The Bronx River (not to be confused with the Bronx Swamp) used to be famous for the smell, which, in the immortal words used by journalist Guy Trebay, "could gag a maggot." It always made me wonder what might be beneath the surface. Well, the people at the Bronx River Alliance know: they've been dredging things up from the bottom of the river since the 1970s. And in quantity: "Our tire count is around 70,000," said Anne-Marie Runfola, Deputy Director of the BRA.

Seventy thousand tires—how was there room for water in the river? Apparently it was the appliances that caused more of a problem: "at East Tremont Avenue you used to be able to walk across the water on refrigerators—people literally didn't know there was a river there. It was completely clogged with appliances." Many of those have now been removed from the riverbed too, along with the usual hypodermic needles, broken glass, shopping carts, guns, knives, and the like. "A lot of the stuff we find goes to the precinct as evidence," Ms. Runfola continued. "Once we found a human skull. It wasn't fresh, but it wasn't ancient history either." The most random thing found to date was a winepress (if you don't know what that looks like take a peek here). Who goes to the trouble of throwing a winepress into the Bronx River?

You can imagine that dragging 70,000 tires out of a river changes it somewhat (see photo, though not all of it looks like that); and this one has now become habitat for herons, snapping turtles, alewives (brand-new to the area), muskrat, deer, eels, and of course Jose the Bronx Beaver. Ms. Runfola reports that Jose is still healthy, but alas still single. Well, he wouldn't be the first to move to New York and not find love.

The BRA is having its "Upstream Soiree" fundraiser this Thursday. It's not free, but they do have plenty of other free events (check the website), and maybe you'll help pay for the next car to get craned out of the river. Perhaps similar work is being done in your neighborhood—try the Gowanus Dredgers or the Newtown Creek Alliance.