Storming the Storm Drains

The creek routing tunnel that runs beneath the buildings on the East side of Main Street is actually older than the sidewalk tunnels created in 1890. It was hand built of native stone and in many cases "dry stacked" without any mortar. Over the years, the concrete storm drain system for Main Street was developed and tied into the old creek routing tunnel. It continues to feed into the underground creek to this day. The following exploration story and images of the storm drain system and creek routing tunnel were provided by Eureka's "Team Underground" - a group of young local explorers who dare to crawl through the claustrophobic caverns beneath our city streets. We thank them for sharing their adventure with us.

"We slipped into a culvert on Main Street just past nightfall. We decided to go early in the Fall, when the water level would be lower. The water in the tunnel was still flowing pretty strongly though and the noise level made it difficult to talk to each other. We entered a stone arched tunnel, just short enough that we couldn't stand erect. It was either made of dry stacked stones, or the mortar has washed away over the years.

The water level was manageable, only up to a foot deep in some areas. I was wishing I had brought some wading boots with me, though. There were a few areas where the celing had been replaced with concrete slabs and steel plates, and there were a few collapsed sections. We saw some small stalagtites hanging from the ceiling in one particularly damp area. As we headed North, the tunnel got taller and we were able to stand up. The arched ceiling seemed to be in really good shape and the mortared walls were pretty tight.

We came to a large metal culvert and crawled through to the other side, passing an overhead manhole along the way. Then we came to an area where the ceiling was hanging down and bulging really bad. I'm no engineer, but it certainly didn't look very safe. Probably a future sinkhole. Once past the "bulge" we had to crawl for a while. Then we passed through a set of wood structural braces (like they use in mines) and the tunnel opened back up into another tall area with a flat stone ceiling.

We passed through a square hole and found ourselves in a very large open area beneath a building. I'm guessing that they decided not to build a basement under this particular building as we were seeing the wood floor above us. It was probably 15 to 20 feet over our heads. The area was muddy and there was some old wood debris scattered around. A metal culvert drained into it from the East side, most likely 1st Street. There was also a concrete culvert on the West side, leading underneath Main Street.

Beyond this basement room, we passed into an area with big stone pillars holding up the ceiling. There were old wooden joists in the ceiling and some were falling, but they looked like they had been replaced with concrete anyways. We had to duck as we passed under the base of a wooden staircase protruding from the ceiling, and we were wondering if this was part of the stairs in Mud Street Cafe. It's difficult to figure out exactly where you are when you're underground - we had been exploring and crawling for about an hour and a half at this point.

Ahead of us was an area that had caved in pretty bad, and the water seemed deeper than before. We would have to crawl almost on our bellies through the water beneath the collapsed area, to get to the other side. We decided that we were wet enough and it was time to turn back. Instead of going all the way back to where we had first entered the tunnel, we found a very small opening in one of the walls that lead to a square tunnel running under Main Street. We crawled for a long time on hands and knees and figured that we'd eventually be able to climb out of a culvert or manhole at the other side, but it came to a dead end. So we crawled all the way back. Hate it when that happens...

Back in the main tunnel, we found one of the concrete culverts we had passed before, followed it under the street and popped out of a manhole. Our trip through the storm drain system was over...for now. I think we made it about half way up Main Street - maybe as far as the Auditorium."

~ Courtesy of Team Underground
Eureka Springs Storm Drains
Photos copyright © UndergroundEureka.com

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Eureka Springs Storm Drains
The Creek Routing Tunnel Eureka Springs Storm Drains
Steel Plate Reinforcement Eureka Springs Storm Drains
Soda Straw Formations Eureka Springs Storm Drains
Overhead Manhole and Ladder Eureka Springs Storm Drains
Scary Looking Bulging Ceiling Eureka Springs Storm Drains
Stone Foundation Pillars
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