A recent move by a friend from New York to Los Angeles inspired me to look at the hidden waterways of this West Coast City. The climate here is hot and arid for most of the year, not a city where I would feel comfortable outdoors. But it has seasonal streams that carry water from the city’s mountains and streets, most of which have been confined to concrete channels and culverts. The longest and most famous example is the Los Angeles River, which has its conservancy groups and is undergoing restoration efforts.
The Dominguez Channel on the city’s south side isn’t as famous, and only a small portion of it flows through Los Angeles, which has a narrow panhandle extending south to its harbor. Most of this stream is within the smaller cities of Inglewood, Hawthorne, Gardena, Torrance, and Carson, before emptying into Los Angeles Harbor.
Some of Long Island’s hidden streams flow through state parks (Valley Stream), and others flow alongside highways that share the name (Meadowbrook). But a truly hidden stream doesn’t have such counterparts to put in on the map. This is the story of Milburn Creek, which flows for three and a half miles on the south shore of Nassau County. Along the way, it flows past the backyards of Roosevelt, Baldwin, and Freeport.
In this scene near the headwaters of the creek, we are looking upstream at Westbrook Lane and Brookside Avenue on the border of Roosevelt and Baldwin. The stream emerges a block to the north where the eastbound ramp of the Southern State Parkway touches on Brookside Avenue.
Having written previously about Pine Stream and Mill River that flow through the suburban community of West Hempstead, there is a third hidden waterway here that begins its course alongside a train station that may have been named after this stream, or perhaps not.
This very obscure stream appears on the surface in a ravine next to the Lakeview station on the West Hempstead Branch, looking south from Eagle Avenue, which crosses this single-track line at the source of the stream. The sources of this stream have been paved over and developed as tract homes marched across this landscape of gardens and farms. Water appears here only after a substantial rainfall. Lakeview is not an official village, and most letters addressed to this community have it as part of West Hempstead, itself not an official village but part of the larger town of Hempstead. So the question here is whether Lakeview is named for a long-forgotten pond on Schodack Brook, or the much larger Hempstead Lake that is a ten-minute walk east of this station?
On Long Island, there are various units of local government: villages, towns, and cities. A town can have more people than a city. These are merely legal designations bestowed by the state to describe the responsibilities of a municipality. Cities tend to have more say in their governance, and control over schools and utilities. One such city is Glen Cove, built at the head of an inlet on Hempstead Bay in 1668. That inlet is Glen Cove Creek, fed by a stream that originates further inland. In the downtown of Glen Cove that stream is hidden beneath a parking lot.
In recent years plans have been made to transform the tidal section of the creek into an upscale residential district, but the underground section remains hidden from the attention of urban planners. The creek has a boxy ferry terminal with a sail-shaped window that seeks to offer future commuter service to Manhattan and Connecticut.
The largest city in the western third of Massachusetts has one of the most common names among American places: Springfield, and much of its history is the result of a stream with a very generic name: Mill River. This Springfield happens to be the first in the country to have this name, although I’m not as sure about Mill River.
In F. Scott FitzGerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, West Egg is the pseudonym for Great Neck and the much more upscale peninsula facing it is East Egg, which in reality is Manhasset, a collection of villages jutting into the Long Island Sound. hidden behind the mansions are brooks and ponds whose names relate to past landowners and their once-sizable estates overlooking Manhasset Bay.
The Leeds Pond Preserve, originally built as the Norwood farm and owned by the Sizer family, was purchased by Herman Goldman, a prominent maritime attorney and tax expert, as a retreat to entertain friends and family.
What does the French region of Normandy have in common with Russia’s largest arctic city? Both are named after the Norsemen, an old English term for the Vikings whose extensive trading networks stretched across Europe’s coasts and waterways. Murmansk is also the last city commissioned by Russia’s imperial government, three months shy of the Tsar Nikolai II’s abdication.
Varnichny Creek is a hidden waterway of this far-north city, once a habitat rich with fish that is today heavily polluted with most of its course channelled beneath the city’s surface. The above image is a neglected pedestrian bridge in the October district of the city, where the creek flows in a ravine.
Across the city line from the Queens neighborhood of Little Neck is the Great Neck peninsula of Nassau County. The name Great Neck includes the Village of Great Neck, eight other villages, and a handful of communities that share an upscale appearance with plenty of woodland and backyard space where hidden waters flow between the properties. Each stream has its own history that relates to the story of Great Neck.
In particular, one unnamed creek flows a couple of blocks from my uncle’s house and after a few visits, I followed it from its source to the sea.
For the Midwestern metropolis of Chicago, the city’s face is the shore of Lake Michigan, an inland sea lined with freshwater beaches within walking distance of downtown skyscrapers. Chicago’s namesake river used to flow into Lake Michigan but by 1900 was carved into a canal and had its flow reversed, taking water out of the lake, flowing southwest in a series of canals that fed into the Mississippi watershed.
One reason for this massive engineering project was the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River, better known as Bubbly Creek. Subject to pollution coming from the country’s largest stockyard, this hidden waterway is Chicago’s version of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. The above photo shows the rail bridge carrying the Heritage Corridor commuter line across the creek.
The first emperor of the Roman Empire is eternally honored with the eighth month on the calendar, but that’s not all. In the Spanish region of Aragon, the city of Zaragoza derives its name from Ceasaraugusta, a spot on the map in memory of Augustus Caesar. The city’s main river is the Ebro, which flows for 580 miles across Spain. Beneath the city’s boulevards is a tributary stream, the Huerva that briefly experienced sunlight in 2010 before it was covered up again in favor of a linear park.
The height of the tunnel raises possibilities of underground tours here, and its narrow width also begs the question whether this stream can be daylighted after nearly a century of darkness.