In 1940 the city of Hartford and the Army Corps of Engineers buried a problem. For years the Hog River had been flooding its banks with sewage contaminated water and poisoning the surrounding city. By 1943 it was buried underground and soon forgotten.

The entrance.

On Valentine's Day evening, 2009, five of us drive north towards Hartford. It is a cold, rainy day, the sort of conditions that, years ago, might have coaxed the river's water over its banks and into the city. Our intent is to see what's left of the Hog River.

The monolithic cement grill guarding the mouth of the tunnel looms like a sentinel in the darkness before us. The water rushes down a steep slope into the tunnel. While standing on the brink looking for a way down, I slip and fall into the churning water. Gripped by the icy cold I barely feel four pairs of hands grab and pull me from the dark vortex.

Soon we make our way down the slope and into the tunnel; the sound of the city fades away and is quickly replaced with a ceaseless roar as the water surges through the vast concrete tunnel towards the Connecticut River, about 2 miles away, where the tunnel ends. As we walk along the water's edge there are shapes and ripples from within the murk that suggest we are not alone. Occasionally a scaled back breaks the surface briefly and then submerges again.

Eventually the tunnel narrows and the dry edge we creep along tapers away forcing us into the water. The opaque waves swirl around us concealing what lurks below the surface. Unseen creatures brush past our legs, their fleeting touches a reminder that our presence here does not go unnoticed.


I visited the Hog River again months later. This time I found the massive fish that live there resting mostly out of the water. They lay perpendicularly to the flow along the dry bank that I describe walking along earlier in the story above, their head an gills submerged, but the rest of their bodies on dry land. Occasionally one would dart out to catch some insect or piece of detritus floating by. Fish disturbed by my presence flopped themselves back into the water only to reappear downstream.

Seeing the fish like this was remarkable not only for the strange behavior but also because their sheer size was plainly visible out of the murky water. They appeared to be carp, some reaching four feet in length! One of my greatest exploration regrets, even years later, was that I never photographed this phenomena.

A fish's back breaks the surface.

From the Archives

The Hog River prior to burial, circa 1895.
Taylor Collection, Connecticut State Library


See the world, they
told me...

bayou goula towhead

the sea test

the circumnavigator pt5
the circumnavigator pt4
the circumnavigator pt3
the circumnavigator pt2
the circumnavigator pt1
falling dream
the darkness
one hell of a mile 3&4
he will return
the believers
the horror pt2
the horror pt1
death valley

paradise of outlaws
the mountain climbers 1&2
brought to surface
one hell of a mile 3
the lost world
inner gorge
a ghost story
the riddle
slaying the minotaur
heart of darkness
public lands
organ music
two sought adventure
the virgin river
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steal the world
the end of the world
el dorado
the valley of the kings 2
the valley of the kings 1
one hell of a mile 2
one hell of a mile 1
the mountain climbers rr4
heroes rr3
rainy roadtrip 2
rainy roadtrip 1
the transgression
sinister 2
sinister 1
new chapter

like sedona?
torn in two
bridge to nowhere
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hitting the wall
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pick up lines

revisited 2
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which way?
lost mines
in their footsteps
a dance with death

casting the bones
mountain thief
the deer hunter
strange temple
burial pt. 3
burial pt. 2
burial pt. 1
the apparition
return to hell
the lower depths
underground lake
stretch sewer
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shadow movements
meager rations
sw8: the conclusion
sw7: lost gold mines
sw6: the big tubes
sw5: gold!
sw4: el calderon
sw3: redondo
sw2: ghosts
sw1: westward bound
formaldehyde dreams
the underdark
in the beginning