Exploring the hidden corners of McGill

Earlier this week, while looking for information for my post on the McTavish Reservoir, I came across a page I’d never seen before: Urban Exploration Montreal’s McGill University, from Top to Bottom. Turns out that some of our local urban explorers have penetrated pretty much every crevice of Montreal’s oldest university.

Part of their exploration took them to the McTavish Reservoir, which they were intrepid enough to, well, break into enter surreptitiously and photograph. The pumphouse is interesting enough, but what’s really spectacular is the underground reservoir, its millions of gallons of water held back by rough stone walls. From the website:

The ambiance down here is really indescribable. It’s like a cave, but it’s manmade, and the hidden potential energy of all that water is a tangible feeling. The dim lights make it vaguely spooky, but your senses are already too overloaded by what you’re seeing (a high ceilinged cave in the middle of downtown!) and hearing (rushing, dripping, flowing water) for you to be afraid.

Few McGill buildings are left untouched, not to mention the various steam tunnels and passageways that snake underneath the entire campus. Check it out — it’s a fascinating look at parts of the McGill campus you’ll probably never see.

All photos by Urban Exploration Montreal


  1. Hi Chris,

    I would just like to point out that we did not break into the McTavish reservoir. At the time we explored it, McGill was tearing up the sidewalk in front of the pumphouse. The construction work had left a big gaping hole that led straight through the ceiling of an underground passageway and into the building. We merely hopped down into it.

    Just to be extra clear, UEM never broke into anything we explored. We always found unlocked doors or other easy/stupid ways to get in. It’s against our ethics to damage or steal. Take only pictures, leave only footprints, that’s our motto. (It’s also the motto of the sierra club :)

    Great blog! I read it every day!


  2. Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t imagine you actually “broke in” in the literal sense, but rather “entered without permission.”

  3. I used to work/study in McIntyre – it has no tunnels as it has no basements but it does have strange (mechanical) rooms near the top of the Building and near upper floor of library – 4th?. I also heard there was a very tight tunnel going under University Street/Avenue des Pins junction from the Strathcona to MNI but I never got into it. The reservoir tunnels look awesome but I actually think they are City of Montreal tunnels – the reservoir does not belong to McGill

  4. Hi Davo,

    I’m not sure what the official “jurisdiction is” but I do know that the McTavish reservoir used to be directly connected by tunnel to the main McGill steam tunnel system. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe this connection was broken when they built the wong building. In any case, the pipe-only connection lives on, as you can see on this map:



  5. Why doesnt Montreal make a tour of the water reservoirs a tourist attraction (and for locals too). This has been done in Paris for many years (I have viewed them twice).

  6. One of the greatest moments in local urban exploration for sure. My hat is off to these guys again!

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