Mapping Detroit’s Buried Waterways uses GIS technology and creative cartography to engage residents across the city in orienting to, and building relationships with, our hidden creeks, rivers, and marshes.
Cartography is an ancient art form that is in danger of being lost in the face of the increasing monopoly of technology-based mapping applications such as Google Maps and Garmin that mediate how we orient and navigate spaces, and the explosion of interest in “data-driven” maps and visualizations that often reduce human, animal and plants’ lives, activities, and interactions to “dots” of various sizes, colors, and opacities.
I researched and downloaded historical maps of Detroit, collected from the Library of Congress, National Archives, US Geological Survey and The British Library, that show the courses of the city’s now buried waterways, to GAIA and Avenza mapping aps on my phone and laptop. I used Avenza to create geo-referenced pdfs of these maps, and GAIA to follow and record tracks of the routes of the buried creeks on today’s cityscape on foot or by bicycle. As I follow the course of the creeks, I look for anything that indicates or relates to the presence or sense of water, from puddles and rain gardens to boats and flamingo lawn ornaments, to the “roar” of the traffic around a freeway interchange that is reminiscent of the roar of the ocean in a conch shell, only louder. These observations will form the heart of the map. They will be represented by unique icons and inset images created using linocut, Adobe Illustrator, photography, paper making, drawing, and painting. The completed base map, icons and images will be uploaded to an online mapping platform, such as ARC GIS or Mapbox.
The project will create a community map of Detroit’s buried creeks. Some of my goals for the project are:
To orient ourselves to our space by water rather than tar in Detroit
To build relationship with the land and water
To recognize tribal sovereignty and treaty rights
To learn about and be present in spaces “in between”
To build community among Detroit based water protectors
To create space for creating art, and sharing skills and visions between Detroiters
USGS 1905 1:62,500 maps layered over current open street maps of Detroit and Grosse Pointe with waterways tracked to 10/04/23 and waypoints of things noticed that relate to water
If you are interested in collaborating on research, icon design, photography, editing, funding or something else please CLICK HERE to contact me.