We provide communities with the tools they need to reclaim their riverfront lands.

Reading Lists


Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
by Marc Reisner (Penguin Press, 1993)
The definitive history of water resources in the American West, and an illuminating lesson in the political economy of limited resources anywhere. A stunning work of history and investigative journalism that tells the story of conflicts over water policy in the West and the resulting damage to the land, wildlife and Indians. PBS offers a companion video series. Also by the author: A Dangerous Place

California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict between Fluvial Process and Land Use
by Jeffrey Mount (Berkeley / Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995)
An overview of the physical and biological processes that shape the state’s rivers and watersheds. Covers the basics of hydrology and geomorphology and evaluates the impact on waterways of different land use practices. Described as “A thinking persons guide to the physical processes behind the problems of managing California’s river and streams.”

The Control of Nature
by John McPhee (New York: The Noonday Press / Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1989)
Especially for the chapter "Los Angeles Against the Mountains." The book examines in detail the strategies and tactics through which people attempt to control their natural surroundings. pg. 13: “Whenever you try to control nature, you've got one strike against you." Also by the author: Annals of the Former World

The Death and Life of Great American Cities
by Jane Jacobs (Vintage Books, reissue, 1992)
Originally published in 1961, Jacobs's small masterpiece is a blueprint for the humanistic management of cities. It is sensible, knowledgeable, readable, indispensable.

Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster
by Mike Davis (New York: Metropolitan Books / Henry Holt and Company, 1998)
A controversial history of natural and man-made disasters in Los Angeles. Chapter 2, "How Eden Lost its Garden," examines the lost opportunities of various environmental conservation proposals including Olmsted & Bartholomew's 1930 plan for the Los Angeles River. Also by the author: City of Quartz

Eden By Design: The 1930's Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region
by Greg Hise, William Deverall, and Laurie Olin. (University of California Press, 2000)
The book examines the reasons the plan was commissioned then ignored, and discusses the future of urban public space. It reproduces the original plan and places it in its historic context. The drawings can be downloaded in color from University of California Press.

The Great Thirst: Californians and Water, A Revised History
by Norris Hundley, Jr. (University of California Press, 2001)
A complete history of Californians and water. An unbiased depiction of the complex history, water policies, competing interests, and future challenges that have and will come to shape California.

How to Save a River: A Handbook for Citizen Action
by David M. Bolling (Island Press, 1994)
Presents numerous examples of successful river saving efforts across the country and lays out the general principles of organizing and action.

The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death and Possible Rebirth
by Blake Gumprecht (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999)
Begun as a masters thesis in geography at the UCLA. The author’s primary interest is the river’s past and those sections dealing with history are the books strongest.

The Making of Urban America
by John Repps (Princeton University Press, 1992)
A lavishly illustrated and exhaustively researched document on the history of city planning in the United States.

Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region
by Olmsted Brothers & Bartholomew (Los Angeles: Citizens Committee on Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches, 1930)
The original open space proposal for Los Angeles County, recommending the creation of parkways and greenbelts along the river corridors, on the reference shelves at the Los Angeles Public Library.

The Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles
by William B. Fulton (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)
Covers the history and politics of land use planning and water issues in Los Angeles and makes a case for change.

Restoring Streams in Cities: A Guide for Planners, Policymakers, and Citizens
by Ann L. Riley (Island Press, 1998)
A history of urban stream management and restoration and guidance on project implementation for citizen groups.

Rio LA: Tales from the Los Angeles River
by Patt Morrison (Angel City Press, 2001)
The LA Times columnist and essayist teamed with photographer Mark Lamonica to present the river, it’s history and the culture that evolved around it in a colorful and entertaining book.

Southern California: An Island on the Land
by Carey Mc Williams (Gibbs Smith, 1994)
Originally published in 1946, this great social-historian describes the formations of Southern California from the "bottom up". The book overall is a must read. Also by the author: California the Great Exception

Water and the California Dream: Choices for the New Millennium
by David Carle (Sierra Club Books, 2003)
Shows how imported water has shaped the pattern of population growth in the state, and argues that it is possible to improve both our damaged environment and our quality of life if Californians will accept limited water supplies as a fact of life. Also by the author: Drowning the Dream

William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles
by Catherine Mulholland (University of California Press, 2000)
The life and times of William Mulholland as told by his daughter.


*Compiled by the Landscape Ethic Committee of the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council

The Best Spring Ever – Why El Niño Makes The Desert Bloom  
Photography by Carll Goodpasture, Text by Janice Emily Bowers, Edited by Steven L. Hartman (2004 CNPS Pres)

California Native Trees & Shrubs
by Lee W. Lenz and John Dourley (Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1981).

Complete Garden Guide to the Native Perennials of California
by Glenn Keator (Chronicle Books, 1990).

Complete Garden Guide to the Native Shrubs of California
by Glenn Keator (Chronicle Books, 1994).

Common Riparian Plants of California: A Field Guide for the Layman
by Phyllis M. Faber and Robert F. Holland (Pickleweed Press, 1992).

Flowering Plants, The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal & Chaparral Regions of Southern California
by Nancy Dale (Capra Press and CNPS, 1985).

Growing California Native Plants
by Marjorie G. Schmidt (University of California Press, 1980).

The Jepson Manual, Higher Plants of California
by James C Hickman, ed. (University of California Press, 1993).

Landscape Plants for Western Regions: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation
by Bob Perry (Land Design Publishing, 1992).

The Life of an Oak: An Intimate Portrait
by Glenn Keator (Heyday Books and California Oak Foundation, 1998).

The Los Angeles Home Tree Guide
by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 2002).

A Manual of California Vegetation
by John O.Sawyer and Todd Keeler-Wolf (California Native Plant Society, 1995).

Native Plants for Southern California Gardens
by Dara Emery and Jacquelline Broughton (Leaflets of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, November 1969).

Native Trees of Southern California
by P. Victor Peterson (University of California Press, 1966).

Oaks of California
by Bruce M. Pavlik and Pamela C. Maick (Cachuma Press, 1991).

Plants for California Landscapes: A Catalog of Drought Tolerant Plants by the California Department of Water Resources
(Bulletin 209, The Resources Agency, Department of Water Resources, 1981).

Preliminary Descriptions of the Terrestrial Natural Communities of California
by R. F. Holland (California Department of Fish and Game, 1986).

Seed Propagation of Native California Plants
by Dara Emery (Santa Barbara Botanic Garden,1988).

Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains
by Milt McAuley (Canyon Publishing Co., 1996) .

Western Garden Book
by the Sunset Publishing Corporation (Sunset Publishing Corporation, 1995).


The California Garden: And the Landscape Architects Who Shaped It
by Jere Stuart French (American Society of Landscape Architects, 1993).

California Gardens
by Winifred Starr Dobyns (Macmillan, 1931).

California Gardens: Creating a New Eden
by David C. Streatfield (Abbeville Press, 1994).

The California Landscape Garden
by Mark Francis and Andreas Reimann (University of California Press, 1999).

Gardening with a Wild Heart
by Judith Larner Lowry (University of California Press, 1999).

A Guide to Estimating Irrigation Water Needs of Landscape Plantings in California: The Landscape Coefficient Method and WUCOLS III
by the California Department of Water Resources (The Resources Agency, Department of Water Resources, 2000).

Mediterranean Gardening: A Waterwise Approach
by Heidi Gildemeister (University of California Press, 1995).

The Nature of Mediterranean Europe: An Ecological History
by A. T. Grove and Oliver Rackham (Yale University Press, 2001).

The Pacific Horticulture Book of Western Gardening
by George Waters and Nora Harlow (David R. Godine, 1990).

Southern California Gardens: An Illustrated History
by Victoria Padilla (University of California Press, 1961).

Southern California Native Plants for School Gardens
by Betsey Landis (Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter, California Native Plant Society, 1999).

Sun-Drenched Gardens: The Mediterranean Style
by Lucinda Lewis and Jan Smithen (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002).

Sustainable Landscape Construction: A Guide to Green Building Outdoors
by J. William Thompson and Kim Sorvig (Island Press, 2000).