Rare Glimpse Into Underground Tunnels of River Des Peres

Categories: Community
river des peres stairs.JPG
Sunlight pours into the stairs to the River Des Peres.
The entrance to the tunnels of the River Des Peres lies hidden beneath a grate east of the Forest Park Visitor Center. Lift the metal cover and a staircase descends 40 feet into the cool darkness.

For more than 100 years the River Des Peres has traversed the park out of public view. It was the 1904 World's Fair that first prompted city leaders to bury the river, which by then had become something of an open sewer. They enclosed the water in a wooden channel and sealed it on top with a roadway.

Years later -- in 1915 -- a storm dumped seven inches of rain on St. Louis and the waters were too much for the flood-prone River Des Peres to handle. The resulting deluge killed 11 people and destroyed hundreds of homes. The river had to be tamed, once and for all.

Thus began a project that today remains an engineering marvel -- and a reminder that much of the region's water and sewer system is rapidly nearing the end of its lifespan.

rivers des peres tunnel 2.JPG
Unlike the open-air sections of River Des Peres, the tunnels below Forest Park contain a mixture of sewage and stormwater.
This week the Metro Water Infrastructure Partnership released a study highlighting the need to replace aging sewer pipes running through the St. Louis region. According to the partnership, much of region's storm and wastewater system must be replaced within the next two decades.

For being nearly 90 years old, the tunnels through Forest Park look to be in remarkable shape. Still, rebar can be seen poking out of some fractured sections of the giant channels, which are 32 feet wide. After a media tour of the tunnels today, Metropolitan Sewer District spokesman Lance LeComb told Daily RFT that his agency must improve the pump stations near Manchester and Macklind avenues, where the tunnels empty.

"That's part of our efforts to comply with the EPA," says LeComb. "We need excess capacity to store sewage during periods of heavy rain, so it doesn't mix with stormwater."

MSD is seeking approval to begin $4.7 billion in infrastructure work over the next quarter-century. Construction of the tunnels beneath Forest Park, by contrast, cost about $11 million and took about three years to complete, from 1927 to 1930.

Continue on to view more photos from inside the tunnels.

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9 comments
fr8bil
fr8bil

The headwaters of the River Des Peres were determined to be just South of Natural Bridge between the Western boundary of Glen Echo golf course and the Eastern edge of the UMSL addition alongside the current Metrolink tracks. 

Goy
Goy

This will end up being the same old debaucle as always: jews will be appointed to all the top spots, drawing lavish salaries, money will go missing, contracts will only go to jewish owned contracting firms, contracts will be outlandish and full of kickbacks and payola and then the funds bankrupted and then more swindled away from the taxpayers and the whole jewish swindle started anew.

Anonymous
Anonymous

"The river first goes underground in University City near Vernon and Skinker..."

I think this is actually Vernon and Kingsland, a little bit west of Mi Ranchito. You can see the river covered by woods behind the U City Dog Park at Vernon and Pennsylvania and runs east between the houses on Vernon and University Heights. There's a MSD flood monitoring station at Vernon and Westgate and you can often catch a delicious whiff of it at the manhole cover at Vernon and Eastgate. Just wanted to weigh in since I'm familiar with the Vernon and Skinker area and had me puzzled for a second as to where you were talking about. Wish there were more pictures.

ihatesuburbs
ihatesuburbs

Thanks for your 2 cents Dr. Mengele, glad to hear it's all the fault of THE JOOS! Idiot. 

Pwnzorrz
Pwnzorrz

I believe there is also a trash landfill at either Kingsland or under Heman Park.... which is probably what you're smelling.  MMMmmmmmm Methane good for the body & the soul.

Chad Garrison
Chad Garrison

Just checked with MSD, and you are correct, sir. See revised graph in blog post.

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