The capital city of Belarus is a textbook example of Soviet city planning with its lengthy boulevards, modernist architecture, and rows of apartments on superblocks. Lost in the rubble of the Second World War and postwar rebuilding is the city’s natural history that includes more than a dozen streams that have been consigned beneath the surface.
The Svislach River bisects Minsk as its main waterway. Under the Soviets this river was dammed, and its banks have been set in concrete. But its oxbow turns have been preserved in a manner resembling the Moscow River. On the city’s eastern side, the second longest stream, the swampy Slepianka River was transformed into set of connected waterways with concrete waterfalls, embankments, islands, and terraces. The waterfall near the Agat Hotel is of particular interest as it allows visitors to walk behind the stream’s veil of water. Continue reading
The highest city that has hidden urban streams is the former imperial capital of the Incas. At more than 11,000 feet above sea level, Cusco, Peru is a magnet for tourism and home to a thriving Native culture deep in the Andean Mountains. The main river flowing through this city is the Huatanay. A trickle in comparison to the Amazon, but that’s what its water will eventually become.
Within the city are nearly a dozen tributaries that date back to the Inca period, some of them running as ditches and other covered by modern streets.
The largest city in Siberia was built on the banks of the mighty Ob River. It also has its own hidden urban stream, the Kamenka. Its once-imposing gorge was filled in the 1960s and a highway built atop its former course two decades later.
Adding to the insult, the river’s name was removed from the highway in 2007 and sets of luxury residential towers are popping up on undeveloped land that could have been used for daylighting the stream as a linear park. One hint of the Kamenka in the city is the Sibrevkom Street Bridge that spans the much shallower gorge that was carved by the Kamenka.
New York and Pennsylvania have the distinction as the only two states with seaports on the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. The Keystone State’s port on Lake Erie shares the lake’s name, and that of its Native people. Although the city does not have a subway, it has a tunnel wide enough to fit a van, running for 2.3 miles beneath the city.
The Mill Creek Tube carries its namesake waterway out of view as eternal punishment for the devastating August 3, 1915 flood that the creek wreaked upon the city. Above, a photo from a June 2014 survey of the subterranean stream by Erie Times-News shows the size of the tube and the seemingly harmless stream when it is not carrying its maximum volume.
For a country of its size, Canada does not have too many large cities north of its Trans-Canada Highway. In the province of Ontario, one city that is further north is Sudbury, Ontario, having grown on the success of its nickel mining industry. Built in 1883 around a railway junction that spanned a creek, this stream received the name Junction Creek.
At the exact junction and the nearby downtown of Sudbury, the creek is forced underground, but there has been plenty of effort to raise its profile in the public discussion.
On the east side of Waterbury, the post-industrial Connecticut city that used to manufacture brass products and clocks, there is a partially covered stream with a crazy name. Its flow once powered the mills that made Waterbury prosper but after the mills departed in search of cheap labor, nature returned to the banks of Mad River.
The covered portion of Mad River flows beneath a shopping center’s parking lot, a missed opportunity for daylighting. In other places, it is obscured by highways running along its course, such as McMahon Street, which itself is in the shadow of Baldwin Street, seen above.
Having accounted for Oceania in my out-of-town feature, I now turn to Africa and its equivalent of New York: a large and diverse city. The ancient seaport city of Alexandria, Egypt. While many of the cities that I’ve documented were built alongside rivers, Alexandria never had its own river, its location chosen by its famous namesake for its deep harbor that served as a port to Africa.
The city and its harbor were connected to the Nile River and the rest of Egypt by the Mahmoudeya Canal, constructed in the 1840s on the order of the powerful Turkish viceroy Muhammad Ali. Above is a scene on the canal captured in an 1890s French postcard.
In my Out of Town feature, I hadn’t yet featured a hidden urban waterway in the Oceania part of the world. In the southern hemisphere so far, I’ve only written about Tank Stream in Sydney, Australia. After a careful search, I’ve zoomed in on the only American territory on this half of the globe, American Samoa. Its capital Pago Pago is conveniently situated at the head of a harbor which collects water from a dozen streams. The one with the largest watershed is the 1.7-mile Vaipito Stream.
I can’t imagine when I would have the opportunity to visit Pago Pago. Fortunately Google Maps took its car and camera there in 2014. Above is a view of Vaipito looking downstream from Route One.
In the southern French region of Occitanie, the second largest city is Montpellier, located near the Mediterranean coast. Running through the city is a graffiti-covered concrete channel carrying the Verdanson River.
Like the Los Angeles River, this concrete course sees only a trickle for much of the year, but when it rains it pours, and fills up nearly the entire basin with a torrent rushing to the sea. Continue reading
Having previously visited West Hempstead and its Pine Stream, I followed up with its parent municipality of Hempstead, which has Mill River running beneath its town center flowing towards Hempstead Lake State Park and into Hewlett Bay. In part on account of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Mill River is the centerpiece of the state’s Living with the Bay plan which seeks to restore sections of this stream and make its watershed more resilient in reducing storm damage.
Above is a view of this stream emerging to the surface from a culvert at Tyler Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard. Although it hardly looks like a river, this creek played a vital role in the development of Hempstead and in its future in managing storm runoff.