The Mouth and The Drop-Off

10/2/04: More exploring to report!  This weekend Dani and I rented a canoe and decided to check out "The Mouth" with Ben.  Galleries of these expeditions can be found at "The Mouth, part 2" and "The Drop-Off."
Part I: The Mouth

We picked up the canoe in Hurst before heading over to Dallas to Ben's apartment.  We managed to get an early start, and I think we were actually in the tunnel around 10am or so.  We headed into it a pretty good ways and the water got pretty deep, but it at least leveled off before too long.  It was really strange to see that high ceiling come down pretty low, almost close enough to touch.  If the tunnel remained the same dimensions the whole way, that meant that the water was a little over six feet deep.  We were able to gauge it by the fact that there was a line in the concrete along the whole length of the tunnel, so we could guess at about how far it had submerged and then could compare it with the sections that we could walk through.

The tunnel was filled with loads of debris: lots of plastic bottles, bits of styrofoam, and a few 2x4s and branches.  At one point we even saw the remains of a fairly large fish, probably a bass, that looked like it had been eaten by something.  A little later there was also a dead catfish.  Dani also spotted something like a gar beneath the water.  On our first trip, Ben and I saw a catfish beneath the water as well, although I never managed to get a good picture of it.  (Did you know their eyes glow purple when you shine them with a flashlight?)  We also found a volley ball in pretty good condition, so we lifted that into the boat.

Some distance into the tunnel (who knows how far!) we started hearing sounds like footsteps on dry concrete.  We completely stopped at this point.  No rowing, no talking, nothing.  We just sat and listened.  The noise was regular, but not so regular that I would have thought that it was simply machinery or some natural function.  The steps (?!) stopped and started back up again at several points.  I had thought I heard voices just before we stopped rowing and really noticed the noise.  At this point we were pretty worried.  Ben was in the middle of the boat, and I was steering from the back.  He leaned to me and whispered, "If it's workers who are supposed to be down here, I don't want to run into them.  If it's anyone else who *isn't* supposed to be down here, I *really* don't want to run into them."

We waited around for a while more, then said, you know what, this is too scary.  I would liked to have gone on, but I had to admit that it wasn't worth getting killed over.  I rationalized it that we could always return later in the day, maybe after 5pm when we figured no city workers would be out.  Also, I had the pepper spray in the urbex kit, though, alas, not with us on the boat!  We doubled back and headed out.

At a loss for what to do next and somewhat curious about where the tunnel could possibly come out, we drove around for quite a while.  We headed over to the infamous park where Dani and I had encountered some gay/naked activity on our previous visit to the area, and looked unsuccessfully for places where the tunnel could have exited.  After that we drove along the Trinity River in Dallas in search of signs of outlets where the tunnel might have unloaded.  Eventually, we just gave up on any hope of ever answering that question using this approach, and instead looked for a place to canoe on the Trinity itself.

Part II: The River

We finally settled on a spot in a park (I forget the name at the moment) that was upstream from downtown.  As it turned out, there was actually a boat launch right on the edge of the park, so we used that.  For whatever reason, the Trinity was really fast.  By contrast, in Fort Worth things are much more placid, so we could row in either direction with relatively the same effort.  In fact, on our last trip, the wind was more of an aid or an impediment (depending the direction) than the flow!  Once we were in the water I was able to gauge our speed with the GPS.  Without rowing, the river was able to quickly accelerate us to almost 3 MPH.  That doesn't sound like much, but that's about as fast as we could push the boat on our own power in still water.  That meant that rowing upstream was almost a complete standstill!  The consequences were immediately obvious from the time we set the boat into the flow: this would have to be a one-way trip.

I had figured on just calling a cab once we reached the end of the line and taking the trip back to the car, where I could then return to pick up the canoe.  However, Ben had a lot of friends in the area, and Dani had her cell phone with her, so we were able to reach Ben's friend Jason (with whom we had explored the first part of Three-Way Tunnel a couple weeks ago).  When we were finished with the trip he took me back to the park where we left my car.  However, that's jumping ahead in this story.  I guess it wouldn't surprise you to learn that I survived, so I'll resume now.

The river looked fairly rural for being as close to downtown as we were.  We could see downtown itself from over the levees, but otherwise all we could see of civilization (excepting the pollution) were roads that crossed the river.  I was able to keep up with where we were throughout all this by using the GPS.  Most of the time we checked out side streams that served as inlets from drainage.  Some of these looked interesting, so we will have to check them out later, but the coolest spot was the last thing we did on the river: a tunnel!

Part III: The Tunnel

A drainage tunnel poked just above the surface of the water, just high enough to steer the canoe into.  It wasn't much taller (above the water anyway) than our heads.  In fact, I was able to propel us by pushing off the ceiling with my hands.  This actually turned out to be more efficient than rowing (albeit more strenuous since it is obviously an awkward motion), so I kept it up while Ben steered us away from the walls and Dani directed the flashlight.

Eventually the ceiling raised up in a few spots, so we had to row.  We could hear this constant roar ahead of us, something like a huge whirring fan.  It was somewhat worrisome, but the water was clearly flowing ever so slowly downstream, so we figured we were not likely to be sucked toward anything mechanical from which we could not escape.  It was probably a half mile or more from the river, but we finally reached the end.  As it turned out, this was just incredible.  There was a huge drop-off *toward* us (i.e., we were at the bottom of it).  Water was pouring down from another tunnel about 10 feet above us, hence the "roar."  The other tunnel was perhaps the same size or a little smaller than the ones at the mouth of the Three Way Tunnels.

Unfortunately, there was no easy way to reach the tunnel above, especially considering that we were in a canoe on water that was almost certainly 6 to 10 feet deep.  The water from above was pouring 10 feet down this very steep incline (maybe 80 degrees), so it was impossibly slick.

There was a grate at the surface above us at least 30 or 40 feet from our canoe, but the lower rungs on the wall below it were about 6 feet from the canoe, and it wasn't exactly the sort of situation where you could stand up and jump toward them!  Even if you could have reached these, they did not lead toward the tunnel at the top.  However, it would have been nice to have gotten a GPS reading through the grate at the top.  Ben was lined up to be able to see straight up to it, and he thought he saw someone walk across it at one point.  There were certainly cars driving right near it that we could hear in any case.

The other side of this "room" held a little more promise for reaching the tunnel above.  There were single iron rods that protruded from the wall here, and these went all the way up diagonally from the water where we were to the tunnel at the top  of the incline.  It would be incredibly risky, but I would be willing to try it should no other options present themselves.  Just not on this trip.

An odd thing about this spot was that there were tons of plastic bottles and styrofoam cups.  They were obviously deposited there by the tunnel at the top of the drop-off, but they did not travel much further beyond it.  Once they hit the water, the flow tended to be submerged and the water at the surface was almost at a stand-still.  As a result, the debris was held in place just like a ping-pong ball gets trapped by a reversed vacuum flow.  You literally could not see a square inch of the surface of the water for perhaps 20 feet or more in this area for all the junk!  Picture the trash compactor scene in Star Wars.

With no options available to us at this point, we were going to turn around and head out.  Well, guess what?  The tunnel was just narrow enough that we couldn't turn the canoe around!  We had to turn around in our seats in order to properly paddle.  Actually, I paddled and Ben assumed the role of "ceiling pusher" wherever that was an option.  When we finally "surfaced" and took a look around on the levee there was a tower (like the one I had explored earlier that I have posted on my site) at the top, and Ben knew exactly where this was.  In fact, he had even tagged it already!

As I already mentioned, Ben had already called Jason by this point, so he headed over to his place on foot while Dani and I dragged the canoe over the levee and down to an area out of view in a field off of Industrial Ave.  When Ben came back with Jason, he and I swapped places and headed about 3 miles back (or 5 by river, I'm guessing) to get the car.  It was an exhausting day!

Part IV: The Mouth Again

On Sunday Dani and I we were planning to go exploring some of the more rural waterways around Ft. Worth like where Benbrook Lake empties into the woods.  We scouted out the area by car before we got lunch, but before we returned with the canoe, it had started raining.  In the meantime, I had been pestering Dani about what was in the remainder of "the Mouth."  Before too long she was willing to check it out just to get it over with.  And, after all, canoeing in the tunnel would mean being out of the rain.  If nothing else, we would get a little more use out of our canoe than we would have otherwise.  However, she only wanted to do the tunnel on the condition that we get a 2,000,000 candlepower spotlight so we could see whatever was ahead with plenty of advance notice.  Well, we hit Wal-mart for a new spotlight ($18) before we headed back to Dallas.

Oddly enough, there was even more trash in the tunnel than last time, unless that was just my imagination.  We bumped into even more boards and logs, but we also picked up another ball in decent condition (a soccer ball this time around; I guess the fact that the stream leading into the tunnel is right next to a park probably contributes to this collection).  At a couple points along the way we stopped and actively listened for any sounds other than our breathing, but this time around we didn't hear any of the "footstep" sounds we had heard on Saturday.  We still heard the cars passing overhead, however.  There were also a few fish that jumped inside the tunnel.  I used the 2,000,000 spotlight periodically to look far ahead, but I also tried looking into the water. Unfortunately, it was so murky that I really couldn't see much.  Presumably I might have seen some wildlife if they came close, but nothing did whenever I tried it.  I really would have liked to have seen the gar or whatever Dani spotted the day before.

We continued along past where we figured we must have left off the last time (too bad we didn't think to mark a spot on the wall with a paint stick!).  Finally, only a few hundred feet beyond where we left off, we reached the end.  The end of the tunnel curved downward to create a dead end.  There was no opening above the water.  Thinking about this, what I figure is that it is *exactly* the same configuration as the "drop-off" we spotted on the Trinity on Saturday, only this time the water was *much* higher relative to the tunnel.  Presumably, beneath all this was a sizable drop-off before continuing on as another, lower section of the tunnel.  Ideally, I would liked to have had a "fish finder" sonar gadget (whatever they're called) in order to tell how deep it was there and in other spots, but that will have to wait for some other time.  I suppose we could wish for a drought in the meantime.

I have to admit that the end of the tunnel was a bit disappointing.  I had really hoped to find an exit to the river or at least an exit to *somewhere*!  Instead, this left some pretty weird questions.  Just *what* was producing those sounds?  They clearly came from ahead of us on that previous visit, yet nowhere along the way was there any place where we saw any side tunnels.  Also, even the end of the tunnel was practically a dead end.  The ceiling rapidly curved downward almost vertically, so it wasn't like there was even a spot where bobbing debris could have repeatedly bumped against the concrete above.

This continues to vex me and creep me out the more I think about it!

Copyright 2004 Alexplorer.
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