Exclusive: (Not in a Van) Down by the LA River [Photo Gallery]

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A while ago, Flavorpill asked readers to nominate LA landmarks worth preserving. As a native Angeleno, I’ve never thought of the Los Angeles River as a landmark, so it was no big surprise to me that it didn’t come up right away. But after taking Urban Photo Adventures’ weekend-long photography tour along the LA River, I quickly realized that the Southland has yet another cultural resource on its hands.

Day One of the photo tour shuttles intrepid shutterbugs from the Sepulveda Dam through Downtown, while Day Two takes adventurers south, before the river empties itself into Long Beach Harbor. The monthly photo tour is a valuable experience for amateur and professional photographers alike, as well as those just curious to learn more about the river. Fine art photographers, location managers, and tour company founders Mark Indig and Ken Haber are helpful and insightful, with a wealth of knowledge about the art of photography as well as the river itself. See a slideshow of some the images I took here.

If a photo tour is not your thing, but you’d still like to experience the LA River firsthand, tomorrow the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) hosts its 20th Annual Great River Cleanup, setting up shop at eleven different cleanup sites along the river. FoLAR also partners with the Blake Lofts and the Frogtown Art Walk for a cleanup in Frogtown, which sits along the Elysian Valley portion of the river. The area allegedly takes its name from the huge population of frogs that once dwelled there.

While you may not see any frogs, the Green Committee from the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce will be on hand to educate, as site cleanup team captain, photographer Paul Redmond, documents the day’s finds with a mobile Frogtown Fotobooth and teams up with local environmental arts collective Greenmeme for a “Trashy Art” project. Plus, there’s food, music, giveaways, a fundraising raffle, and the benefit of learning more about one of Southern California’s least-understood landmarks.

The 20th Annual Great LA River Cleanup takes place tomorrow  from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Visit FoLAR for a cleanup site near you.