Verde Spring

On the east side of the Arroyo near York Blvd. and Pasadena Ave., a major Arroyo crossing.

Casa de Adobe Spring

Beginning in 1915 this spring near Casa de Adobe at 4605 Figueroa was used for a bottling operation. White Rock Spring At 4835 Figueroa Street across from Sycamore Grove Park, next to the Hiner House and the Alternative School, this spring was home to the White Rock or Rose Spring Water bottling operation. It is now a private home.

Local Springs and Streams

At the Raymond Fault, the Arroyo Seco stream enters a hill-lined canyon with a wide alluvial wash that travels through South Pasadena and Los Angeles to meet the Los Angeles River across from Elysian Park. In Highland Park the North Branch of the Arroyo Seco flowed from the west side of the San Rafael Hills southwest for six miles to join the Arroyo at Sycamore Grove Park.

Streams from canyons in Mountain Washington and from the Monterey Hills and Montecito also joined the Arroyo. The Arroyo Seco Parkway, the flood channel, and residential and commercial developments now have massively altered this 5.5-mile stretch of the lower Arroyo Seco.

- ASWRFS (2002)

Click on the map for a larger view