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This River des Peres is a partially enclosed river which runs through St. Louis, Missouri. Used since prior to the city’s founding, the des Peres has gone through two considerable engineering projects: one in 1901 in light of the World’s Fair, and one in 1923, which encapsulated more than half of the river and placed nearly five miles of it underground. Presently, the des Peres constitutes the backbone of the sanitary and sewer system of St. Louis city and county. Ultimately, the river offers a broad meditation on what it means to live around and in a “natural” waterway that is simultaneously not natural at all. Themes of St. Louis are equally reflected in the river: of environmental racism, of Midwestern decline, and of urban decay and renewal. Additionally, those who interact with the river prove a broad cast of characters. Through using a selection of interviews with locals, alongside an engagement with the work of contemporary poet Donald Finkel, this piece of creative nonfiction explores the multiplicity, and ultimately the value, of distorted natural spaces.
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