A Dash of Lake Hollywood
I know there are many walks around town that are pleasant, but let me tell you about one that invokes the history of Los Angeles and how it came to survive as a city in a desert. Since it’s in an upscale neighborhood that tends to be a bit quiet about its existence, the hiking path is off the beaten path, right in our midst.
The walk we’re talking about is around the Hollywood Reservoir often called Lake Hollywood. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has an access road around the water that is easy to walk or jog and it’s in one of the most iconic of Hollywood settings: under the Hollywood sign, with a deep blue sky above, LA city spread out below into the distance, pine trees shedding needles and cones, slow moving ducks on glassy water, palm fronds and pampas grass hiding wild life on the shore, and plush homes cantilevered over the steep slopes. What more could there be? Since nothing is really perfect let’s toss in a little L.A. history of hubris and downfall.
Unfortunately the access road around the reservoir is partially closed and has been for a number of years leaving only a portion open for the public. Still it is for all to enjoy, young and old, and every one who loves to get away from the touristy areas to pile into the auto and go on up there for a stroll. Even the kids will enjoy this easy walk on a sunny day. However, you’ll have to leave the pooch behind. Fido isn’t allowed on the path.
The water looks pristine and a chain-link fence keeps the public at a distance. The reservoir is part of our supply of drinking water held in place by the Mulholland Dam. So getting close to the aqua lagoons isn’t possible. The fence makes the deer on the inside bold and they stare out at you with mild curious eyes.
Since the walkway is not known to tourists, the brass plaque citing Mr. William Mulholland as the designer and builder completing the project in 1924, piques our memories of L.A.’s history. Mulholland had a vision and the strength of purpose to bring water to what was then a very thirsty desert community. As a result of his efforts, for better or worse, that same community evolved into the sprawling megalopolis of some eight million people that exists today.
In 1898, the newly elected Mayor Frederick Eaton appointed William Mulholland superintendent of the LADWP. They both knew that if Los Angeles were ever to grow and flourish far into the future it would need water, lots of it. However, Southern California is a chaparral desert. Local water is scarce. So they cast their eyes on far off Owens Valley where huge amounts of water flowed from the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Naturally an aqueduct could bring that water right up to San Fernando Valley and on to Los Angeles. It would be a huge undertaking.
So Mulholland built the aqueduct and the dams. The water was siphoned off across the state all the way to Los Angeles. Ironically, we know that Mr. Mulholland and Mayor Eaton’s 1898 vision of L.A.’s future happens to be right here, right now. Today, we reap and enjoy the benefits of their effort. Water, placid, beautiful, blue, gleaming in the famous Sothern California sunshine, billions of gallons, right there in the dam. The Midwest has rivers and lakes. We here in Southern California have aqueducts and dams. As we admire the lush greenery surroundings the water, it doesn’t seem so out of place to us.
Unfortunately for Mr. Mulholland a different dam of his design and creation, the St. Francis dam, gave way in 1928 and a flood described as a seventy-eight foot wave swept away the countryside and all else in its path. Mr. Mulholland was absolved of any misdoings. Still, he resigned his position and lived his remaining years quietly out of public view. After the St Francis Dam disaster, the people down slope from the Hollywood Reservoir demanded that it be reinforced. It was.
Some people dream big. The beautiful surroundings soothe us and we turn to look out toward the modern city out there. The past is the past. We can be grateful for Mr. Mulholland’s vision of the future.
So come on L.A. and enjoy the beauty of Lake Hollywood. It’s easy. It’s lovely, and it’s free. There are several ways to get to the lake. The easiest way is to exit the Hollywood Freeway on Barham Blvd and go north to Lake Hollywood Drive. Follow the drive as it winds through the residential neighborhood. Eventually you will come to a barrier and the north entrance to the walk. There is a south entrance. However, it would be best to Google and download a map, as the way is complicated. Remember, no dogs allowed. When you get home be sure to post your thoughts and comments for future hikers at the website called ThisHikingTrail.com.