The Los Angeles "River" is sort of a joke in this town: It looks more like a long ugly concrete gutter than anything an egret or magical swamp fairy would call home.
Maybe that explains why we treat it like our own personal trash chute!
Beginning a couple decades ago, a group called Friends of the Los Angeles River have been trying their best to undo the damage turn around our ugly habits...
... by conducting annual cleanups and raising awareness about the wildlife that does, against all odds, make its home in our trash chute. Around 2001, local and federal government started to get involved as well, officiating the cleanup and asking organizers to compile scientific-ish data on what they found there.
(Their mission has also been nudged along, these last few years, by brave L.A. River navigator George Wolfe, who set out to prove that the waterway was entirely navigable -- even enjoyable. L.A. outdoor-sports wonks have actually gotten pretty into the concept, and canoe/kayak expeditions are sort of a regular thing now.)
This Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, for the 23rd Annual Great Los Angeles River Cleanup, organizers expect around 4,000 volunteers to pull over 25 tons of garbage from 15 clean-up sites across the county.
Here are some adorable hand-drawn maps of the sites available to choose from, including the Big Tujunga Wash and Lower Compton Creek. According to the 2012 presser, volunteers will gain access to "rarely seen soft-bottom sections of the river featuring a riparian habitat teeming with fish and birds."
See? Not just a long ugly concrete gutter! And even if it is in some places, the fishies don't have much of a choice but to navigate the nastiness.
So anyway -- onto the embarrassment. Although the most common items to fill trash bags are usually fast-food receptacles, plastic bags, metal scraps, etc. -- which cleaner-uppers blame on the wind and small stuff sneaking through street gutters -- they come across an uncomfortable amount of stuff that pretty much had to be thrown in intentionally.
Here are the 20 items found in the river over cleanups past (according to FOLAR) that you should be most embarrassed about. Because Porta-Potties don't just kinda slip off your truck while you're not looking.
20. Entire dumpster
19. Wet suit
18. Car tires
17. Carpeting & area rug
16. Hub cabs
14. Hobby horse
11. Work horse
10. Newspaper distribution box
9. Ceramic biscotti jar
8. Sleeping bag
5. Portable oven
4. Entire car
2. Phone booth
1. Portable toilet
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Bonus: Cash money
(That last one's not so much embarrassing environmentally as embarrassing, period. Perhaps some dude passed out in the gutter outside the strip club, letting slip his wad of Washingtons?)
For more Mother Nature shaming, see "11 Most Awkward Pieces of Trash Found on L.A. Coastal Cleanup Day." And show up this Saturday! Do it! If only out of the immense, overwhelming guilt stuck in your stomach ever since you tossed those car tires.