Sink Holes in Indiana



Sinkholes are caused by the collapse of caverns often resulting from water table fluctuations. According to sinkholes form where the carbonates are dissolved and the soil layer on top falls into the resulting depression. Sinkholes may or may not have an apparent opening to underground drainage. Sinking or disappearing streams are surface streams in karst areas that flow directly into the groundwater system at a feature called a “swallow hole.”

Erosion caused by construction and the resulting transport of soil may clog sinkholes that normally drain surface waters. Subsequently, even smaller storms can flood the sinkholes and surrounding areas (fig. 3). The construction of impermeable surfaces, such as buildings and pavement, also increases the amount of water that flows on the surface. This can result in temporary flooding in the vicinity of a sinkhole that would normally be able to accept the entire discharge (Veni and others, 2006).


A sinkhole is a collapse feature. Scientists define a sinkhole as a closed or bowl-shaped depression that develops in karst. The term “sinkhole” has been incorrectly used by some to describe collapse features that are not karst in origin, such as depressions caused by subsidence over an abandoned underground coal mine or a washout of unconsolidated material caused by a broken water or sewer line. The karst sinkhole areas in Indiana are developed on relatively well-cemented, dense carbonate formations. Most of the sinkholes in Indiana are obvious (fig. 4) and can be a problem for construction especially if a sinkhole has or hasn’t been filled in without the builder’s knowledge.

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