The highly contaminated Alpha rocket test stands are the headwaters of the Los Angeles River beginning in eastern Ventura County. Friends of the Los Angeles River, FoLAR, has fought since 1985 to “protect and restore the natural and historic heritage of the Los Angeles River and its riparian habitat through inclusive planning, education and wise stewardship,” according to its website. One of its co-founders is Lewis MacAdams, a much-lauded poet, activist, journalist, and the L.A. River’s most powerful advocate. Last February, MacAdams went with Bill Bowling to look at the headwaters of the Los Angeles River itself, Rocketdyne. Accompanied by Merrilee Fellows, a manager in Risk Communications at NASA, they explored rocket test stand complexes and runoff waste “ponds,” one even equipped with an old Rockwell International row boat nevertheless kept shipshape. This was the first time MacAdams had been to the river’s headwaters and he was none too pleased. “Speaking for myself, the headwaters of the L.A. River are a stinking cesspool visually,” MacAdams told, “and can’t help but have negative implications for the river downstream.” All photos by William Preston Bowling 2012

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