Missouri sinkholes: what you need to know

“The show me state” isn’t the only nickname Missouri goes by — it’s also called “the cave state,” and for good reason. These caves are the cause of why the US Geological Survey listed Missouri as one of seven states most prone to sinkholes. In Missouri alone there are more than 15,000 sinkholes.  And while sinkholes have a reputation of being a dangerous nuisance in southern Missouri, they are fewer and less troublesome in Boone County.

The map below from the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources shows mapped sinkholes in the state. The sinkhole areas seem clustered around towns and highways because those are the areas that are purposefully mapped.

 

“What we've found, just like [in the area] from Springfield to Nixa is when we intentionally make a map, we discover a lot of sinkholes," Sinkhole expert Doug Gouzie said.


The state of Missouri has been implementing sinkhole related programs and regulations since 1853. As the timeline below shows, by the early 1970s Boone County began taking steps to regulate sinkhole prone areas in an effort to keep wildlife and community residents safe and healthy.

 

Major Sinkhole Related Events in Boone County

 

 

                                                       

 

Mapping sinkholes

Oct 2, 2014

The areas in red on the map below are where the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) has documented as having sinkholes.

Photo courtesy of Doug Gouzie

We put out some questions on social media to see what you wanted to know about sinkholes. First, here’s a clip of CoMo Explained where I explain everything we learned before talking to Missouri State University Associate Professor of Geology and sinkhole expert Doug Gouzie. You can also read about our previous sinkhole reporting here.


Part 2: Sinkhole regulation in Boone County

Sep 25, 2014
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

The Boone County Storm Water Ordinance: What is it?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined about 8 years ago that storm water can have a significant impact on the quality of streams and cave water in Boone County.

According to Stan Shawver, Director of Resource Management, “Rain water in itself is clean when it comes down from the sky, but when it hits particularly an open construction site with exposed earth works that can carry off construction debris, silt from the project, and those can make their way ultimately into the streams”.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

What exactly is a sinkhole?

A sinkhole forms when the surface layer of ground collapses into a cavity underneath. Associate Professor of Geology at MU Martin Appold explains these features in more detail:

“They’re holes in the ground that form as a result of caves developing below the ground’s surface that come close enough to the ground’s surface that at some point the rock can’t support its own weight.”

“Ultimately the cause is from ground water that is percolating through the fractures, usually in limestone bedrock,” Appold said.