Veteran fly fisherman Mike Kromrey always keeps an eye out for good water holes that might hold a lot of fish. But on Tuesday, while kayaking on Wilson's Creek southwest of Springfield with two friends, something else caught his eye. "I'm always looking for good fishing spots, and was scanning the bank back and forth when I saw this depression in the water," said Kromrey. "When we got closer, you could see that vortex happening." Kromrey and fellow kayakers Loring Bullard and Joey Waitman had discovered a "swallow hole" in the creek. "It was sucking down water, you could hear it slurping," said Bullard, who captured the odd whirlpool on video. "Mike saw it first and said it was really wild and to come take a look. I've never seen anything like that in a creek like this."
That's saying a lot. Bullard was executive director of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks for 22 years, monitoring and trying to improve stream quality in the Springfield area. He handed the Watershed Committee reins to Kromrey in 2012. On Tuesday they were paddling the stream with Waitman, a city wastewater treatment plant employee, picking up trash and photographing the creek for some future waterway improvement projects. Bullard said the whirlpool marked a crack in the creek bed, and the whirlpool was sucking hundreds of gallons of water into a subterranean channel that likely exited more than a mile downstream at Rader Spring. "Water basically is going down into this cave system," Bullard said. "It was kind of spooky when you look down into the swallow hole - it's very dark down there. The cave system is probably very shallow, within the top 20 to 30 feet of bedrock."