Or is it a drainage ditch? If you are like many modern day St. Louisans, you probably don't believe it's a river because there is never much, if any, water in it.
Well it is a river. On October 6, 1700, a group of Kaskaskia Native Americans made camp at the mouth of a river. They named the river La Riviere des Peres, or The River of the Fathers, in honor of the two French priests who joined them. The River des Peres is a 9.3-mile-long metropolitan river in St. Louis, Missouri. It connects the city with its inner ring suburbs. It is the backbone of sanitary and stormwater systems in the city of St. Louis and portions of St. Louis County.
So how did this river become a sewer drain?
The first sewage the River des Peres received was from St. Louis' Central West End chamberpots. The volumn of sewage became so great that by 1887 the city of St. Louis enacted an ordinance forbidding sewage in the river. If the city had funded the ordinance, then a separate sewer system would have been built and the River des Peres' history might have taken a different course. Instead, the government of St. Louis began a trend that has plagued the river for more than a century: St. Louis would support ideas to protect the River des Peres as a sewer more than as a river.
What eventually happened in the years 1924-1933 was parts of the river was regraded and straightened while a larger span was directed underground to join the city sewer system. In effect the river is buried underground. The above ground river was paved such as we see while driving in certain parts of the south city.
The entrance to the tunnels of the River Des Peres lies hidden beneath a grate east of the Forest Park Visitor Center.
These underground river tunnels contain a mixture of raw sewage and storm water.
Which brings us to today and the morning news story about a sewer line break in the Des Peres in Resurrection Cemetery along McKensie. Workers are trying to fix it. And now you know just what the River Des Peres is all about and what's underneath all that concrete.