We've been doing some scouting (though not exploring exactly) lately. We checked out a few manholes around downtown FW, although only one of those turned out to be promising. One of the disappointments was a large manhole with a 10-ft. or more ladder that looked like it might lead somewhere special. I went to all the trouble to sneak out there at night in the cold, pull this huge metal cover off the hole, then climb down, only to find that it was just a little room.
Now over the weekend we had much better luck. We took a look at a pair of tunnels Ben told me about not too far from his place. We didn't take the time to explore them, but they looked very interesting (i.e., large and bikeable just like Threeway). However, the find of the season (maybe lifetime!) was an upstream entrance to the Drop-Off Tunnel, the one we did in the canoe. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
See, what happened with Drop-Off was that we went upstream in the boat until we got to the ledge and couldn't go any further. We tried to figure out where it went by driving around downtown on two separate occasions preceeding this visit, but we didn't have any luck either time. So this weekend we figured we would give it one more shot. I looked up the point on my GPS and assumed the tunnel to be a straight line perpendicular to the river. We drove around and looked in any and every drain for anything that might indicate where the giant grates were that we passed under in the canoe.
Finally, we ran across a pair of them further upstream. There was a great big circular one and another rectangular one, most likely one on either side of the drop off itself. Well, being daylight, it was paradoxically difficult to look down in them (you can't see all the way down because the sun lights up the sides of the hole instead of the bottom, especially at this wintery time of the year), but you could hear the water, so it was obvious that we were right near the dropoff. I could see the water, but not very clearly. Still, the fact that I now had several GPS coordinates lined up in a row meant that I could follow the line further upstream... hopefully to an entrance.
We looked around for still more large grates in the hopes that we could find one that showed more about the tunnel. At this point we weren't entirely certain that the other two large grates were above the drop-off. The reason for this was that, in spite of the audible roar of the water from the beneath the grates, we didn't see the type of trees by the entrance that we had seen from below in the canoe. There were crape mertyles (Dani knew what they were, thankfully), and they have red flowers that were visible those 30 or so feet above us. Curiously, we didn't see them above the grates here. (They were, however, close by, just not *that* close.)
Anyway, we drove a it upstream and happen across a curbside drain with --get this-- an open manhole cover! How fucking cool is that?! Okay, not cool yet, but I went over to it and listened down the drain... water! Rushing water! It was pretty obvious that this connected. I went over to a drain on the opposite side of the street and heard the same. Yes! The tunnel ran beneath the street. Well, I was all ready to hop down there and take a better look when a cop rolls up behind us. I'm standing outside the car, Dani's driving, and I'm taking off my sweatshirt. Considering the run-down neighborhood we were in, it really looking like something was going down.
Naturally, I got back in the car and we just drove for a bit like we were lost tourists. The cop figured the same given our thoroughly unpigmented skin and lack of happening rims, so he drove on past us as we rounded the next corner. We doubled back and I grabbed a flashlight to check it out.
The curbside drain was about a 7-foot drop, but like I said, the cover was off, so I could lower myself from the edge of the rim. At the bottom, off to one side was an 18-inch or so hole that led to the tunnel. I could hear the water, but I knew it was going to be an effort. Basically I had to shimmy for about 15 to 20 feet to get to the big tunnel, but it was absolutely worth it.
It was only a few feet down from where I came out of the wall to the floor of the tunnel, but I didn't get down into it; I just stayed near the edge and looked around it in both directions. I wanted to hurry back since Dani was waiting in the car, and I didn't want to encounter another cop (the plan was that she would blow the horn if one was nearby, although I wonder now if I would have heard her through all that).
Well, the tunnel was huge, just like the larger sections of Three-way (i.e., where the two tunnels merge to make the larger one). I could hear the water at the drop-off downstream, and the tunnel obviously continued pretty far upstream. As I write this, I realize that it is entirely possible that no one has seen that spot in many years, although one never knows. I only wished I could have dropped a bike in there, but it was all I could do to slip through this shaft on my stomach.
After the quick look around, I decided to back up and head out, which turned out to be pretty difficult. Although the incline wouldn't normally seem so steep, I was basically laying flat and trying to crawl backwards. It was exhausting! I had to stop at several points, and when I was finished, the bottoms of my forearms were covered with brushburns from the friction against the concrete. Was it worth it? Oh, yeah!
When we left that spot, we headed back downstream and found another grate that we had passed along the way. There's a picture of it from the canoe's point of view in the Drop-Off gallery. The interesting thing was that the tunnel was completely submerged. Granted, there wasn't much room between the surface of the water and the ceiling when we visited it in the canoe, but there was no air in it whatsoever anywhere past the drop-off. Finally, we decided to take a look at the river itself. We walked up to the top of the levee, and the entire tunnel was underwater. You would probably never know there was one if it wasn't for the fact that we knew exactly where to look.
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