Changing the course of the River des Peres
— St. Vincent Greenway —
The River des Peres Watershed
Every drop of rain goes somewhere. What isn't absorbed into the ground, will eventually find its way into our creeks, streams and rivers. As you read this, you are standing within the River des Peres watershed, meaning that rain that falls here will find its way to the River des Peres.
Early European settlers of this area valued the beauty and resources of the River des Peres, name it "The River of our Fathers." But as St. Louis developed, homes replaced open fields and farms. Paved streets could not absorb the rains and water ran off more quickly, overflowing the River des Peres. The new neighborhoods were frequently threatened by damaging - and deadly - floods.
Where did the river go?
As St. Louis prepared for the 1904 World's Fair, segments of the River des Peres were diverted into a series of temporary underground tubes running under Forest Park. Construction of a permanent structure began in 1924.
The project, which took 9 years to complete and cost $11 million, paved the river's banks and straightened its many bends. While the river has gone underground, the area remains a major watershed.
The River des Peres today
The channelized and straightened portions of the river bear little resemblance to its original beauty. Up river,
where it flows in a more natural setting, meandering creeks provide cultural, aesthetic and environmental value.
Water grasses and vegetation provide home and refuge for wildlife, birds and aquatic species. Its wetlands store water from heavy rains like a sponge, releasing slowly to minimize flooding.