Sinkhole in Florida lake attracts the curious

Lake Jackson’s original name was “Okeeheepkee,” meaning “disappearing waters.” The first documented disappearance of the lake’s water in recent times was in February 1829, according to a newspaper report. (Florida Department of Environmental Protection)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In the past Native Americans camped at a lake just north of what is now the State Capitol in Tallahassee, but now hundreds are flocking there because the lake is being swallowed by a sinkhole.

The dry down happens every decade or two.

People walking along the side of the sinkhole at Lake Jackson Thursday would have been in three to four feet of water before the lake drained.

The phenomenon is called a ‘dry down’ by environmentalists.

Dry conditions, a lack of rainfall and a lowered water table are likely causes.

“It dried up my mother said when she was a kid, once,” said Katherine Robinson, whose mother used to bring her to Lake Jackson to fish when she was a child.

The lake was once one of the premier bass fishing spots in America.

“Oh wow. I just can’t believe what I’m seeing. This is the first time I’m seeing it like this,” said Robinson.

The first time the dry down was documented was in 1829, but long before that Native Americans had named the event “disappearing waters.”

In 1982 when the lake drained, it became a playground for 4-wheelers.

Six years later, then-Governor Bob Martinez celebrated its return by going fishing.

“We’re putting it right back in the water,” said Martinez after making a catch in 1988.

Billy Shaynak came to see the lake draining as a teen.

He brought his 18-month-old son for pictures.

“I wanted him to see this phenomenon. He may not see it again for twenty years, thirty years,” said Shaynak.

When the lake opened this time, the first onlookers found two human remains.

The investigation remains open with no details on how long the bodies may have been there.

Archeologist Barbra Clark was touring the site, looking not for bodies, but for artifacts.

“We were walking around and we didn’t see any artifacts, but if people do find things, please leave them in place,” said Clark who is with the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

The lake will return once there is more water flowing into it than out.

The Department of Environmental Protection declined to be interviewed Thursday, but directed us to this Lake Jackson FAQ document on their website.

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