Monday, August 10, 2020


Path along Ballona Lagoon, Marina Del Rey, California
Hidden among the Marina Del Rey condos near the beach in Los Angeles, is one of our favorite nature walks. Following the historic water channel from the Ballona wetlands to the ocean, this 1.5 mile round trip walk is an opportunity to observe a surprising wealth of wildlife–birds, native flowers and other plants, fish and other creatures–or just to enjoy being out in the fresh air.
Wildflowers at the edge of the lagoon
After parking our car on a residential street, we started at the north end of the trail on Via Dolce, near the pumping station. (The channel goes underground from there before coming out in the Venice canals.) The beginning of the walking path is marked by a sign with information about wetland ecology.
Great egret
The lagoon supports 86 species of plants, 9 species of marine fishes, 35 species of invertebrates, and nearly 60 species of birds. While we saw only a small portion of the bird life on this summer walk, at other times of year, especially during the spring and fall migration season, we have seen many more.
Dahlias in a private garden along the path.
The dirt trail was mostly free of people, except for a few dog walkers. (We wore our masks whenever passing other people.)  On one side, spacious homes border the walk, many with elaborate gardens. The other side of the path looks onto and across the water, over a bank of wild plants adapted to the salty soil and seaside climate. At the edge of the water we spotted an egret, patiently waiting for a fish to swim by. On the other side, a cormorant perched on a parked canoe.
View of the lagoon from the top of the bridge.
A short way from the beginning of the path one comes to a long white bridge–the only chance to cross the water before coming to the marina channel at the other end. One can cross the bridge and go straight ahead to the beach. Or, one can turn left and follow the lagoon on its west side along a dirt path (which we did in reverse on the way back.)
Breakwater between the beach and the marina channel.
The trail ends at the channel where boats from Marina Del Rey go out to the ocean. From there we followed the paved path along the top of the breakwater that divides the channel from the beach, extending our walk by another half mile.
The tide was out, revealing mussels and other shellfish clinging to the rocks. Along the channel a variety of shorebirds were resting and foraging for food in the wet sand while a bevy of tiny sandpipers scurried to and fro. Out in the water a few boats motored by on their way out to sea, and a group of paddleboarders passed in the other direction.
Monarch butterfly and milkweed.
On our return trip, the sun was beginning to come out. A monarch butterfly was flitting from flower to flower collecting nectar. In one area, we noticed hundreds, if not thousands, of snails--some in piles of shells on the ground and others clinging to what looked like dead plants. Apparently they thrive on fungi and the remains of dead plants!
Banded snails
Human activity, such as urban encroachment, threatens Ballona Lagoon’s fragile ecosystem. Fortunately, local residents, the City of Los Angeles, and public interest groups have joined to protect Ballona Lagoon and its resources.
For a history of the development of Ballona Lagoon and its restoration click HERE.
Helpful informational signs are placed along the path.

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