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
Total capacity 17,300 acre·ft (21,300,000 m3)
Corps Lakes Gateway - Sepulveda Dam

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

Sepulveda Dam, along with Hansen Dam located in the north San Fernando Valley, was constructed in response to the historic 1938 floods which killed 144 people. Sepulveda Dam was placed at what was at the time, the current edge of the city. East of the dam the river was crowded into a narrow bottom by the city's growth. One legacy of Sepulveda Dam is its flood control basin, a large and undeveloped area in the center of the Valley, used mostly for wildlife refuge and recreation. 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. Although now, in part, these are being devolved as interconnecting bike paths.[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 is 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.

When the 1914 flood caused $10 million in damages to the developing basin areas, a public outcry began for action to address the recurring flooding problems. During the following year, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District was formed. Some of the early flood control efforts included smaller areas of channelization and the planning for needed reservoirs. Taxpayers approved bond issues in 1917 and 1924 to build the first major dams. However, they were not willing to provide enough funding for the much needed and substantial infrastructure downstream of these dams. After two more destructive floods in the 1930s, most notably the 1938 flood, federal assistance was requested. The Army Corps of Engineers took a lead role in channelizing the river and constructing several dams which would create flood control basins behind them. Channelization began in 1938, and by 1960, the project was completed to form the present fifty-one mile engineered waterway. Included in this work were Hansen Dam, completed in 1940 and followed by Sepulveda Dam in 1941.[4]

For 28 years the Sepulveda Dam did its job without incident until 1969 when the Los Angeles River overflowed its banks causing millions of dollars in damage.[citation needed] In 1988 the Los Angeles River's banks were raised to avoid another incident.[citation needed] In 1994 a hundred-year flood occurred in the Los Angeles River.[citation needed] The dam was restored and went without incident for another 11 years until the Los Angeles River again overflowed its banks in 2005.[citation needed]

Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area[edit]

Bike path[edit]

Eastern portion of bike path

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[citation needed] 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.

River recreation[edit]

It was announced in May 2014 that the section of river within the basin area would again be open for recreational non-motorized boating during the summer. The Sepulveda Basin River Recreation Zone extends from above Balboa Blvd to the confluence of Haskell Creek below Burbank Blvd, with restricted access to some protected wildlife areas along the banks.[5]

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" (PDF). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Archived from the original (PDF) 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. 
  4. ^ "History of the Los Anegeles River". Los Angeles Department of Public Works. 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  5. ^ "Corps opens recreational boating program at Sepulveda". US Army Corp of Engineers. 2014-05-23. Archived from the original on 2014-05-24. 

External links[edit]