Friday, October 9, 2015

Sink Holes Research.. BEFORE

Small sinkhole waterfall in White County

Sink Hole Research & Investigation --The BEFORE

Dana Koogler 

Friday Oct. 9 , 2015

Pictures are here

     I already had a list of places I wanted to see, long enough that
I would have to live to be four hundred years old to see it all.   I added to the problem by becoming
obsessed with finding sink hole waterfalls ten months ago.   I had noticed a pattern on topo maps and developed a hypothesis I wanted to test.   I hypothesized that all sink holes with blue dots in them on the topo map contained waterfalls.  I had a list of several I believed fit that category and me and Kenny set out to begin testing to see if I was correct.  I found excellent stuff to start out with and was three for three! I was elated.  Early success fueled the desire to continue.  The law of averages
 humbled me, and showed me how wrong I was.   My hypothesis was proven wrong!  I learned before too long that I was wrong twice!   What I learned is that sink holes with blue dots shown on a topo map do not always contain waterfalls or other interesting water features.  Sink holes without any indication of water on the map sometimes contain beautiful waterfalls or other water features!

       Did finding out my hypothesis was wrong upset me? No! Did it cause me to enjoy what I was doing any less? No! I was having a good time mostly.   I have had a couple frustration trips. Sometimes it seems to be that I have a quota I must keep up with of failed attempts.  All things must be balanced. Success means there must be a proportion of failure to keep the universe in order.
I have found some sinkholes are not attractive. Some with blue dots in them don't really have a pretty blue pond of water or a waterfall. Sometimes man made things interfere with what used to be and destroy it.  I found one sinkhole that did not contain  a waterfall, but once it  had a pretty blue hole of water. Logging and earth moving in the area below the rim of the sinkhole disturbed it and caused it to drain. What I found was a mess that reminded me of a bathtub with the drain plug pulled.

           I have not obtained photos of the sink holes yet since I have yet to visit them.
What I did instead was include a link to the gallery of ones I have already visited.  A look here
might help explain why I continue to hunt.  The wildness and beauty and mystery of these places
never ceases to intrigue me. It keeps me rewarded and hooked and coming back!

Here is the list of Sink Holes I believe contain waterfalls.





Wilson Mountain

Hell Hole (Overton Co.)


Big Sink (Van Buren Co)--***Important*** This lies in an area that is off limits to all but hunters
now that hunting season has begun.  That started Oct. 1.  That will be in effect until Jan. 10, 2016.
** Edited to add visited Big Sink 1/16/2016 and proved there are indeed waterfalls in the sinkhole. We found three and there may be more. **

   All have listed way points on Tennessee landforms.    I have others I believe contain waterfalls, but this is the list I am focusing on presently.   Be careful if you look any of these up to check into them remembering that there are many sink holes in the state of Tennessee which have the same name!
Hell Hole and Big Sink seem to be the most popular.  Make sure before you ever go check one out that you have the correct information and waypoint for the area you're visiting!
Remember that checking out sink holes carries risks with it and I assume no responsibility for whatever you decide to do with the information.  

    I have done preliminary research into which ones I believe will be accessible and which ones will be the most problematic.  The ones I see becoming the most problematic are ones in residential areas
which can limit access. It can be hard to find a neutral place to park and walk or obtain permission.
The two I see being the most tricky from that stand point are Gore and Hunter.

    There is always the possibility these contain pit caves. I do not possess the ability to bounce a pit.
It is outside my wheelhouse so if it comes to that I may be stuck.   Time will tell and I will certain exercise appropriate caution.

   Several waterfalls that I visited before I realized what I was doing were actually sink hole waterfalls!  Examples of this are Lost Creek Falls,   Rainbow Falls (Overton Co) and Rainbow Falls (Marion County) Lost Cane and Franks Flume are also sink hole waterfalls technically.  Rainbow Falls in White oak Sinks is a sink hole waterfall.   Big Sunk Cane Falls is another one!
Blue Hole branch is one.
            The majority of them are located in the Cumberland Plateau but once in awhile you find one in East Tennessee or elsewhere.   

Waterfall in White Oak Sinks<br />
GSMNP TN 2008<br />
This falls down into a cave and flows for a distance and re-emerges as Silver Falls in Tuckaleechee Caverns.
Rainbow Falls in Whiteoak Sinks in the Great Smoky Mountains.
It is currently inaccessible. It is closed until April 2016 or possibly longer.

Lost Cane Falls 1 edited RAW

One of many waterfalls in Lost Cane that only runs part of the time.

Lost Cane 304

Rainbow Falls in Overton County is a pit cave/ sink hole and it has a blue dot in it on the map!

Remember that you can stack the deck in your favor by going when we have had an abundance of rain fall.   Some of these falls don't flow year round.  Sink holes can be excellent places to explore during Winter because you are sheltered out of the wind.   Sink holes can be excellent places to find
Spring wildflowers!


Seeing a sink hole on a topo map. Not every map does this, but a sink hole on a map should look like this:
A series of concentric circles lined with tic marks.

Cal topo maps are the best online source I've found that show sink holes properly. They also do a better job of showing details of the area like trails leading in to one.    
See the link below

Cal Topo of Wilson Mountain, TN

Something else to consider when planning to visit one of these special places?  
Know how to read a topo and plan your best approach.  Do an elevation profile to see what your track into one will be like prior to ever going!    Sometimes its easy to see which is the low side of one. 
Sometimes it is not.  

 We're getting some good rain. The weather is cooling down.  I'm ready to explore!  
Part of my motives for sharing this info is that the treacherous, cagey old woman in me with a dark heart hopes that some young ambitious type will go check out some of these before I get there and fill me in as to whether its worthwhile or not!   The desire to be first is replaced by the monaker... Work smarter.. not harder. 


  1. Amazing. One of the sinkholes in your photos seems to be of recent origin since it's full of large trees. Did the area just recently drop? Or did the water table just break the surface there?

  2. None of these are of recent origin. Those are unstable and thus unsafe. These are ancients of mumu. I have learned that out in the plateau it is not uncommon to find areas where the water table rises and falls. Trees grow in those.


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