City of streams, city of pipes

This is a picture of the D.C. stream network as it appeared in the mid-1800s. This 2024 edition of the map provides a firmer vision of the past, bringing in more stream names and identifying old springs. It traces the modern-day sewers that carry runoff in place of vanished streams, and it more clearly shows the city’s topography, the bridge between past and present.

map of DC with streams

Of all the streams that flowed through the District, some 70 percent are gone. As the city expanded, over the course of the 19th century and into the 20th, the District government diverted streams into sewers, and developers filled in valleys or routed creeks into culverts. A city of streams became a city of pipes.