Draining Zenith City
Duluth, MN

Miller's Creek

Miller Creek, in one of the wider sections that features a trout (as in the fish) canal in the middle of the drain. Even though it is underground, the fish are able to visit their breeding ponds upstream by swimming through the specially designed tunnel.
Miller Creek, in one of the wider sections that features a trout (as in the fish) canal in the middle of the drain. Even though it is underground, the fish are able to visit their breeding ponds upstream by swimming through the specially designed tunnel.

Miller’s Creek

Miller’s Creek runs underground through one of the longest and widest storm sewers in the Twin Ports. Today the creek is enclosed in a series of tunnels for over one quarter of a mile under Twenty-Sixth Avenue West, just downstream from Lincoln Park. Construction of the first section of tunnel began in 1911 with a 110-foot long section near West Superior Street and extended toward Piedmont with a sandstone arch block section in 1916.

Most of the section is quite wide, around fifteen feet, to accommodate flooding and to keep water speeds slow enough for trout to navigate.

Pointing a light at my camera from down Miller Creek Drain. Do you see the scale of it? It's huge!
Pointing a light at my camera from down Miller Creek Drain. Do you see the scale of it? It’s huge!

During the Second World War there was a discussion of whether to turn tunnels like this into official air raid shelters. The debate flowed predictably; according to one report in the News Tribune, “There’s one argument against this—the sewers aren’t healthy, and it isn’t healthy to get in the way of a train in a railroad tunnel. But then, bombs aren’t conducive to long life, either.” The idea was scrapped.

I like to imagine drills which never occurred with a dozen wet-footed businessmen and a small mob of schoolchildren playing in the underground creek. A slice of my childhood, shared communally.

References »

  • The Budgeteer 25 Sept. 1974. Web.
  • Engineering-contracting 39 (1913): 47. Web.
  • In The Tunnels. WDIO, 2013. Film.
  • Various. (1904-1974). Duluth News Tribune.
  • Various. (1880-1888). Duluth Daily News.