Horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was used as a CSF tracer in Sprague-Dawley rats. One group of rats received an injection of HRP in the cisterna magna and a second group was injected in the thoracic spinal subarachnoid space. The animals were sacrificed 0, 10 or 30 min after HRP injection by rapid perfusion with paraformaldehyde and glutaraldehyde. In both groups, there was rapid HRP labeling of brain and spinal cord perivascular spaces. HRP was present in the central canal in a pattern that was not consistent with flow from the fourth ventricle: in both groups there were segments of unlabeled central canal between the fourth ventricle and central canal segments containing HRP. HRP-labeled perivascular spaces were seen in the central gray matter adjacent to the central canal. There was a distinctive pattern of interstitial HRP between perivascular spaces and the central canal. The results suggest that there is a normal flow of fluid from the subarachnoid space, into the perivascular spaces, across the interstitial space and into the central canal. The function of this flow may be to clear metabolites from the interstitial space. The existence of such a flow would add considerable support to the theory that non-communicating syringomyelia develops in segments of central canal isolated by occlusion or stenosis at each end.