Rafting (almost) into Crater Tunnel and a visit to Beaver Tunnel

5/25/04: These expeditions can be viewed at the "Crater Tunnel" and "Beaver Tunnel" galleries.
Part I: Rafting

The trip to the "rafting" tunnel was to have been the highlight of my month, but things didn't work out that way.  The water was incredibly deep, so the raft was required equipment.  After spending about 20 minutes blowing it up, we brought one out there.  I didn't bring any oars since I figured the tunnel would be too narrow to use them (actually, they probably would have worked), so I instead brought a pole to use.  The water was, in fact, so deep once we were at the mouth of the tunnel and well into it, that we used the pole to push our way along the walls.  That was slow-going, but worked well enough.

However, once we rounded the first bend in the tunnel, perhaps 250 ft in, there was a railroad tie jutting out of the water from the middle of the "stream" to where it rested diagonally on the wall.  We tried to get past it, but we ended up snagging the boat on a nail jutting out of the wall.  A goddamned NAIL!  That put a small hole in the boat, so it meant aborting the mission post haste!

We had a digi-cam (which was *not* waterproof) to think of as well as concerns about not drowning, so we reversed course losing air all the time.  Naturally, we made it, although some water did seep in and got our asses all wet.  All the equipment survived because we tossed it on shore as soon as we were within sight of it.  That sucked, but it probably served as the impetus for a long-standing desire to invest in a solid boat with which to explore some of the other waterways around the DFW area.

Part II: Beaver Tunnel

Well, that evening we doubled back and hit the really awesome tunnel I had visited earlier: Beaver Tunnel.  This is the tunnel that runs beneath a huge chunk of FW, very close to downtown.  We even videotaped a lot of the journey this time, something that we had never attempted previously.  Unfortunately, the camera ran out of batteries after a few hours thanks in large measure to having to keep the light on to get worthwhile footage.  That being said, I think what we have will be worth watching... although I have not yet viewed it.

More importantly, we *doubled* the amount of tunnels that we explored in this section this time around.  The last time I did this system, I thought I had checked out *everything* worth seeing.  That is, I went through all the big stuff, then finally gave up once I reached areas that appeared to get fairly small.  This time, however, Dani and I hit a few additional areas.  First of all, I had passed up a side tunnel that looked interesting before, simply because I had spent well over an hour down there last time, and Dani was above-ground waiting for me.  We checked out that side tunnel this time, and found an extensive system that was isolated from the rest (more details in the galleries).  Similarly, she was systematically checking out the smaller side tunnels rather than rushing as I had before.  It turned out that there was another such tunnel that was interesting as well.

However, the best discovery of the entire journey was in exploring at the far end.  Where I left off last time, the main tunnel sort of peters out into five or more different culverts.  I went straight ahead through one of them, but that led nowhere.  The rest of the tunnels go to the right.  At least three (maybe four?) of these are 6+ foot diameter concrete culverts.  My experience has always been that these tunnels inevitably lead to smaller and smaller and smaller tunnels until you're just crouching and not really finding anything new.  Indeed, I walked part of the way up up a set of these last time I was there and was disappointed to find that it did not offer any promise.  But I can't leave things well enough alone.  Since Dani was with me and the "rafting" tunnel would have to wait for a working raft, we pressed on into this area while we were there.  Things looked pretty bleak for a while, but we figured we would just see where it led.

Holy Fuck, it was a whole other system!  Granted, it wasn't as grand as the original system that we had explored on our way there, but it was full of surprises.  I mean, this was a freaking labyrinth, and that is almost never the case.  By and large, most systems tend to have one main artery with a few feeders from either side along the way.  The main artery is large downstream and small upstream.  That's the way it's *supposed* to work.  This section had detours, dead ends, rooms with multiple branchoffs, and everything but the Minotaur!  It was a real find.

Ultimately, we had to double back.  I totally wanted to press on, but Dani was exhausted and getting cranky.  My legs were giving out as well, and we lacked a crucial resource: batteries.  The video camera died about halfway into this "new" part of the system.  The digi-cam had fresh batteries, but they were AAs.  My flashlight took Cs and Dani's took a big square battery.  There was no cannibalizing the equipment, and this was *not* the kind of place where you could just feel your way back home.  We had been underground for two and a half hours by that point (three total by the time we emerged!), and were a minimum of a mile and a half from where we started (This is calculating the first leg of the trip to be .65 miles --not counting detours or the fact that it was anything but a straight line!-- and at least an additional mile to the next place where we were able to see above-ground, the exact location of which remains a mystery, although we can determine which interstate we we close to, and I just used that to calculate and additional .97 miles; In all likelihood, the distance was more than two miles).

It was a fantastic journey, but there were a number of other tunnels that we left unexplored or incomplete.  When we finally doubled back, we had passed a room with five tunnels.  We came in through one of those, explored another, then checked out one to the side (that's where we could see the interstate through a grate), and continued with yet another.  Two of those were untouched.  The third one we traveled had actually reverted from the depressing round culverts that always seemed to spell dead-end ahead, to the "Matrix Reloaded" (i.e., archway) style of tunnel.  This seemed to continue in a straight line for just about forever!  More depressing than a boring tunnel is a cool tunnel that you didn't have time to check out!  Man, I'm going to have nightmares about this!  And to think we had to abandon the rafting tunnel on the same day!  Grrrahhhhrrrgggh!!!

Copyright 2004 Alexplorer.
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