Canada's second largest city. Once upon a time, dozens of rivers flowed, namely the RIVIÈRE SAINT-PIERRE. Today, this river (like many others), is mysteriously out of sight and out of mind, with only a small portion of it still flowing above ground. But some are looking to retrace its history and bring it back in the public’s consciousness. People like quirky urban explorers Andrew Emond, whose magnificent photographs make us reflect on how these waterways have changed over the centuries, and Danielle Plamondon, an active member of a vast international network of underground 'drainers'.

Web Capsules

Explore more of this city through exclusive video content not included in the film.

The William Collector: A Marvel of Victorian TechnologyThe William Collector: A Marvel of Victorian Technology
Andrew Emond's ExhibitionAndrew Emond's Exhibition
A River and a Lake Ran Through ItA River and a Lake Ran Through It
Retracing the Saint-Pierre RiverRetracing the Saint-Pierre River

St-Martin River

From its source in the cemetery on the top of Mont-Royal, the St-Martin River once drained the entire Plateau Montreal. Still gurgling above the surface today in parts of Outremont, this stream wound its way through Mile End and the Plateau towards Parc Lafontaine, where the ponds are vestiges of the former waterway. The St-Martin River flowed through what is now the neighbourhood of Ville Marie, then west along Montreal's fortification wall, where St. Antoine Street is today. It continued to a small lake at Chaboillez Square near the current location of the Dow Planetarium. Here it joined the Little St. Pierre River and continued through Old Montreal until it spilled into the St-Laurent River.


Fruitless Search for Body of GirlFruitless Search for Body of Girl
Montreal, City of BridgesMontreal, City of Bridges
The Blight of CholeraThe Blight of Cholera
 A Nearly Great Escape A Nearly Great Escape
The Craig Street SewerThe Craig Street Sewer

Little St-Pierre River

The Little St. Pierre River played a key role in the founding of Montreal, as Samuel de Champlain decided to land and settle on the point where it met the St-Lawrence River. The function of the Little St-Pierre was twofold; it served as a port for boats and canoes, and at the same time acted as a barrier protecting French settlers from incursions by the indigenous Iroquois population. It was the ongoing conflict with the Iroquois that eventually incited residents of Montreal's first settlement, Ville Marie, to follow the little river westwards. The valley of the Little St. Pierre River represents the first line of communication into the western part of the island.


The St-Gabriel CanalThe St-Gabriel Canal
The Dock of FoundlingsThe Dock of Foundlings
The Perfect LocationThe Perfect Location
Little St-Pierre is Buried UndergroundLittle St-Pierre is Buried Underground
The Styx: A Mythical River in HellThe Styx: A Mythical River in Hell

St-Pierre River

The St. Pierre River is considered the most important of Montreal's lost rivers because of its size and course. It originates at the top of the mountain in what is now Côte-des-Neiges, continues its flow westwards through today's Nôtre-Dame-de-Grace, makes a sudden turn to the east at Côte-Saint-Luc, collects at the bottom of the Saint-Jacques cliff, winds its way through Saint Henri, and eventually turns south to rejoin the Saint Laurent River at L'île des Soeurs. For as long as time, this winding waterway acted as a drainage route to the entire western side of Montreal's Mountain.


A Make-Work ProgramA Make-Work Program
Naming the St-PierreNaming the St-Pierre

Glen Creek

Several Westmount streams converged into one at the Glen and tumbled down the hill. In St. Henri, a mill and tanneries clustered along the stream, which was joined by the St. Pierre River on the banks of Otter Lake.Westmount, formerly known as Côte St. Antoine, derives its present-day name from its location on the western side of Montreal's Mount Royal. The many streams and gullies that once crossed Côte St. Antoine were a result of thousands of years of erosion caused by rain and melting snow which flowed down the slopes of the western side of the Mountain and into Lac St. Pierre in the village of St. Henri des Tanneries. Many of these streams converged at the south end of what is now Westmount Park and formed a small river called the Glen. Rapid urban development in the early 20th century meant that the Glen as well as most of the smaller streams that flowed through the town of Côte St. Antoine were filled in or diverted underground. The fountains and waterways that we find in Westmount Park today are the last vestiges of these lost rivers.


The Rolland Family TannersThe Rolland Family Tanners
Westmount’s Lost WaterwaysWestmount’s Lost Waterways
Tree-huggers of YoreTree-huggers of Yore
The First TannersThe First Tanners
Queen Victoria’s Diamond JubileeQueen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee
Genius LociGenius Loci
Rumour has it...Rumour has it...
The Other Side of the TracksThe Other Side of the Tracks
The Tiny Wooden TabernacleThe Tiny Wooden Tabernacle
The Stone ArchwayThe Stone Archway
The Old POM BakeryThe Old POM Bakery
The CPR’s Wooden Trestle BridgeThe CPR’s Wooden Trestle Bridge
A Well-Trodden PathA Well-Trodden Path
Burying the GlenBurying the Glen

Otter Lake

A number of Montreal’s former rivers flowed through and fed the shallow and swampy lake that was once known as Lac à la Loutre. Also called Petit Lac St. Pierre because of its convergence with the St. Pierre River, it extended nearly seven kilometers from Ville St. Pierre in Montreal West across today’s neighborhoods of Nôtre-Dame-de-Grace and St. Henri, and continued on to Atwater Avenue. Lac à la Loutre was long and narrow reaching just over a kilometer at its widest point.


Two Locomotives Disappear into the SwampsTwo Locomotives Disappear into the Swamps
A Passage for the VoyageursA Passage for the Voyageurs
A Lost LakeA Lost Lake
Origins of the Lake's NameOrigins of the Lake's Name
Lac à la Loutre ParkLac à la Loutre Park