La Ballona Creek is a long, 8 mile creek that runs through a watershed (drainage basin) from Santa Monica mountains to Baldwin Hills and taking on water from Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, Marina del Rey, and Playa del Rey out to the Santa Monica Bay. It was converted into a concrete flood control channel in the 1930's by the Army Corps of Engineers to help control the inevitable flooding that was destroying homes in the watershed areas.
In controlling the flood waters the ecological system was broken by separating the creek from the plants and animals on the land that needed it. Fortunately, there are a few organizations that have dedicated themselves to preserving the creek and the wetlands around it. LA Stormwater, Friends of Ballona Wetlands, and Ballona Creek Renaissance are a few of the organizations that arrange volunteer clean ups of the creek and provide educational tours and\or materials about how to ensure the health of the creek and how to change the way you impact the stormwater runoff into the creek.
Ballona Creek Bike Trail Crossroads
There is a bike trail along Ballona Creek that starts\ends at the turn off at Fiji Way in Marina del Rey. Instead of making the right out to the Ballona Creek bridge and continuing down the bike path to Playa del Rey, you can make a left and head inland towards Baldwin Hills and take the paved trail that runs with the creek for 8 miles. There are also walking trails at the wetlands where you can visit the native plants and animals that reside there. The Freshwater Marsh trail is open from dawn to dusk and is open to the public and on certain days, has informative tours. The salt water marsh and dunes have both free docent lead tours and unescorted (with docents available) for free on certain days as well. They also host Habitat Restoration Days to help clean up the coastal wetlands and learn about the environment and the animals and plants that live there.
Ballona Creek Bike Path Start
If you ride the beach bike path in LA County, you would get to the Ballona by following the Fiji Way part of the path past Fisherman's Village over to the wetlands and find a sign with 2 arrows where 1 will point you out to the ocean to continue on the beach bike path or and the other will point you towards the marshes where the creek originates several miles inland. On the path along the creek that is in Marina del Rey you will enjoy a nice cool ocean breeze as you are near the coast. The UCLA Aquatic Center is located here and if you are a student, faculty member, or member (hint: anyone can become a member by visiting UCLA.edu) you can enroll in classes that teach you surfing, wind surfing, kayaking, sailing, rowing, or stand up paddling.
Ballona Creek on Left, Marina del Rey harbor on Right