History of the Verdugo Wash

Pollywogs, Frogs, Reeds and Sycamores

Almost 90 years ago, the concrete-lined Verdugo Wash was a lazy creek filled with pollywogs, frogs, reeds and sycamore trees.

It flowed slowly toward the Los Angeles River and was a watering hole for many of the four footed residents, including deer, coyotes, bears and other critters.

Entrance to Whiting Woods, mid 20th Century

images of the Verdugo wash and the 1934 FLOOD DAMAGE

The 1934 Flood & the Resulting Concrete Wash

Early on the morning of New Year’s Day 1934, a monster rainstorm, which dumped 14 inches of rain over a two-day period onto the recently burned Angeles National Forest, sent a wall of mud, boulders and debris down the canyons and into the Crescenta Valley, killing dozens and destroying hundreds of homes in La Crescenta and Montrose. The debris flow made its way through the Verdugo Woodlands and streets along East Glenoaks Boulevard were also flooded.

To protect La Crescenta and Glendale from future flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed a comprehensive flood-control plan using aerial photographs of the debris flows to determine where flood control channels would be built. These concrete flood control channels now safely carry storm runoff down the hills and into the Verdugo Wash, which was also then encased in concrete. The Verdugo Wash now collects the storm runoff, channeling it through Glendale to the Los Angeles River.

The flood-control plan was designed to safely handle 50-year storm events such as the storms in 1934, 1938, and 1978. The 1978 storm and resulting flood came only 44 years after the devastating 1934 flood. Forty-four years from 1978 is . . . 2022!

As recently as 2009 and 2010, major rainfall events following the Station fire have tested the Verdugo Wash, causing damage to numerous sub-drains and protective covers located within the channel, which were subsequently repaired.  Even though this part of Southern California does not see rainfall often, when a major rainfall event does occur, the Verdugo Wash continues to do the job for which it was intended.

The Wash Today

The now concrete Verdugo Wash is a 9.4-mile-long tributary of the Los Angeles River, starting just below the 210 Freeway and running through the Crescenta Valley. It flows southeast along the eastern edge of the Verdugo Mountains, then south through a pass between those mountains and the San Rafael Hills, and finally west to ultimately join the Los Angeles River just northeast of Griffith Park. Its entire path is located within the city of Glendale. With the exception of the free-flowing stream inside the Verdugo Wash Debris Basin Dam, Verdugo Wash is entirely encased in a concrete flood control channel constructed by the Army Corp. of Engineers similar to the Arroyo Seco, & LA River river lining projects of that period. (Wikipedia 2021)