Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wolf Branch Sink

Last Saturday I woke up and got the paper and my whole day changed because of a story on the front page. The Lake County Water Authority was allowing visits to Wolf Branch Sink, a natural phenomenon not seen every day around these parts. There is a small waterfall on the site, one of two in Lake County, according to the video on the Orlando Sentinel website. If you are familiar with Florida topography, you know how flat the state generally is and a waterfall, however small, was worth the 45 minute drive to Mt. Dora.

While Mt. Dora is far from mountainous, it is pretty hilly and I have spent many weekends walking up and down the hills during the antique extravaganzas at Renninigers. The turn-off for the sink was just south of the railroad bridge over 441, down a nondescript road that took you by both a brand new housing development and ancient orange groves. Upon entering the property it is apparent why this sink exists as the elevation drops severely and all the water from a 5-mile square area funnels to this spot.

A Water Authority employee at the site told me that due to the recent drought, this branch had been dry for the last 3 years. But a very wet summer, including a September where it seemed like it rained every day, gave new life to the creek and the waterfall. I was told that the waterfall was first observed to have been flowing about two and a half weeks before. They hoped it would continue through today as they were opening up the site for visitors again.

The water flows from wetlands in the area and collects into the small branch which flows downhill over the small waterfall down a tiny "ravine" to a sinkhole where it slowly flows back into the aquifer. In a way a sink is the opposite of a spring.

The sinkhole was pretty modest, and we weren't allowed to explore its rim. The waterfall was flowing less when I saw it than it was in the Sentinel video, but it was still a pretty interesting. I followed the paths back into the Preserve and followed the creek all the way back to the railroad tracks. Huge stands of palmettos guarded ancient live oaks. Beautyberry bushes were everywhere and I wondered if I might see bears eating their brightly colored purple berries. I had a lovely, quiet walk on the well-marked trails and when I came back to the sink, the place was overflowing with visitors. The road leading into the preserve was packed with cars and I had to dodge pedestrians on my way out. I guess the novelty of a waterfall was so unique that it brought out large numbers of observers. But I found it very hopeful that so many people cared about this rarity in nature. On this day I found another encouraging sign that people in this state care a great deal about the environment, despite the reckless manner in which their elected officials treat it.


  1. Great photos, Rick, and thanks for sharing this story--I never knew this place existed!

  2. Thanks for sharing the information! It is interesting to hear that there are only 2 waterfalls in all of Lake County. The photo of the beauty berries is, well, beautiful.