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The Secret Concrete Canyon

The best collection of Kansas City street art is down here.

I’ve been wanting to walk the secret concrete canyon for a long time. This is the home of the nine blue sheep, my very favorite piece of Kansas City street art. I mentioned it in my 816 poem. Pretty soon I’ll going to edit out some of my better poems so they look more like a music video instead of me just standing in one place where viewers get bored. You can vote me when I get a Kickstarter project put together for this. Here’s the 816 poem that mentions the secret concrete canyon and introduces my love of Kansas City street art.

How the Secret Concrete Canyon got drained to house Kansas City street art:

Melissa Estelle checks out the Turkey Creek diversion tunnel on the ACME Explore the Urban Core ride

Melissa Estelle checks out the Turkey Creek diversion tunnel on the ACME Explore the Urban Core ride

In the 816 poem I talk about “Turkey Creek, that got tunneled underground to build the busiest freight train hub in the nation, to build a secret concrete canyon blooming beyond Kansas City street art.” The Secret Concrete Canyon is in the historic Turkey Creek riverbed. There’s a diversion tunnel on the ridge between Turkey creek and the Kansas River that my friends and I have ridden to go explore. The diversion tunnel moves the whole channel of Turkey Creek so it drains into the Kansas River. I thought at one point that the diversion tunnel had moved the Creek Bed all the way across the city.

Then one day I was at the library and saw a 1909 map of the city, with railroad lines running through that canyon through the middle of town. I thought, “Well, the diversion tunnel says 1909 on it, so was there a previous tunnel?” I finally had time one day at the library and went to the Missouri Valley room on the fifth floor of Kansas City’s gorgeous downtown library.

I don’t know how librarians do this sometimes, but I asked a vague question like, “Doyou have anything that would tell me about how Turkey Creek built the route for trains but now there are just trains there?”

The nine blue sheep, my very favorite piece of Kansas City street art.

The nine blue sheep, my very favorite piece of Kansas City street art.

She said, “Well, we have a Turkey Creek file on micofilm.” So I looked through these old 1909 newspaper articles and found stories about the West Bottoms flooding all the time because of Turkey Creek. They showed one picture where the stockyards down there had gone under water and the cows all floated into the river. Then cowboys rode their horses to swim into the river for a bounty for each head of cattle they got get to swim out after the horses. Must have been pretty well trained horses. The pictures showed tons and tons of people on the bridges just standing watching all this action going swimmingly.

It turned out that Turkey Creek was shifted from draining into the Blue River to now draining in the Kansas River by a process known as stream capture. This happened in geologic times before the European settlers came to the region. However, the diversion tunnel was built in 1915 to shift Turkey Creek about a mile so that it drains a little earlier into the Kansas River to prevent flooding.  The city of Kansas City kept wanting to build this but not getting it done. Finally the city of Rosedale (now Kansas City, KS), ponied up the money by asking the railroad companies to pay for part of it. Their logic was that the railroads would gain more usable land by reducing the flooding and Rosedale would get a place to drain sewage away from their city.

Brian Galley in the Secret Concrete Canyon blooming beyond with Kansas City Street Art

Brian Galley in the Secret Concrete Canyon blooming beyond with Kansas City Street Art

So mystery solved and I still wanted to walk the length of the secret concrete canyon. However, at one point I got in a fight with a train cop that help me realize I had a few issues with PTSD. I had to wait until my probation was over before I could do the adventure, and finally a day came along when Brian and I both had the time, probably the coldest day in our very mild winter this year.

He said it was about a mile and we dodged the trains until one finally came along that we didn’t hear and we couldn’t help but get spotted. Brian said, “Oh, don’t worry, we’re fine.” Eventually I realized that I was kinda flashing back to that fight with the train cop and just scared.

I told Brian, “My Gt the F— out of Here Meter went off a long time ago. But I’m trusting you on this one.”

He said, “Don’t worry. I have the same Get the F— out of Here Meter, but mine hasn’t gone off at all yet.” So we stayed and walked the whole length of the canyon and had a fine adventure that ended that afternoon at Arthur Bryants barbecue. Here’s the whole set of pictures of this incredible Kansas City street art on Flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/human_hand/sets/72157629067063186/

Do you like Kansas City street art? What’s your favorite piece?

4 comments to The Secret Concrete Canyon

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