UEM Dives into Draining

Racoon Drain was UEM’s first draining experience in the fall of 2002, and it was a sweet one.

In the past, Tux had often passed by a very tempting drain-looking pipe while on public transportation in the West Island, and after reading a few too many UEC drain articles, we too decided to try our luck at the age-old sport of draining.


Unfortunately, the pipe Tux had sighted was a no-go. From our entrance, the downstream part seemed too dangerous and deep to walk – considering we didn’t even have rubber boots! – and the upper part was a bit too small for our highly-refined drainers’ palates. So we shuffled away, disheartened and beaten… At which point Tux’s memory awakened and he recalled a second drain not too far away. After five minutes of walking on train tracks, UEM found the fabled drain and its great arched stone entrance, and although the water in the upstream part was once again too deep for us to wade in, the downstream pipe immediately appeared enjoyable. And so we headed into Lower Raccoon Drain.

Tux and Wotan returned in spring of 2003, this time equipped with rubber boots and the Tiny Sun. The upstream section of Racoon did not seem as daunting and arduous as it had six months before. Upper Racoon was also a nice location on its own, but what really blew us away was the discovery of Double-Tunnel at the end. It was totally unexpected and one of the most satisfying surprises we’ve had so far.

Tux and I came to a strange junction consisting of three small (3-feet wide or so) pipes that led to a dark place full of rushing water. I slipped my backpack off, squeezed myself into the middle pipe with my flashlight, and pulled myself in… Expecting a gigantic catch-basin into which I’d fall and drown, or perhaps an alligator mating pond. Instead, I set rubber-clad foot inside a perpendicular section of tunnel with ten inches of fast-flowing water. I called Tux and, after he had squeezed past the narrow junction too, we stood in awe and listened to the sounds of cars driving over a manhole above.

We had no idea what Double-Tunnel was supposed to be. We walked for ten minutes upstream, turned back, returned to the junction, and then walked for ten minutes downstream too. We found nothing, except the occasional rectangular opening in the middle wall that separates the two halves of Double-Tunnel. At this moment I think we both could have believed in the existence of an endless draining system underneath the whole island of Montreal… And yeah, we did, a little.

For this super-hardcore exploration, though, we’d need a full roster, and so all three UEM members returned a week later. After reaching the Raccoon-DT junction, we elected to walk upstream. This led us, after thirty-five minutes of sloshing around in sometimes ankle-, sometimes almost knee-high water, to a junction with two exits. We made camp right outside the better-looking one, feasting on energy bars and drinking Gatorade inside a fenced-off field with barbed wire. Curious suburban dwellers, not ten meters away, seemed to be wondering how we’d gotten in. After a while we returned to the task at hand, hiked back all the way to the junction with Upper Raccoon Drain, and explored the downstream part, which was unfortunately rather featureless. The only exit on this side turned out to be a large hinged grate that we pushed open. We ended up on a sunny beach, surrounded once again by the hubbub of suburban life… And yet, yearning to return to the damp darkness from which we had just emerged, like newborns.

Overall, drains are among some of the most pleasurable experiences of urban exploration, if you’re well prepared and ready to actually experience something. Most of the time, drains are not about sightseeing: they’re about the darkness, the claustrophobia, the alien environment, the echoey sound of dripping water, and the satisfaction of traveling inside a secret underground network most people don’t even know of.



Lower Racoon Drain

Upper Racoon Drain

Double Tunnel

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