James River Basin Partnership held a presentation at the Springfield Nature Center Friday to explain a natural spectacle taking shape in waterways here in the Ozarks known as swallow holes.
This phenomenon lives up to its name, as it literally swallows up stream water like a vacuum, and sends it flowing underground to another location, but that’s not the whole story.
We sit on a vast bed of karst topography here in the Ozarks. That refers to the porous limestone that sits below our surface.
That limestone erodes away due to water flow, and has created a natural wonder at Wilson’s Creek.
The swallow hole is located along the South Creek Greenway Trail on the southwest side of Springfield.
Even for someone that deals with nature and its many wonders for a living, James River Basin Partnership President Dave Coonrod is still amazed by some of the oddities the Ozarks can produce, and he was excited to share it with the public at Friday’s presentation.
“This is just a phenomenon that you just don’t see that often,” Coonrod says. “People forget that we are kind of three-dimensional here in the Ozarks with Karst topography. So, water movement from the surface to the sub-surface is very mysterious.”
The karst topography that makes up the underlying surface of the Ozarks offers other types of features like caves and springs, but Coonrod says swallow holes are a rarity all their own.
“The water is flowing down a creek bed and goes slurping into the ground,” says Coonrod.
What flows into the swallow hole here at the South Creek Greenway Trail near Wilson’s Creek, ends up in another body of water, about a mile away as the crow flies.
“It ties into Rader Springs, which is further west,” Coonrod says.
While the swallow hole creates a stunning sight and sound, it should be approached with caution.
“This is phenomenon is one that is fairly unusual to see because of the whirlpool effect,” Coonrod says.
“Because it does post some danger, if you go in it, its going to be hard to get out. The City of Springfield has correctly fenced it off so that people can’t just wander into it,” explains.
To see these swallow holes for yourself, visit the South Creek Greenway Trail at Wilson’s Creek.
You’ll go down Rountree road just off State Highway FF until you come to trail access.
Follow the trail south along the creek for about a half mile. Off into the brush to the right, you’ll see white and red signs that read “danger”.
While you should be cautious when approaching the creek bank, you can still get close enough to see the swallow holes.
If you have additional questions about how to see the holes, contact the James River Basin Partnership at (417) 836-8878.