I thought about rivers, specifically those with legs that disappeared for awhile. It wasn’t about completely subterranean rivers, although those were certainly fascinating in their own right, it was about surface rivers with underground components. I knew they existed because I had a hazy recollection about reading something once. How rare were they, I wondered, and where did the occur?
Some quick research uncovered several and there were likely many more. I concluded that they might be unusual enough to raise an eyebrow although not something of exceeding scarcity either. They also seemed to share a common attribute, of being found in geographic areas associated with karst topography. Let’s turn it over to the International Association of Hydrogeologists for a simple explanation:
Karst is a type of landscape, and also an aquifer type. Karst areas consist of solid but chemically soluble rock such as limestone (most important) and dolomite, but also gypsum, anhydrite and several other soluble rocks… Karst landscapes show characteristic landforms caused by chemical dissolution, such as karren (crevices and channels, tens of cm wide), dolines and sinkholes (closed depressions, tens of m in diameter) and poljes (large depressions with flat floor, several km 2 or more). Streams and rivers sinking underground via swallow holes are also frequent. Karst aquifers are characterised by a network of conduits and caves formed by chemical dissolution, allowing for rapid and often turbulent water flow.
Postojna Cave Park by Michael R Perry, on Flickr
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Karst was a German word originally, and referred to the Karst Plateau along the border of modern Italy and Slovenia. This limestone-rich area was known for its caves. That continued to the present, for example at Postojnska Jama (Postojna Cave) in Slovenia that became a major tourist attraction based on its favorable geological placement (map) within the plateau.
Obviously an area rich with caves, a typical feature of karst topography, offered numerous opportunities for water to disappear from the surface and reappear elsewhere at a lower elevation. Karst areas were widespread and so were the prospects for partially subterranean rivers. I found a few illustrative examples in the United States.
Santa Fe River, Florida
O'Leno State Park: Sante Fe River Sink by Phil's 1stPix, on Flickr
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Florida’s Santa Fe River wasn’t huge, stretching only about 75 miles (121 kilometres), however what it lacked in length it made up for in wonder at what happened at O’Leno State Park:
Located along the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River, the park features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps, and sandhills. As the river courses through the park, it disappears underground and reemerges over three miles away in the River Rise State Preserve.
I thought it was great that the reemergence had such a completely descriptive name, "River Rise." There, the Santa Fe River reappeared "as a circular pool before resuming its journey to the Suwannee River." The gap was also clearly visible on Google Map’s Satellite View (map).
Lost River, Indiana
Water Dripping by Cindy Cornett Seigle, on Flickr
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Indiana’s Lost River was another short river, flowing about 87 miles (140 km), while disappearing for as much as 25 miles (40 km) of that distance. The hydrology was different than the Santa Fe River, though. There wasn’t a single sinkhole or rise. Rather, the Lost River began normally enough until flowing onto a karst plateau where it disappeared into numerous distinct sinkholes and circulated through untold individual and interlocking channels before reemerging in at least a couple of different places. Furthermore, the sinkholes couldn’t drain the entire flow during wetter times of the year and the river would return to the surface in places. It followed a Swiss Cheese drainage pattern. This feature of the Hoosier National Forest was rather unusual,
The system can be thought of as a three-dimensional river delta. Depending upon how much water is moving through the system, you could have water in all of the levels. There is no other site in Indiana that matches the Lost River system in terms of the dynamic subterranean hydrology (water movement)… The Lost River is one of the largest sinking streams in the country. The watershed is over 200 square miles.
The Lost River reemerged permanently and primarily at a place known as the True Rise. Previously it was thought to be the Rise at Orangeville (map), pictured above, which was also supposed to be more picturesque. Orangeville was "the clearest illustration of subterranean stream resurgence in the famed Lost River karst area."
I also discovered additional occurrences such as the Mojave River in California and the Little Ocqueoc River in Michigan.
A Most Unexpected Example
Donauversickerung by Reisen aus Leidenschaft, on Flickr
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Remarkably, I discovered that the mighty Danube River, the second longest in Europe flowing 1,785 miles (2,872 km) included an underground segment, albeit early in its watercourse while still rather diminutive. The Danube Sinkhole, or Donauversickerung, once again on a karst plateau allowed the Danube to disappear for several miles within Germany before resurfacing at the Aachtopf Spring (map). It was intermittent phenomenon. Much of the time the Danube had sufficient volume to overcome the drainage and continued flowing across the surface in a defined channel as well.
Strange queries land on Twelve Mile Circle. Recently I noticed search engines referencing questions in the form of "does the sun rise (or set) in [name a location]." and sending them to the site. Since I’m pretty sure those were daily events for most of us except perhaps at extreme latitudes during very specific times of the year, I wondered what the queries actually meant. People didn’t seem to be searching for a trick question or answer. Seriously, some of them were like, "Does the sun rise in Chicago." I wanted to scream, YES OF COURSE THE SUN RISES IN CHICAGO! WHY WOULDN’T THE SUN RISE IN CHICAGO?!? I may, in fact, have said it out loud, or at least muttered it.
Maybe they really wanted to know the time of sunrise? Maybe it was an over-the-water thing, which is where the queries landed on 12MC? Maybe I somehow missed a grand catastrophe this morning and the sun won’t actually rise in Chicago tomorrow?
That was an awfully long tangent to explain that the sequence made me start thinking about places called Sunrise.
View from our seats at BankAtlantic Center by Elliot, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
I recalled the existence of Sunrise from a time when I had family in South Florida and I would travel down there to visit occasionally. I didn’t remember anything other than the name; I knew nothing of Sunrise specifically. Nevertheless it came to mind during this exercise so it merited further exploration.
Why the hockey stadium? It turned out that the Florida Panthers National Hockey League team used Sunrise as its home base, at the BB&T Center in particular (formerly the BankAtlantic Center, and before that the Office Depot Center, and even earlier the National Car Rental Center and the Broward County Civic Arena, and probably something else completely different if someone reads this page a year from now). I know the Florida Panthers joined the NHL more than twenty years ago, and yet, hockey in Florida just seemed wrong. It didn’t hit the level of weirdness of the curling club that played at the Panther’s practice facility in nearby Coral Spring that I discussed in Sports Facilities I Never Imagined. Still, it was odd. Who knew South Florida was such a hotbed for winter sports? Maybe that was the point. People get tired of endless heat and sunshine.
Few things in life could be better than a quadruple sunrise. It would be a wonderful way to start each and every day. In eastern Minnesota, the Township of Sunrise had a village of Sunrise, located on Sunrise Road next to the Sunrise River. Paradise.
Step a block away from Sunrise Road, and one could experience quintuple sunrise by going to the Sunrise Community Museum. Of course a motivated traveler could go even more extreme by visiting the museum at dawn, at the actual sunrise, and I guess that would make it a sextuple sunrise.
I think I’m getting a headache. Maybe I need to get out of the sun.
Sunrise Beach, Missouri
Lake Sunset – Lake of the Ozarks by Phil Roussin, on Flickr
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Sunrise Beach seemed to be a nice little resort community found at Lake of the Ozarks, according to my quick search of the Intertubes.
In the 1920’s and early 1930’s, Sunrise Beach and surrounding communities consisted of nothing more than vast areas of timber and brush. After the construction of Bagnell Dam by Union Electric, several communities sprang up around the lake, primarily due to the beauty inherent in this area. Sunrise Beach, located on the west side of the lake, was one of those communities…
Ironically, the best photograph I could find of Sunrise Beach was taken at sunSET.
I discovered additional English-languages Sunrises in other parts of the world, although little practical information about them.
Sunrise Beach, Queensland, Australia
Photo courtesy of "John of Sydney" (see comment below)
- Taman Sunrise, Kluang Johor, Malaysia (map)
- Sunrise-On-Sea, Eastern Cape, South Africa (map)
- Sunrise Beach, Queensland, Australia (map)
Too bad I didn’t know how to say sunrise in other languages. I’m sure I could have found more.
I’ve certainly noticed Florida’s northeastern bump above Jacksonville, and then the Georgia dip just to the west, both of which contrast with their generally straight remaining border. Sure, we’ve all seen it before and taken note of it. The meandering border through that segment followed the St. Marys River that rose from the depths of the Okefenokee Swamp and flowed to the sea.
Florida-Georgia Border, St. Marys River
I didn’t know about all of the other St. Marys Rivers in North America. Most strikingly they had very little in common with each other besides their shared name including a lack of an apostrophe, as consciously removed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and the Geographical Names Board of Canada.
These differences may be appreciated best photographically.
Florida / Georgia
Inhabitant of the Salt Marsh by Jon Dawson, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license
Some sources claimed that the name of the river along the Florida-Georgia border derived from Spanish control of the territory, and their nearby mission, Santa María de Guadalupe. Others associated the river with an Irish St. Mary. Evidence seemed lacking for either assertion. More fascinating was its Native American name, Thlathlothlaguphka, or "Rotten Fish." I wasn’t completely comfortable with that particular etymology either, in fact I’m pretty sure it was bogus, however it amused me so we’ll go with it.
Ontario, Canada / Michigan, USA
Katmai Bay breaks ice in St. Marys River by Coast Guard News, on Flickr
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Far to the north and in a much colder climate (map), the St. Marys River allowed water to flow from Lake Superior into Lake Huron, forming a natural border between Canada and the United States. French explorers first traveled up to its rapids, thus explaining the shared names of two cross-boarder cities, Sault Ste. Marie, after the river’s French name rivière Sainte-Marie.
Some of the earliest explorers included Jesuit missionaries such as Isaac Jogues who arrived at the rapids in 1641. Explorations by men seeking to spread their faith as much as open new lands left an impression on the geographic names that were bestowed during those early years. St. Isaac Jogues was later killed by Mohawks Indians in New York and was canonized in 1930, one of the eight North American Martyrs.
Maryland Dove by Alyson Hurt, on Flickr
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Right around the same time that Isaac Jogues explored the Great Lakes, another group focused on the mid-Atlantic coastline. Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, arranged for two ships — the Ark and the Dove — and about three hundred settlers to depart from England for Maryland. The colonists arrived in 1634 and established St. Mary’s at the mouth of a river they gave the same name (map). The Maryland colony was established as a tolerant home for Roman Catholics and the initial settlement was named for Mary the Blessed Virgin.
A replica ship, the Maryland Dove, serves as a floating museum on the St. Marys River adjacent to St. Marys City.
Thus the derivation of the first three St. Marys discussed were related to three separate European nations: Spain (maybe), France and England.
Indiana / Ohio
The "Old" Wells Street Bridge by Samuraijohnny, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
I couldn’t find anything about the early history of the St. Marys River in Ohio and Indiana. The St. Marys and the St. Joseph joined in Ft. Wayne, Indiana to form the Maumee (map). I had better luck with Maumee. It appeared to be an anglicized name for a group of Native Americans known as the Myaamiaki. Readers are probably more familiar with another word that derived from the same tribe of Algonquian peoples, Miami.
I discovered additional St. Mary(s) Rivers including one in Virginia, one in Nova Scotia and one in British Columbia. The US Geographic Names Information System also listed a variety of St. Marys branches, runs, creeks and even a ditch.
My favorite might have been St. Mary’s Sugar Brook (map), in St. Mary’s-The Capes, Newfoundland and Labrador (yes, with an apostrophe). That was quite a name. It sounded poetic. It drained from a nearby hill, St. Mary’s Sugarloaf, allegedly the "428th highest mountain in Newfoundland and Labrador" at 242 metres / 793 feet.