Most urban streams and creeks are hidden from sight — in huge sewer tunnels under streets and expressways, in concrete ditches behind razor-wire fences, and sometimes even in pipes under the manicured lawns and gardens of city parks.
These are hardly the kinds of places you’d see on the cover of an L.L. Bean catalog — although you might find a few L.L. Bean catalogs in these concrete creeks.
But a growing network of urban explorers, who sometimes call themselves “drainers,” are sneaking into the storm sewers and aqueducts to rediscover these long-hidden waterways. They’re finding lush forest groves among the concrete ditches and waterfalls and grand vaulted grottoes in underground sewers. Their photography and field notes remind residents that the rivers and streams that nursed their cities’ early growth still survive below the pavement, and are still worthy of appreciation — maybe even restoration.
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Now, not one, but two new documentary films follow this small subculture of urban river enthusiasts, and celebrate the outsized impact of their civilly disobedient urban river expeditions.