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.
Nearly every sizable European city dating to the Middle Ages or earlier had defensive moats on accounts of wars waged between various duchies, kingdoms, and empires. Some of these moats were manmade and others were modified natural streams. Along with moats, every city had a millstream whose water was harnessed to produce grain for the residents. When moats and milldams became obsolete, they were reduced in size, filled, or retained as water features in parks.
Above is the Kaitzbach stream flowing through the Große Garten park in Dresden, Germany. Here, it widens into the Carolasee lake before disappearing under the city’s streets. The postcard dates from 1914, the year when imperial Germany plunged into the First World War.
When researching cities with hidden waterways, most have examples that were forced underground in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the western French city of Bordeaux, there are two hidden streams that haven’t seen daylight in centuries.
Above is a map of Bordeaux drafted shortly before the French Revolution. Two rivers are seen flowing towards it. The Peugue in dark blue and the Devèze in aqua. At the city’s edge, they disappear beneath the streets on their way to the Garonne River.
Here’s a photo that may be a stage set for an Aladdin revival, an idealized Middle Eastern city. The caption in this 1920s postcard and the flags identifies it as Basra, Iraq, a city on the Shatt Al-Arab waterway that contains many canals within it, earning the nickname Venice of the East.
I don’t expect to be visiting Basra during my lifetime, but I know that this postcard image dates to a more peaceful time in this storied city.
Prior marrying me, my wife resided in the Outremont section of Montreal, where we took strolls in Pratt Park. It is one of eight parks designed between 1910 and 1931 by a legendary local trio: engineer Émile Lacroix, landscape architect Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne and horticulturalist Thomas Barnes.
Three of them, Saint Viateur, Outremont, and Beaubien, have artificial ponds with fountains. Pratt Park was the most special of these, not only because this is where I dated my wife-to-be, but also because it has two ponds connected by a stream, with an isle, and a waterfall. It is a miniature Central Park within a single city block.
At the tip of southeast Asia is the city-state of Singapore. Its tropical climate and hilly terrain means that there are plenty of hidden waterways flowing through this little republic. The Singapore River shares the country’s name flowing through its Downtown Core on the way to the sea. The furthest reaching tributary of this river is Alexandra Canal.
Considering the density of Singapore and its long history of neglecting such waterways, what has become of Alexandra Canal?
At the city’s extreme northeast is Pelham Bay Park, a vast greensward that is three times the size of Central Park. One could not feel more distant from the city when visiting the park’s destinations: Orchard Beach, Bartow-Pell Mansion, Split Rock Golf Course, and the trails of Hunter Island and Twin Islands. On the inland side of the park is the Hutchinson River, known to most New Yorkers as the namesake of the parkway that follows its course.
The river has a history relating to the conflict among Puritan colonists in New England that led to the English annexation of New Netherlands.
A half hour to the east of my home in Queens is the suburban community of West Hempstead. With some of my friends priced out of the city when seeking houses, this was their village of choice. Like many towns, it has its own waterway with a history, hidden behind backyards in some spots, and widening into a pond that is the centerpiece of the community.
Halls Pond is the premier public space in West Hempstead, where the water of Pine Stream gathers in a beautiful 11-acre park.
The imperial “northern capital” of Russia, Saint Petersburg is a city of many names such as Venice of the North for its many canals. On its northern side is a hidden waterway with a rich history whose name in English translates to “Black River.”
The river has a place in history as a dueling site where Russia’s most famous poet was fatally wounded. That makes its name appropriate from a poetic viewpoint.