Underground Urbexing in Tulsa
Oklahoma › 21st Street to Centennial Park Tunnel
Added by John Chau
Head out on almost two miles of underground hiking just a few minutes from downtown Tulsa. Explore underground waterfalls and unique blind catfish and witness the vast immensity of one of Tulsa’s underground tunnels.
Park at the Blue Rose restaurant’s parking lot on Riverside Drive and head south along the trail until you reach the 23rd Street Bridge. Head down toward the river and you'll soon see the large entryway into the tunnel. Large amounts of graffiti will be present, and depending on the water level, the tunnel should have a decent enough walkway along the left.
Follow the walkway (which consists of several large pipes) and continue down through the tunnel. You might need to hop back and forth across the tunnel floor to navigate various obstacles, so watch your footing! Be on the lookout for the various creatures that live in the drain, such as "cave" catfish, various sunfish that occasionally try to swim upstream and flop onto the bricks, crayfish, and bats.
Within half a mile, the cement floor should transition into old bricks. Keep on going, and you'll pass by a large opening on the left that is similar to that of a subway station. Stay right and keep going. There are numerous little outlets, both large and small, but for this adventure we’re going to go down the main tunnel. You should encounter another tunnel branching off to the left as it gets narrower on the right, and if you do this hike during the day, light should be streaming in from the left tunnel. This is your exit. There will be a small bit of water flowing down the middle, and the sides are a little slippery.
You'll find yourself in a smaller room with a ladder leading to a manhole on the left, and if you don’t want to climb out from beneath a dock, then climb up the manhole and exit the tunnel (but don’t look up at the manhole are you remove it – it’s heavy and there are lots of dirt and rust that can drop down on your face). Be sure to replace the manhole so that no one will fall into the tunnel accidentally! Otherwise, keep going past the manhole, crouch down and go through the concrete and you will now be beneath a dock. The tunnel is part of Tulsa’s water-overflow system, so whenever the lake gets too high, the overflow goes through where you are standing. Now comes the tricky part. Go left, and then crawl out of the side closest to the shore with your back to the water. Simply reach up, grab the railing, and haul yourself up. Don’t be surprised if you encounter couples making out on top. Just tell them you live in the sewers and they’ll probably leave you alone.
Now that you've exited from one of Tulsa’s epic draining systems, you can choose to either go back down into the darkness and hike back out, or you can stay aboveground and follow the various sidewalks and paths to get back to the Blue Rose using your phone’s GPS.
If you choose to stay aboveground, check out the unique architectural highlights that you'll pass by, including the massive Boston Avenue United Methodist Church with its tall spires. Depending on how grungy you now are, grab a bite to eat and a cold brew at the Blue Rose (they have especially tasty gumbo!) or grab some phenomenal coffee at the Phoenix (which is just east of Centennial Park at Peoria and 6th Street).
- ONLY do this urbexing adventure if there has been NO rainfall lately, and if there is no rain in the forecast. The best times to go seem to be in the Fall and Winter when it is drier, because the Spring and Summer usually has tons of storms and flash floods.
- Always pay attention to possible exit routes in case the tunnel were to suddenly flood.
- Bring extra batteries and be sure to let someone know where you are going.
- If you encounter any homeless people, treat them with respect – you might be entering their “home.”
- Don't do this adventure alone!
- Try this adventure during the day and during the night – the day is fun because you can see the light from the tunnel exit, and the night is fun because of the view you get when you exit.
- Shoes that can get wet
- Clothes than can also get wet and dirty
- Backpack with a dry bag for your electronics
- First Aid Kit
- Extra batteries
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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