soda and spiders and redbrick, oh my!

In industrial north Denver resides the oldest drain we’ve been able to find in Colorado yet. This product of the post-Depression Works Progress Administration was found a few years ago by a legend in Colorado draining by the name of Akron. Crystal Pepsi got its name from the fact that, according to draining lore, before the defunct beverage went under, 55 gallon drums of Crystal Pepsi were stashed in the drain for posterity. It also might happen to do with the close proximity of the Pepsi distribution warehouse to its outfall, but seriously, when has draining lore ever been wrong?

CP had been a kind of rumour in Colorado draining for a while, as it was talked about as a giant, old redbrick drain that went for miles beneath the soil of north Denver. Subciety, being lethargic as we usually are, put it on the backburner, and thought little about the legend.

Fast forward to June of 2007. Construction was proceeding on a drainage addition to Ferrill Lake in City Park, and secretdestroyers, our resident eastcoaster, had heard rumours of a big redbrick drain that was having surgery done on it, so after he and orogeny scoped it out, they summoned the drainers.

The team for the operation consisted of myself, lexiphoto, SD, and orogeny. Arriving at the museum in waders and festooned with lights and camera gear, we made our way over to the hole in the drain. 4 people with gear walking through City Park at 4.30 in the afternoon garnered a few odd looks from little tykes and their parents, but no matter. At least we aren’t the crack dealers and psychotic hobos I’m sure some of them are accustomed to seeing in the park. Over to the lake, where lo and behold, a drain in a hole!

lexiphoto and orogeny prepare their pants for the trials ahead.

Entry was a cakewalk, until we realized just how slippery the wet, old redbrick can be. Various forms of profanity filled the musty air, stale from age and the concrete dust of construction, until we regained our footing and proceeded into north Denver’s intestinal tract. The light at the end of the tunnel slowly faded until the dark of the underground enveloped us.


Ambient light in a drain? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS

CP’s main pull is the fact that it’s big. Really big. Most of the redbrick drains in Denver are 6 or 7 feet (about 2m) in diameter, max. Rivergate Hollows, Colorado’s finest, is a 15′ bored concrete tunnel for a good length. CP is nearly as big, about 12 feet in diameter…except it’s made of bricks. For a good 2 and a half hours, we slogged through this beast, the monotony of our splish-sploshing boots broken periodically by turns (which were even more slippery), and a few odd rooms where the RBP (Red Brick Pipe) had been cut away and intersected by 10″ steel pipes of some unknown purpose. A very odd manhole was also encountered, one which may very well lead into the tiger cage.

Zoo access? Hope it doesn’t open into the tiger enclosure.
(image courtesy of secretdestroyers)

Eventually, a break in the monotony: a junction! This provided the opportunity for much needed rest for our heroes, as well as plentiful photo ops. A date of build was also found here, which proved quite difficult to capture, as it was written upside down, and I had momentarily forgotten that Photoshop existed.

This drain brought to you by: the Works Progress Administration


From my second trip. Light assists by orogeny and RFBTesla. Click to view larger.

The outfall was a curious structure, with a corrugated steel roof with low hanging, rusty bits dangling from it like sharp icicles. Then came the real test: the spider gauntlet.

I have one weakness when draining: evil, evil drain spiders. I hate them. It’s my opinion that nothing on this earth should have more than six legs. So it was much to my dismay that the last 60 or so feet were a minefield of very big spiders and their drooping webs, threatening to cling to hair, camera bags, and whatever else they could get their spindly legs on. We managed to coax the valiant SD into using his tripod as an anti-spider device and charged through the gauntlet like a quartet of NFL linebackers, cursing like sailors as we went.

Upon exiting the drain, much to our chagrin, a solitary Denver Police officer walking his beat heard our stream of profanity directed at the spiders, and as we climbed up the embankment to our waiting chariot (we parked one of our cars at the outfall), he simply walked away chuckling to himself.

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2 thoughts on “soda and spiders and redbrick, oh my!

  1. Nick 14 March 2008 / 5.18 pm

    Great photos, looks like a blast! I’d love to accompany you guys on future expeditions. Are you on http://www.UER.ca? Drop me an e-mail.

  2. Ethan 22 September 2009 / 10.30 pm

    I’m a student at CU-Boulder, researching a possible photoj project on the constructed water landscape of the Front Range. One angle is recreation, and both scuba diving and drain exploration are on my radar. I would like to talk to you about the latter. Please drop me an e-mail. Cheers.

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