Sometimes it is easy to forget that the places we visit daily were once nothing but water, tress, and dirt. Marina Del Rey is one of the most populated and built up waterways in Southern California. Today there is little left of the natural wetlands that used to span from Marina Del Rey to Venice to Playa Vista. The little that is left of the wetlands resides in current Silicon Beach, and is known as the Ballona Wetlands.

The Ballona Wetlands is one of the last significant wetlands areas in the Los Angeles basin. The wetland is named after the Ballona Creek, a creek that brought fresh water to the wetland until the 1930s when creek corridor was channelized in concrete. This greatly reduced the inflow of salt water to the marsh, eliminating spring floods, which brought freshwater to the wetlands. 

Today, the wetland is protected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and is managed by the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands, and is being restored by the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project.

The restoration project aims to connect the community with nature. “In the heart of the Los Angeles coast, between a busy international airport, dense commercial corridors, tourist-packed beaches and marinas, and quiet residential communities, there is a pause. A pause in the concrete landscape. A pause in the city’s hubbub. A pause in the form of a vast open space: a creek surrounded by flat, empty lands. A rare sight on our urban coast,” the website states.

This pause was once a 2,000-acre expanse of marshes, mud flats, salt pans, and sand dunes, and now it only takes up approximately 600 miles of former wetlands. . Invasive plants and weeds, have taken over much of the Reserve, overgrowing and overtaking the native plants and providing little sustenance for local wildlife. This used to be a place where people could come to fish, hunt, swim and hike, but now, the Reserve is off-limits to the general public. 

But, if you would like to visit the wetlands, the Friends of the Ballona Wetlands offer tours and programs that allow individuals, families, and small groups learn about Ballona and participate in the Friends’ Restoration Project. And larger groups such as classes, service organizations, religious groups, scouts, and corporate groups can arrange schedule a special program.

There is also a public trail on the outskirts of the fresh water marsh, located on the corner of Lincoln and Jefferson. It is home to over 200 species of birds both visiting and residing there each year. It is worth checking out if you would like to get a glimpse of what Southern California looked like long before it became built up.

Author: Mariah Terry.