March 1938 LA River Flood: A Look Then and Now

March 2 marks the 80th anniversary of the 1938 flood of the Los Angeles River, an event that prompted the transformation of the river into a series of channels. Here's a look at the destruction of the floods and what it looks like today.

10 photos
1/10
Courtesy Canoga-Owensmouth Historical Society/KNBC-TV
2/10
Courtesy Canoga-Owensmouth Historical Society
This image was taken at the confluence of the LA River and the Central Branch of the Tujunga Wash. The flood washed away the Lankershim Blvd Bridge by Universal City. This photo was taken on the south side of the river looking towards the northeast.
3/10
KNBC-TV
This is the Lankershim Blvd Bridge as seen today. The LA River has perpendicular concrete walls now, and the confluence with the Central Branch of the Tujunga Wash has been moved upstream (just out of frame to the left).
4/10
Courtesy Canoga-Owensmouth Historical Society
This image was taken at the confluence of the LA River and the Central Branch of the Tujunga Wash. The flood washed away the Lankershim Blvd Bridge by Universal City. Here we are looking south from the northern bank of the LA River. Universal City is the group of white buildings in the background.
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Image Courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers
This image shows the LA River just before it receives the Tujunga Wash. By 1938, some portions of the river had been channelized (lined in concrete). The flood waters managed to rip away concrete siding from this portion of the river.
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KNBC-TV
Here is what that portion of the LA River looks like today. The walls are now perpendicular (rather than sloped), and the channel has been slightly reworked. The River receives the Tujunga Wash just beyond the bend in the distance.
7/10
Courtesy Canoga-Owensmouth Historical Society
Debris and a few cars can be seen floating on Sherman Way. This image was taken from Mason Ave looking east. The palm fronds indicate a southerly wind.
8/10
KNBC-TV
Sherman Way at Mason Avenue today. The palm trees are much taller, and the nearby portions of the Browns Canyon Wash have been lined with a perpendicular channel wall.
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Image Courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers
Here is an aerial view of the flooded LA River near the Burbank-Glendale area. Victory Blvd intersects the river in the lower left corner of the image, it was taken looking west. Several levees and portions of concrete siding had failed allowing major flooding of the surrounding neighborhoods.
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KNBC-TV
Here is what that section of the LA River looks like today. The channel transitions from perpendicular walls to sloped concrete siding after receiving the Burbank Western Wash. Also note the “revitalized” portion of the river as you approach Victory Blvd (intersects the river in the lower left corner of the image). This picture was taken looking west.
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