Following my adventures in the Hall of Wonders and the Bowker Creek headwaters I was becoming fairly familiar with the underground portions our little urban stream, however, I was aware there were a couple more sections of the creek which flowed beneath the city’s streets that still needed to be explored! Finally, in the summer of 2021, a full two years after my first journey below the city’s streets, I would have the opportunity to finally complete this explore.
It was a beautiful summer afternoon when my usual draining buddy popped by and we made our way to the creek. The entrance to this next section was fairly close to where we entered to see the Hall of Wonders; it’s downstream by only around 1000ft and quickly disappears under a road. The entrance is bordered on one side by a school and on the other by a residential neighborhood and on this Saturday afternoon was nice and quiet with few people around to witness our escapades. As we approached the creek I spotted a couple of teenagers and for a few moments I wondered if they were planning on attempting an entrance. My fears turned out to be unfounded after they moved on a few minutes later and my buddy and I slipped over the fence without interruption.
Unlike the entrance to the Hall of Wonders, which was basically just a concrete square, this entrance had a fair amount of infrastructure in the form of ladders and scaffolding. It was easy to climb down and into the shallow waters of the creek. The tunnel itself was large enough to stand in and wide enough to walk side by side. I’d put it at around 6ft in height and maybe 10 in width. The tunnel continued straight ahead for a few hundred meters and then veered to the left.
This first section was basically a featureless concrete tunnel, no captivating pieces of graffiti to report on nor any interesting engineering choices. I did get a chuckle out of the date “2015” scrawled in white paint which was covered up by “2020” – graffiti is something that is constantly changing.
After rounding the corner we were greeted by a mural captioned “Welcome home.” In another testament to the ever changing nature of street art, someone else had added on “Home is Everywhere.” By this point I could already feel occasional wafts of fresh outside air, we snapped a couple pictures of the more interesting pieces of art and quickly found ourselves blinking in the afternoon sun. Overall, we were probably only underground for around 10 minutes.
We scrambled up the rocky bank and found ourselves on a walking path through a park. I’m sure we looked quite the interesting pair with our waders, headlamps and helmets but no one out for their afternoon jaunt seemed to pay us any mind.
We followed the trail, which ran parallel to the creek, in the hops of spotting the next underground section and for a moment I thought we had found it when the creek ran under a road, but alas it was only a short bridge as it quickly emerged on the other side. I found myself tromping through some bushes before emerging in the back parking lot of a local hospital. As we poked around the edges of the parking lot I wondered aloud how many security cameras we were being watched on. No one ever came out to yell at us, so it couldn’t have been too many.
After a few minutes of bushwhacking, trying to follow the path of the stream, I decided a better strategy might be to take a different approach. Go to where the stream was definitely underground and try to work back. We hiked through the parking lot and towards an apartment building, and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we rounded the corner there it was: stream on one side, buildings and roads on the other. This must be the place where it ducked back underground!
As inconspicuously as possible, we hopped a fence separating the stream from a playground, whacked our way through some bushes and then slid on our asses down to the bank of the creek. While our last entrance had a nice ladder to climb, this one did not, and accessing the entrance was a less then graceful experience.
Our persistence would be rewarded though, and right at the entrance to this section there was some really interesting art adorning the concrete walls.
It was at this point that I realized I had lost my headlamp during the struggles with the bushes. As I debated going back and looking for it, vs just getting on with the adventure using a single light, my buddy was already climbing back out of the creek to look for it. I took the opportunity to take some more photographs and before too long my friend had returned victorious. I happily reunited my helmet and my head lamp and we proceeded into the tunnel least we should attract any more attention they we may have already done.
This section of drain was a bit smaller then the last, though still quiet roomy. I’d put it around 6×6, so large enough to comfortably walk in. The graffiti in this section was more interesting then the last, and we each took our time taking photos.
I’m still not sure if Evil Frosty was originally painted with the hairdryer, or if it was added after!
This section of tunnel was a mostly straight shot, with a curve in the middle taking us sharply right. Like the first section, this one was also quite short – coming in at around 500m – If it wasn’t for the curve it would have been possible to see the exit from the entrance.
Immediately before we emerged from the underground I spotted an interesting rectangular-shaped offshoot sitting at about stomach height. I debated crawling in, but it was only around 3ft high and I didn’t see anything particularly interesting so I opted to skip it, perhaps I’ll take a look on a return explore.
Upon emerging from the tunnel we found ourselves at the bottom of a large canal, something that would have been very difficult to scale. We decided to keep walking down the creek in the hopes of finding a better way out. If anyone had looked down on us I’m sure we would have made an interesting sight, but no one did and our escapades went unnoticed.
A few hundred meters down the canal we found ourselves beside a local recreation center, and decided it was time to extricate ourselves. I found a railing we could use to loop a rope over and we managed to pull ourselves out, right beside some people playing tennis! We didn’t really stick around to see their reactions, instead opting to walk purposefully towards a nearby parking lot.
Despite the fact that the final stretches of Bowker Creek weren’t terribly exciting, I quite enjoyed the outing. And the fact that this was a conclusion of the tunnel system which first sparked my drain exploration passion gave it special meaning.