Sepulveda Dam

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Sepulveda Dam
Sepulveda Dam is located in San Fernando Valley
Sepulveda Dam
Location in the San Fernando Valley
Country United States
Location San Fernando Valley, California
Coordinates 34°10′02″N 118°28′24″W / 34.1671°N 118.4732°W / 34.1671; -118.4732Coordinates: 34°10′02″N 118°28′24″W / 34.1671°N 118.4732°W / 34.1671; -118.4732
Purpose Flood control
Status Operational
Construction began 1940
Opening date 1941
Construction cost $6,650,561[1]
Owner(s) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Dam and spillways
Impounds Los Angeles River
Height (thalweg) 57 feet (17 m)
Length 2.93 miles (4.72 km)
Elevation at crest 725 feet (221 m)
Width (crest) 30 feet (9.1 m)
Spillway type Concrete ogee
Corps Lakes Gateway - Sepulveda Dam

Located in Los Angeles, California, the Sepulveda Dam is a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, built in 1941, at a cost of $6,650,561, to withhold winter flood waters along the Los Angeles River. It is located south of center in the San Fernando Valley, about eight miles east of the river's official source in the western end of the Valley.[1]

Sepulveda Dam, along with Hansen Dam in the north San Fernando Valley, was constructed after the historic 1938 floods on the Los Angeles River, which killed 144 people. Sepulveda Dam was placed at the then current edge of the city (1940). East of the dam the river was crowded into a narrow bottom by the city's growth. One legacy of Sepulveda Dam is the huge undeveloped area in the center of the Valley — used for wildlife and urban park. But another legacy of the 1938 Los Angeles River flood was the post-WWII channelization of all the Valley's dry washes, which along with the post-WWII rapid suburbanization left the Valley with hot, dry, concrete-lined river bottoms instead of greenbelts and connecting bikepaths.[2]

Behind the dam, the Sepulveda Basin is home to several large recreation areas including Woodley Park, a model aircraft field, The Japanese Garden, a wildlife refuge,[3] a water reclamation plant, and an armory. The Basin is kept free of urban over-building so that water can build up there during a prospective hundred-year flood.

It's an often-used location for car commercials.


Looking upstream in the outlet channel. Form work has been stripped from the outlet control tower and service bridge and one of the outlet control slide gate frames is being lowered into position for installation.

After the Los Angeles River flood of 1914, the City of Los Angeles decided to start a project to create a series of small dams along the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. Even with the creation of the Devil's Gate Dam and the St. Francis Dam the Los Angeles area still experienced significant flooding leading up to the failure of the St. Francis Dam in 1928 which killed 44 people. Throughout the 1920s and 30's Los Angeles experienced both small and large floods. In 1938 the Los Angeles Flood of 1938 caused the deaths of 144 people and nearly $150 million in damage. In mid 1938 the city decided to call in the Army Corps of Engineers to channelize and dam off the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. In 1941 the Sepulveda Dam was completed along with Hansen Dam in the Tujunga Wash.

For 28 years the Sepulveda Dam did its job without incident until 1969 when the Los Angeles River jumped its banks causing millions of dollars in damage. In 1988 the Los Angeles River's banks were raised to avoid another incident. In 1994 a hundred year flood occurred in the Los Angeles River. The 1994 flood caused the deaths of 3 people and damaged the Sepulveda Dam. The dam was restored and went without incident for another 11 years until the Los Angeles River jumped its banks in 2005. Since 2005 there has been no flooding in the Los Angeles metro area.

Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area[edit]

Bike path[edit]

Eastern portion of bike path along Woodley Ave.

The Sepulveda Dam bike path is a loop that starts at Victory Boulevard and Interstate 405, runs westward to White Oak Avenue with an alternate loop at Balboa Boulevard, and returns to Victory Boulevard via Woodley Boulevard. The western stretch along Balboa Boulevard is frequented by soccer players and observers, which can make cycling tedious. In that same area is some of the most beautiful scenery under bridges and along the rush of water in the narrow riverbed wooded by native, fragrant Arroyo Willows.

The south run of the loop leads by parking lots, and is frequented by joggers and children. The path has a high instance of burr-bearing plant life, which can cause flat tires.

There is ample parking available from the Burbank Blvd. side, as well as street parking along Woodley and Balboa Boulevards. Access is continuous.

Filming location[edit]

Due to its mid-century modern look and proximity to Hollywood, California and Burbank, the dam is a popular filming location for movies, television and advertisements:


  1. ^ a b "Sepulveda Dam Basin Master Plan and Environmental Assessment". U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Archived from the original on 2014-03-08. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  2. ^ "The LA River and the Corps: A brief history". U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Archived from the original on 2014-03-08. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  3. ^ "Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve". City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 

External links[edit]