A River Runs Through It: Tracking the Path of Water Through Dallas Neighborhoods

How long has it been since we heard rain on the roof like Sunday night's downpour -- blowing, battering, crashing off the eaves? I stared out the kitchen window and wondered where the water went after it left my driveway. Maybe I always wonder that.

Sunday night on the 10 o'clock news there was a story about a woman who drove into a flooded intersection at Bannock Avenue and South Lamar Street. Her family was rescued by onlookers. It didn't seem like that much rain. I hoped it wasn't my water that did it.

I drove down there Monday afternoon and looked. The flood took place on the stretch of South Lamar that runs by Gold Metal Recycling. The Vietnamese guy who owns the beer and wine store right there showed me a black tracery of mud two feet high on the walls of his building, a remembrance written for him by the waters.

Storm water runs in open ditches along Lamar. Isn't it amazing? I forget sometimes that there are parts of the city, old long-settled areas not far from my own home, where the basic infrastructure that I take for granted does not exist.

But it's not my water. My neighborhood's water flows south and east along the ancient path of Peak's Branch, now buried in storm sewers. Somewhere it mingles with the waters of Mill Creek, also entombed by man. Together they flow in a massive pipe under Interstate 30 and down into South Dallas to emerge again at Jamaica and Second streets.

I checked my topo map. That water doesn't flow toward Bannock and South Lamar where the lady got flooded in her car. Instead our water runs in a huge open concrete culvert south and east toward the river. The culvert was almost dry by late Monday afternoon. You could drive 18-wheelers down that thing.

I had some fun zigzagging across the streets of Bon-Ton and other old neighborhoods trying to keep up with it. I would lose it for a while, then spot a long dense line of trees behind tumbledown houses with blind plywood windows, turn that way and spy the path of Peak's Branch and Mill Creek again.

Just below Lawnview Park Pond near Scyene Road and Dixon Avenue, out of my view from the car, the culvert joins White Rock Creek. By the time I found them again on lower Second Avenue, the waters were roiling in earthen banks and had formed a swift small river the color of cafe au lait.

I looked at it later with the satellite view on Google Maps and could see where the creek plunges into the Great Trinity Forest. It curls and twists in tight oxbows around the falling contours of the land. I could see where White Rock Creek joins the Trinity River. I paddled a canoe up into that place once with Charles Allen.

I have some topo software on my computer that I used to trace White Rock Creek back north to its source. The software shows the headwaters in Frisco in a subdivision called Plantation Resort. Google Maps sat-view shows tidy man-made lakelets right there.

But it's all the same old water, isn't it, crashing down, soaking the ground, racing down our driveways on its way to the next neighborhood, in and out of our lives. I don't remember if I always wonder about it after a long dry spell.

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