Urban Wildlife: Ranger Rick and P22 Kayak the LA River

People driving over the Burbank Bridge in Los Angeles on Friday might have noticed something strange: a raccoon and a mountain lion kayaking down the Los Angeles River.

rob hayes abc la river kayak

When people think of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, they are more familiar with the concrete-lined, nearly waterless ditches featured in famous movies like Transformers, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Grease.  Yet Los Angeles has a river large enough to kayak through, and along this river’s 51 mile course, nature still abounds.

To highlight that the natural world is very much present on the LA River–indeed in all of Los Angeles–and to promote this weekend’s Urban Nature Fest at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, we took two of the city’s wildlife celebrities,  P22 and Ranger Rick, out for a kayak.

Ranger Rick, P22, kayaking
Ranger Rick and P22 get their pre-launch safety briefing from MRCA rangers. P22 declined a life jacket. Photo by Beth Pratt
Ranger Rick, P22, kayaking
Ranger Rick, P22, NWF’s California Director Beth Pratt, and Kat Superfisky prepare to launch. Photo by Leigh Wyman
Since mountain lions can’t paddle very well, Ranger Rick did most of the navigating, along with the help of our excellent guides from the Mountains and Conservation and Recreation Authority (MRCA), which manages recreational activities on the river. Lila Higgins, Manager of Citizen Science at the Museum, joined our crew, along with Kat Superfisky, a landscape designer and urban ecologist for Mia Lehrer + Associates, who originally conceived of the idea to get Ranger Rick out on the river paddling in a kayak.

“Reading Ranger Rick magazine as a child was what helped me develop into the environmentalist and advocate I am today, said Superfisky. “Sharing the amazing story that nature can and does exist in our cities is essential, and what better place to tell the story of urban nature than on the LA River!”

ranger rick la river
Yes, this is in the middle of Los Angeles! Photo Lila Higgins
Reporter Rob Hayes from ABC7 kayaked alongside Ranger Rick and P22 and you can watch his news segment below:

As for the celebrity wildlife on the trip, both enjoyed their excursion. Although Ranger Rick did have to take a break from paddling around a 130 pound cat. P22 told reporters he conquered his fear of water in hopes of raising awareness for the #SaveLACougars campaign, which aims to build the largest wildlife crossing in the world on the 101 Freeway outside of LA to help save a population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Said P22, “I think it shows how desperate I’ve become to allow a giant raccoon to paddle me up a river on a kayak so I can try to find a safe passage out of Griffith Park. I am not attempting those freeways again.”

Ranger Rick relax LA river
Ranger Rick takes a break from paddling with P22. Photo Lila Higgins

Show your support for urban wildlife,  and come meet Ranger Rick and “P22” at this weekend’s LA Urban Nature Fest at the The Natural History Museum of LA County!

Lila Higgins, Manager of Citizen Science at the Museum, is excited about this new event.  “Over the course of this upcoming weekend, Angelenos will be able to come down to the museum and be steeped in the nature that lives with us in the city—from meeting the scientists who discovered 30 new species of flies in LA to checking out the new LA River Rover and making art about urban nature.”