Montreal’s Lost Rivers

Lost rivers

In Montreal, “river” usually means one of two things: the all-important St. Lawrence River, godlike in its power and presence, and the Rivière des Prairies, whose lazy nature is perhaps better reflected in its informal English name, the Back River. Before it was urbanized, however, Montreal Island was covered with creeks and rivers. Some have disappeared altogether, but many still exist, entombed in stone and concrete well beneath the city surface.

Andrew Emond, who first made his mark with well-seen photographs of abandoned buildings in Toronto and Montreal, recently embarked upon a quest to explore subterranean Montreal. His new blog, Under Montreal, is not only visually striking, it’s well-written and well-researched, with some fascinating entries on the city’s lost rivers. “Charting the evolution of the island’s creeks can often be a daunting task,” he writes. “Older maps from the early 1800s show only approximate paths with many minor creeks apparently deemed unworthy of inclusion. By the time more detailed maps started to emerge around 1820, we see that many of these watercourses had already started to disappear.”

Barely any traces remain. There’s a small stretch of creek—the ruisseau Provost, or Springrove Creek—remaining in an Outremont park, but that’s about it. “Even the twin ponds of Parc Lafontaine whose curves take the approximate shape of the creek that once passed through Logan’s Farm are concrete-lined fabrications,” writes Emond. To find what’s left of Montreal’s lost rivers, you have to go underground, which is exactly what Emond has done. Read about his exploration of the underground network of sewers and streams that make of the remnants of the Rivière Saint-Pierre.

Rivière Saint-Pierre

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday March 25 2009at 04:03 am , filed under Canada, Environment, History, Interior Space, Maps and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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