top of page

The Rivers That Run Beneath Us

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - When it's 60 degrees on a December Sunday in Indianapolis, nature is simply telling us to go outside and unwrap such a beautiful gift. Indianapolis is a city that is not only rich in beauty, but rich in history, and there are few things I enjoy more than history and the city of Indianapolis. My interests in both lead me to one of Indianapolis' best kept secrets: there is a river that flows directly beneath the city, POGUE'S RUN. There was no option but to find it.


The river is named after George Pogue, one of Indianapolis' first white settlers. Many believe that Pogue settled in Indianapolis in 1819 and vanished forever in 1821 after searching for some of his horses that had been stolen from him.

IndyStar - In April 1821, something bad happened. Pogue "ventured into the woods," writes the historian Sheryl D. Vanderstel in "The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis," "searching for lost horses he believed to have been stolen." The pioneer blacksmith, very possibly the Father of Indianapolis, never was seen again, alive or dead.


Pogue's Run starts on the east side of Indianapolis near the intersection of Mass. and Ritter Avenue and spills into the White River just south of Kentucky Avenue. The river is 11 miles in length with more than 2 miles of the river running under our feet.

The river runs beneath Lucas Oil Stadium, Banker's Life Fieldhouse and many other Indianapolis landmarks via the river's original path, as well as tunnels created to help the river align with the city's sewer system.


What the hell happened to it? How did A WHOLE RIVER end up underground in one of America's most populated cities (14th)?

Indianapolis was chosen to be the state capitol of Indiana in the year 1820, and Alexander Ralston (designer of Washington D.C.) was brought in to help layout the city. The city was designed to be just 1 square mile with a circle in the center. Ever notice North Street, South Street, East Street and West Street? Well those are the original parameters of the city!

The path of the river interfered with the 'perfect' grid that Indianapolis envisioned and was buried beneath the city along with all of her secrets.

The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis - When Indianapolis was laid out, only Pogue's Run running diagonally across the southeast portion of the "Mile Square" disturbed the orderliness of the grid pattern. Alexander Ralston had to make compromises due to the stream's location within the congressional donation lands given for the future Indianapolis."

As the city expanded outside of the initial Mile Square, the river's problems only persisted. Following nearly a century of being considered a natural nuisance, the river was tucked away as a result of a project known as "Pogue's Run Drain" in 1915. The portion of the river that I was at is outside of the Mile Square just west of where New York and Dickson Street intersect. (I'm told the river flow is best after a couple days of rain).


For me, it's important to understand and appreciate where I am. Every city in every country has a story that is worth being told if you're willing to listen. Take a day or two to learn about where you live and explore some of the forgotten history that has been hiding. Uncovering a hidden part of a city is often like uncovering a hidden part of myself, as if to tell me that there's so much more of me left to find.

2,263 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page