Scientists say there are several sinkholes out in the body of the lake that feed into limestone caverns, and ultimately flow into the Floridan Aquifer, which underlies all of Florida. When drought conditions exist, and upon certain water levels, the lake will drain into this part of the aquifer. It has a long history of doing this and it always comes back once the rains resume. Native Americans even called the lake “Okeeheepkee,” meaning Disappearing Waters, according to early explorers.

Draining of Porter Hole Sink on June 12, 2006 – an eyewitness account

I did not make it out to Lake Jackson over the weekend to see Porter Hole drain down, so I took my 11 year old daughter out there this afternoon after her dentist appointment.  Newspaper reports and word from friends was that the hole appeared to have stopped draining and a pool was filling up in the sink basin. We arrived at Porter Hole around 4:45 pm and there was a pool about 6- 8 feet deep over the top of the main drain, where a few people were fishing with live bait.  After looking around for about 10 minutes someone let out a shout and we soon witnessed an amazing event.  The water started bubbling in a number of spots and a whooshing sound was coming from a small sink on the east bank.  At this point I ran back to the truck for my camera.  When I got back, there was a visible whirlpool, but it was not in the spot where the “old” hole is located.  It was about 15 feet north, in a spot where a collapse was evident during the previous drainings.  This spot was also visible from below when the cavern explorers previously ventured northward up the main horizontal fissure. The water level was dropping steadily and the whirlpool grew larger until the water drained into the open hole.  Small channels continued to pour water (and many, many fish, both dead and alive) into the “new” hole, and the hole grew and grew in size.  Huge chunks of the sandy layer in this area would cleave off and crash into the hole.   The other hole has an edge of hard clay, but this one only exhibited some of this material – most if it is loose sand, so the erosion was pretty fast. The word must have traveled fast, as a many people showed up to see what was going on.  I had witnessed all of the draining in 1999 and a couple of other times that it drained after that, but this one was much different in the way it started.  An absolutely amazing natural event!

Road thru lakebed
sinkdiag
sinkhole
Road through the dry lakebed after draining…
Depiction of the Porter Sink
Photo taken during the actual draining of Porter Sink

This natural drawdown has been happening for a very long time! It is simply a part of the Lake Jackson cycle of life. Please refer to an article written in 1842 about the drawdown phenomena…the language is most interesting and certainly a different English than we use today!

With lower than average annual rainfall over the past several years, we see it happening
more frequently – see the newspaper coverage from June 20, 2012:

sink

 

Some venturesome lakeside residents head out onto the drying lake bed and captured some excellant images:

sinkhole view
sink puddle
down sink
Watching the lake dry up again…in June, 2012
Another sunset, but now just a puddle where the lake used to be
Looking down into the sinkhole as it drains

An article in the March, 2013 New Yorker magazine was about Florida sinkholes and mentioned the Lake Jackson dry downs…

Click here to read the article